Dial M For मनुवाद (Manu’s Doctrine).

On 20th morning while out on his usual routine when in Pune of morning walks on the bridge across river Mutha nearer to the centuries old Omkareshwar Temple end, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, was mercilessly, though cowardly from behind, shot at multiple times and murdered. His murder sent shockwaves across the city, state, and country as the news spread; and was greeted with disbelief, shock and even anger at the mindless act. Though a medical doctor by training, Dabholkar had devoted his life to reform society by enlightening the people about the pervasive ills of economic, physical, mental, or sexual exploitation that are begotten by blind faith or superstition. Blind faith or superstition holds that one’s future and present can be influenced in some magical, mysterious, or inexplicable ways premised on certain prescribed acts or non-acts divined by “specially gifted” individuals.  His organization, which has many units active across the state, was called महाराष्ट्र अंधश्रद्धा निर्मुलन समिती (Maharashtra Committee for Eradicating superstition). This would appear to be an unexceptionable and laudable objective, which should have met with all round approval especially from socially and politically active formations, organizations or even political parties.
But the things are not that simple. Most of the evil practices that spring from the superstition or blind faith are also closely allied with religion. No religion in the world, neither Christianity, nor Islam, nor Hinduism, nor Judaism, nor even Buddhism, is uncontaminated by superstition. The line that divides *Faith* and *Blind Faith* is so thin as to be practically non-existent. Philosophically or in theory the two are almost indistinguishable. Astrology or Vastu Shastra(compare Chinese Feng Shui) draw on Astronomy or Architecture respectively, the latter two are rational disciplines, but then go on into fancy realms of influencing and controlling present and future life favourably. Its claims are not verifiable and “proofs” proffered are essentially anecdotal. But then so is the case with faith that a supreme entity exists, which manages among other things Human Affairs; and goes by many names like Bhagwan, Allah, God, Yahweh (Tetragrammaton), etc. in different religions; and above all this supreme entity can be appeased to act favourably contingent upon some human-action. God’s existence cannot be verified or experimentally proved (or disproved in the absence of any test “divined” to prove it positively), and has to be taken on faith. The ambiguity between faith and blind faith perseveres in classifying a particular practice into one or the other; and is hostage to individual taste and worldview. On a practical plane, one may discriminate between the two by observing its effects. When it causes injury in a comprehensive sense of the term it is blind faith; while when its effect is neutral or promotes an individual’s sense of wellbeing it is faith. However, here too differences of opinion are bound to arise as to what is what. Within the realm of blind faith there is a subset, where “miracles” are performed by tricksters to command faith; or “apparent miracles” occur when on large scale believers follow traditional rituals (like in the case of walking on fire). I do not know how Dabholkar navigated this tricky, edgy and tendentious field, though the title of one of his books, श्रद्धा अंधश्रद्धा (Faith Blind Faith), suggests he did not shirk away from this inevitably factious task. Naturally, it seems he had a range of opposition from downright charlatans, blind-fait industry (sure, it is a vast commercial enterprise), जाती पंचायत (Caste Panchayats, who practice at times barbaric methods such as dipping hand in boiling oil to disprove guilt), God men with wealthy empires, to religious organizations who conflated demystifying blind faith as a stealth attack on their faith. His murder brought out unmistakably how much he was seen a threat to their beliefs and interests, and therefore hated for it. This post is meant to review some of the reactions from these opposing forces and was not meant to have such a long introduction; but still hope it provides helpful context to understand the psyche behind it.

