Till yesterday, every time you mentioned Narendra, one would promptly create the image of the ‘Chief Minister of Gujarat’ in their mind. Google would do the same, suggesting various search options for Modi. Things changed, however, when the murder of a prominent rationalist made everyone talk about the other Narendra in this world. Even Google took notice and promptly suggested Dabholkar below Mr. Modi when typing Narendra.
So, it is now well-known who Narendra Dabholkar was and what happened with him. Mr. Dabholkar was shot dead by an unknown assailant (Link talking in detail about his murder: http://www.dnaindia.com/pune/1877240/report-a-blow-by-blow-account-of-the-last-moments-of-narendra-dabholkar-s-life) while he was on his daily morning walk near Omkareshwar Temple in Pune. It was the main topic of discussion, especially asking a simple-yet-fundamental question, “Are we safe if we speak the truth anymore? Should we be scared to express our ideas, in case we offend someone?”
Truthfully, things are not as bad as we make them out to be. Yes, we can speak our minds and can offend people in the pursuit of promoting the ultimate truth. However, we need to remember to not offend the “wrong people”. Offend the right people (those who are too weak to take a stand against the offence) and you’ll be considered a saint. Usurp power and be a politician, then you can just about offend anyone you wish. People will be enraged for some time and move on; our forgetfulness is our sin. However, stick to your pursuit of exposing the truth and dedicate your life for a cause and you’ll be killed (Link for other activists who were murdered for being too close to exposing the truth: http://www.dnaindia.com/india/1877278/report-five-activists-who-were-killed-for-trying-to-make-a-change). Dabholkar was the one who dedicated his life to eradicate superstitious beliefs and enforce rational thinking.
Dabholkar was also the founder of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS). He and the organisation fought for the introduction of the anti-superstition bill (now renamed Anti-Jaadu Tona bill). Although it was passed by the state cabinet in 1995, it was never taken up for discussions in state assembly sessions in the past 18 years. The same bill was opposed by warkari organisations and Hindu organisations. However, let’s refrain from getting into it. The bill could have been altered with a proper discussion from both sides. That wasn’t the case.
The manner in which Narendra Dabholkar was killed was gruesome and made everyone have long discussions on the topic (even on the day of Rakshabandhan, when most would refrain from talking about such harsh topics). The fact that it happened in Pune was much more saddening, for we are a city of educated, rational people who are known for our staunch beliefs in freedom of speech and expression. Dabholkar was honest to the core and never thought twice before speaking his mind. He might have offended many but he stood for what he believed in. What is sad, is that most of us have taken notice of the man only after news of his murder flashed everywhere. For most of his life, he was an unknown hero. I shudder to think of what would happen had he not been killed and had died a natural death. Would his cause and his life find as much interest as it does now? Would we just remember him for a day and forget him like many other heroes? It is sad how we never really give a man his due until some injustice happens to him. When the man strived for public awareness throughout his life, hardly anyone noticed. But once he was shot, he suddenly became a trending topic. His murder is good and bad. Good because now, it will find a bigger platform in our minds and set many to walk the path of rational thinking. It is bad (read worse) because we will not have a man like him in our presence. Very rarely do we find men who are brutally honest, impossibly rational and inhumanly dedicated for the cause they believe in. Dabholkar would have achieved much more had he been alive, more than what we could possibly imagine.
I hope the killers are nabbed by the cops and that justice prevails (Link to the sketch of the assailant: http://www.dnaindia.com/pune/1877364/report-narendra-dabholkar-murder-suspect-s-sketch-released). I hope the man is never forgotten. I hope everyone thinks rationally before accepting an idea and not be a blind believer. I hope we do not turn into a fascist society which gets enraged when someone has a different opinion. I hope we become more tolerant of others’ opinions and I hope we can solve our difference of opinions in a dignified manner; with discussions and debates, not with threats, blackmail and murder. I hope we all embody some of the ideals of the man, Mr. Narendra Dabholkar.
Link to the Police press conference talking about the murder: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vp9NxdR9Qzs