Irrational Wait for Justice: The Unsolved Murder of Dr Dabholkar
Slain rationalist, Dr Narendra Dabholkar’s family keeps his legacy alive even as the fight for justice continues.
It was about 7:30am on 20th August 2013, when Dr Narendra Dabholkar set out for his daily walk along his usual route in Pune. Minutes later, as he walked along the Omkareshwar bridge, two gunmen shot at him and sped away in their two-wheeler. He was killed by those who felt threatened by his lifelong work to dispel superstitions and social discrimination.
It’s traumatising to remember that day but going through the trauma and agony again allows us to take his work forward. He was threatened several times during the course of his work. His face was blackened, there were agitations at places where we used to deliver lectures but opposition was a part of his work. But we never thought that there would be this brutal an elimination.Mukta Dabholkar, daughter of Dr Narendra Dabholkar
First Arrest Made 3 Years After the Murder!
For a year the police barely made any headway in the investigation. As the demand for justice grew, the CBI took over the case in May 2014. Dabholkar’s family believes the Maharashtra police botched up the investigation by not following up key leads on time.
The police station is 100 meters from the murder spot. The assailants parked their motorcycles in front of the police station and waited for half an hour as per the CCTV footage. Police weren’t at the police station then because nakabandi (blockade) was on at 7 am on 20th August. If police had been efficient, they would have caught them. The inefficiency of the police has been badly impacting the case.Mukta Dabholkar, daughter of Dr Narendra Dabholkar
2 Prime Accused Yet to be Arrested
But CBI also made no progress for a year, this prompted Dr Dabholkar’s family to ask the court to monitor the CBI investigation. In June 2016, the CBI arrested Dr Virendra Tawde, a member of the right-wing group Sanathan Sanstha. This led them to two other activists of the group, who are suspected to have pulled the trigger.
CBI made a breakthrough after they arrested Virendra Tawde and after that it has also published the pictures of two accused, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar. All these three people are Sanathan Sanstha acivists. They have also declared a reward on both these people. It’s a major step in the investigation but it’s not at all sufficient.Mukta Dabholkar, daughter of Dr Narendra Dabholkar
Despite a reward of Rs 25 lakhs declared for anyone who can provide information on the duo, the alleged killers are yet to be nabbed. This has prompted the Bombay High Court to pull up the CBI many times during hearings in the past.
Meanwhile, unfazed by the threats her father received, Mukta Dabholkar and the team of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, continue working towards building the Maharashtra their father had dreamed of - one without superstitions and discrimination.
He saw threats as a part of his work. When you look at rationalists throughout the world, they were less in number and didn’t have the support of thousands of people. So, he was very aware of that. We are also aware of this. Rationalists aren’t very popular, but they are very necessary in the society.Mukta Dabholkar, daughter of Dr Narendra Dabholkar
After decades of unwavering commitment, Dr Dabholkar’s dream of bringing in a law to combat superstitious beliefs was finally realised four months after his death. How would he react to his achievement?
“My father was very rarely moved by his success and those of the people close to him. Getting praised by him was a very hard task. Maybe he would be happy that after his brutal murder the movement didn’t collapse but continued. He would definitely be proud of that” said Mukta Dabholkar as she headed to a class of young students, waiting to hear her talk about her dad.
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