Shoumojit Banerjee

  • AP

Activists, theatre artists stage protests criticising inaction

Chants of “Phule! Shahu! Ambedkar! Hum sab hain Dabholkar!” rent the air here on Wednesday as hundreds of outraged civil rights activists, theatre artists and common people condemned the State machinery and the police for their inability to track the assassins of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar even after a year of investigation.

Dr. Dabholkar, who founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) in 1989, was shot dead on August 20 last year while out for a morning walk on the bridge near the city’s Omkareshwar Temple.

Even after a year the CBI failed to track his killers.

“We are planning to ask the High Court to supervise the CBI’s investigation into the killing. We certainly are worried lest the investigating agency throws its hands up after a while and shuts the case. It has taken them all this time merely to look into the documents,” said Hamid Dabholkar, his son.

Earlier, hundreds of artists of the Maharashtra ANIS Lok-Rangamanch and a bevy of noted film and theatre personalities sang anti-superstition songs and waved black flags during a march from the spot where Dr. Dabholkar was killed to the Pune Municipal Corporation.

Protests by MANS activists were also staged in other parts of the State. Hundreds of activists from workers’ unions, human rights organisations and NGOs walked in a protest march in Mumbai. A human chain was formed by the activists in Satara and Solapur against the “incompetence of investigating agencies.” Hundreds of people participated in protests in Nashik, Nagpur and other districts of Maharashtra.

“The government must take note of people’s anger. The support we are getting is also an assurance that his [Dr. Dabholkar’s] thought will never die,” said his daughter Mukta Dabholkar.

“It is shameful that even after a year of investigation nothing has been done,” said actor Naseeruddin Shah, who participated in the march in Pune.

Dr. Dabholkar’s death was a blot on the Constitution, said activist Baba Adhav.

“It is about eradicating anti-superstition on a larger plane, from every walk of life. This is what Dr. Dabholkar strove during his ceaseless battle against blind faith. It is up to us to carry on his legacy,” said actress Sonali Kulkarni.

Later, 20 short plays castigating superstition were showcased at the Manohar Mangal Karyalaya by ANIS artistes. They were directed by noted Marathi documentary and filmmaker Atul Pethe.

Meanwhile, the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) cell of the Maharashtra police is probing allegations that the Pune police had resorted to planchette to track Dr. Dabholkar’s killers.

(With inputs from Alok Deshpande)