Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Anti-sacrifice activist shot dead

Supporters pay last respects to murdered Indian anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar (AP)

The murder of an Indian activist who crusaded against black magic and religious charlatans has prompted hundreds of protesters to take to the streets in the city of Pune.

Police were hunting for two men suspected of firing four shots at Narendra Dabholkar as he was taking a morning walk.

Hundreds of students and activists decried the killing in a day-long protest, where some carried banners in the local Marathi language reading "We are all Dabholkar" and "You can kill a person with a bullet, but you can't kill his thoughts."

The 67-year-old doctor-turned-activist had been receiving death threats for years since he began travelling by public buses to hundreds of villages around Maharashtra state to lecture against superstitions, religious extremism, black magic and animal or human sacrifice, according to his friend and fellow activist, Deepak Girme.

"He would say he was a medical doctor but that superstition was a bigger disease causing a lot of harm, especially to the poor and the gullible," Mr Girme said. "He wanted to expose the people who cheat the poor in the name of gods, who promise false cures for cancer or do black magic to perform so-called miracles."

Activists urged the government of Maharashtra state to pass long-stalled legislation that Mr Dabholkar had worked on to ban such practices.

Mr Girme said Mr Dabholkar's organization, the Maharashtra Blind Faith Eradication Committee, would continue its work in lecturing about the benefits of scientific attitudes and social cooperation and lifting women up from religious subjugation.

"Half of India is hungry, half is uneducated. These babas and gurus who preach all this humbug, it doesn't translate into betterment of society," he said. "It's like the Dark Ages in Europe."

Mr Dabholkar was a Hindu by birth but eschewed the traditional teachings, instead believing that the best people could do for society was to "live in harmony with each other and use your brain," Mr Girme said.

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