Rationalist anti-superstition leader Narendra Dabholkar assassinated in India

Terrible news out of India.

Anti-superstition leader Narendra Dabholkar shot dead; Prithviraj Chavan announces Rs10 lakh reward for info on killers – Pune – DNA.

Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, who was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill, was shot dead by two unidentified youths at 7.20 am on Omkarweshwar bridge near Cosmos Bank in Pune on Tuesday morning.

Dabholkar’s murder comes days after the Maharashtra government assured introduction of the anti-superstition bill even as Right Wing groups continued to oppose the bill.

A staunch fighter for the cause of eradication of inhuman rituals and superstitions, Dabholkar was also in the forefront of the campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill, opposed by certain sections of Warkari sect, in the State legislature.

Dabholkar, who had a degree in medicine, started working in the field of superstition eradication in 1983.

In 1989, along with other like-minded people, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti.

Here is the text of the bill Dabholkar was promoting. The law would prohibit many superstitious practices including:

To perform Karni, Bhanamati,
To perform magical rites in the name of supernatural power,
To offer ash, talisman, charms etc. for the purpose of exorcism and to drive out evil  spirits or ghosts,
To claim possession of supernatural powers and to advertise this claim,
To defame, disgrace the names of erstwhile Saints/ Gods, by claiming to be there reincarnation and thus cheating the gullible and God-fearing simple folks.
To claim to be possessed by divine power or evil power and then perform miracles in the name of such powers.
To punish and to beat mentally ill patients in the belief that they are possessed by evil spirits.
To perform Aghori rites.
To perform so called black magic and spread fear in society.
To perform “Gopal Santan Vidhi” to beget a male offspring.
To oppose scientific medical treatment and to coerce to adopt Aghori treatment.
To sell or deal in so-called magic stones, talisman, bracelets, charms.
To become possessed by supernatural powers and then pretend to give answers to any questions in this mental state.
To sacrifice innocent animals for the appeasement of gods or spirits.
To dispense magical remedies for curing rabies and snake bites.
To dispense medical remedies with claims of assured fertility.

It was said to be the first law of its kind in India and may be in the world. We hope that his death by two youths will not be in vain and his work will be rewarded by the passing of this landmark bill.

Note: For Web of Trust users, Dabholkar’s anti-superstition site has a poor rating. Please visit and add your ratings.

Addition: Sanal Edamaruku speaks about the tragedy.

During the course of his battle against superstition, Dabholkar had received many threats from various groups but had never allowed it to deter him. Edamaruku, the president of an organisation called the Indian Rationalist Association says the threats usually come from those who are perpetrating superstitions and other beliefs.“The rationalist movement has been growing very fast over the last 10 years. I have experienced a lot of threats in my life and so have many others,” he said.

Narendra Dabholkar’s death should be taken as an inspiration by people, who should be encouraged to realise the importance of the struggle against superstition and take inspiration from his struggle, he said.“It is not the victims of superstition who are normally against rationalists but the exploiters who are using superstition and are using the gullibility of people, they are the ones against us,” Edamaruku said.

Tip: David Wood

Obituary (added 14-Sept 2013).

  8 comments for “Rationalist anti-superstition leader Narendra Dabholkar assassinated in India

  1. Massachusetts
    August 20, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    It seems like this bill does have some positive goals. But isn’t this also a huge gray area that can impinge on religious and spiritual freedom? Such broad legislation may backfire, strengthening superstitious practice as people grasp for rights they perceive they are losing? I don’t know, I’d always thought raising the level of education and awareness was the answer, rather than broad bans on behaviors that are motivated by this very lack of education and awareness. I fear this very well-intended bill will only attack the symptoms of the disease, not the underlying causes.

  2. August 20, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    That was a concern by opponents, yes. So it had pushback from both sides.

  3. Chris Howard
    August 20, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone know of any instances when rationalists have attacked, and killed superstitious people?

  4. August 20, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    @ Chris,
    It depends what you mean by rationalists. Many people who think they are on the side of reason have beliefs of their own. I agree, however, that any laws against superstition usually cause more problems than they solve.

  5. Chris Howard
    August 20, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    True. I suppose it all hinges on the operational definition of “rationalist.”

  6. August 20, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    I was not aware of his work before this, and I feel bad about that. I’ve been looking through the newspaper record to get a sense of the bill and his history, and I’ll talk about what I find on the Virtual Skeptics tomorrow. This is so brutal. Unforgivable.

  7. August 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    “Just out of curiosity, does anyone know of any instances when rationalists have attacked, and killed superstitious people?”
    How about
    Soviet Union
    People’s Republic of China
    Presbytarians in 16th century Scotland and other Protestant groups during the Reformation.
    Jacobites in the French revolution

    All self-styled rationalists fighting against superstition. Need I go on?

  8. August 22, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Re: superstitious attacked by rational: It could be argued that the moment one gets so emotionally worked up and zealous about something that they become violent about it–that at that moment they are no longer being rational. (imagine Spock).

    Re: Tulli Monstrum:
    You make a good point, but it isn’t really different from Michael Greening’s point.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

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