Hindu group gloats over Narendra Dabholkar’s killing

The above statement was most tasteless at the least and inappropriate for its timing. One does not espouse “philosophy” when someone is murdered. Still I wanted to check out the original source to make sure what was reported was correct.
Jayant Athavle flaunts a prefix, परम पूज्य (Most Revered),and had indeed made the remarks attributed to him. When this statement was roundly criticized for its implicit meaning, the editor of  सनातन प्रभात (Sanatan Prabhat), the daily produced by सनातन संस्था put out an explanation. In quick translation it read, “A lesson from Bhagwat Gita came to Athavle’s mind on hearing the “news”. The dicta, Everyone gets the just fruit of his deed, is applicable universally. By distorting and applying it to Dabholkar his supporters are in fact insulting him. When a person suffers from prolonged sickness and is bed ridden, or experiences intolerable pain as a result, his family prays to God for his early death and release from torture… It is the grace of God that Dabholkar died quickly without prolonged suffering”. The explanation adds insult to injury, and in fact reveals the “sick mentality” of persons espousing such words.
·        Gita’s lesson arose in Athavle’s mind on hearing Dabholkar is murdered. How can he or his spokesperson then claim it was a “general statement”? What “deeds” of his fell foul of “God’s work”?
·        Why would Dabholkar not have died in normal course a quick natural death, which is a norm? Since Athavle too accepts Dabholkar was a नास्तिक (Atheist), where is the (disingenuous) question of he or his family praying to the God for early release?
·        Lastly, How can one overlook the fact that the **grace of god** acted through **Human Agency**? Why was the God vengeful?
Obviously these are vengeful anthropomorphic prejudices that are masquerading as God’s Will. The media reported a spokesperson for Sanatan Sanstha, Abhay Vartak, stating that they had no personal problem, political rivalry with Dabholkar or ill intentions towards him and opposed him only in democratic manner. An otherwise “alert media” missed out an admission of precisely such guilt of enmity, which Sanstha later denied, in the statement of Athavle (see above) it widely reported. The statement appears with the heading, मरणान्तानि वैराणि।. What does it mean? **With Death, Enmity Ends**. The hypocrisy of such fake piety would stand naked if we simply shift the plane where Most Revered Jayant Athavle chose to tread.
Just nine days before Dabholkar was murdered, 5 Indian Soldiers were killed by Pakistan based Terrorists or/and regular Pak army troops along the Line of Control (LOC) in Poonch sector. TV media then had turned “hyper-patriotic” and anchors on various channels frothing at their mouth spewed venom on defense minister, A K Antony for making statement to the parliament, which blamed it on “terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniform”, when probably unknown to him an Army spokesman had categorically said ‘soldiers from Pak Army were involved’. Antony was labelled from pro-Pak to anti-national to only ‘god’ knows what.
Next day, 21st August, saw a well-attended evening meeting to remember the life work and to pay condolences to Dabholkar at S M Joshi Auditorium. Speaker after speaker (women and men) that included his co-workers in the organization, Dalit/Tribal/Rural and Urban activists, one retired police official and another serving IPS officer, a retired High court judge, a representative of left political party, and at least six Muslim activists paid warm and glowing tributes to the man. The picture that emerged was of a man, who was comfortably rationalist, resolutely steadfast, compassionate social reformer, and one who eschewed harsh language. His comfort with scientific temper and rationalism is borne out by this observation of his son, “We do not recognise Vastu Shastra and so there is hardly any need to substantiate or give credence to such observations”, which he made in response to what an associate of Dabholkar had reportedly said, “…his house in Satara, Muktangan, faced south, This is supposed to be against the tenets of Vastu and following Dabholkar’s example many of us also built our house the same way”.
A “criticism” against Dabholkar was that he spoke of superstition and blind faith only in Hindu religion while making no mention of the same practices in Islam or Christianity. The following should dispel such impression. Each Muslim activist who spoke at the above meeting was in some way associated with Dabholkar and active in his own community to fight the scourge of superstition. One of them mentioned with sardonic irony that the Urdu press, which usually opposed their work, had given front page prominence to the news of Dabholkar’s murder and his movement against superstition- after all reforms in another religion are not anathema to upholders of any religion. Just as this meeting ended, unknown to us, another gathering a few kilometres away at National Film Archives of India (NFAI) was attacked by forces of intolerance and intimidation.

ABVP activists ‘beat up’ students of FTII for inviting KKM artistes

A student association of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) had organised the screening of documentary, Jai Bhim Comrade, by Anand Patwardhan followed by a live performance of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) artistes. Though the program was finalized some 15 days ago, instead of cancelling it following Dabholkar’s murder, it was held as a tribute to his life-mission.
The film and KKM both talk about the evils of caste system and the discrimination faced by Dalit communities- a topic that would have met with approval of the murdered social reformer. Some of the KKM activist-artistes had only recently been released on bail by Bombay high court from jail, where they had been put when police foisted cases on them under stringent UAP Act alleging they were Maoists or Naxalites. The allegations against them are yet to be proved. But such legal niceties wouldn’t deter the workers of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyatrthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of BJP, and they attacked FTII students and KKM artistes. This is yet another blow to the democratic space, which seems to be shrinking rapidly. But why blame the raw hands of ABVP, when no less than the police commissioner of Mumbai, Dr. Satyapal Singh, who has taken the service oath of upholding the Constitution, wrote in Indian Police Journal (IPJ):

Villages that help Maoists should be fined: Mumbai police chief

He proposed, “Impose curfew, slap collective fines and punish sarpanch and elders in villages which give food and shelter to Maoists, They (Naxals) need to be searched, driven out or neutralised” by putting “collective responsibility” on villagers as even “passive neutrality” of locals is advantageous to the Maoists and an obstacle for security agencies”. He would have been decorated with highest honours by the despotic kings and colonial rulers of the years’ bygone had his formulation been original. But alas they were past masters in such coercive tactics and worse. That he makes such a suggestion in a 21st century democratic State, whose people have made a compact enshrined in the Constitution that we will be governed by the rule of law, is utterly outrageous. This shows that the mind set at the highest level in the police is still hostage to colonial thinking. Though Supreme Court has frowned on the way Khap Panchayats among Jats function as law unto themselves, and mete out “justice” through heavy fines, social boycotts, honour killings or such other coercive measures, Dr. Singh would approve of them.

Muslims shunned after one of them elopes with Jat woman in UP

“For the past four days, nearly 800 Muslims of Palachand village in Aligarh district have been socially boycotted by the majority Jat community after a Jat woman eloped with a Muslim man. The Jats don’t speak to the Muslims, they are not allowed to make purchases at local shops and are barred from working in farms of Jats. The Jats have also stopped buying milk from dairies of Muslims”.
Would then Dr. Singh agree to the following suggestion?
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