Following Tuesday’s horrific assassination of noted anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, MiD DAY spoke with several celebrated public figures involved in various social causes, who have been frequently targeted by detractors and have occasionally faced threat to life during their crusade.
Marathi film actor Nandu Madhav, who also works in theatre, has been receiving threats from right-wing extremist groups in the past few months over the ongoing shows of his play ‘Shivaji Underground In Bhimnagar Mohalla’. Madhav is the director of this theatrical piece and has run 235 shows of this play across the state. Despite consistent threats calls and demands to stop the play, he is firm about his story that deals with social issues and has continued with the performances. He says his aim is to disseminate new, revolutionary thoughts in society.
“Initially, some bureaucrats started taking objection to my play over the title. Rather than ensuring adequate protection for playwrights and directors in Nanded and Parbhani they have started self-censorship,” Madhav said. “For the first 200 shows of the play there were no major hurdles. However, later in Kolhapur,our crew was threatened by the Bajarang Dal that was asking us to shop the shows. Subsequently, in Miraj Hindu, Jangagruti Samiti raised a similar demand. In Pune some four people of one Hindu outfit told me that the play is against their religious values and it should be banned. Before a show in Nashik there was a morcha asking people who had bought tickets not to attend the play. Luckily for us, the audience came anyway and we continued with our performance,” he said.
On rising incidents of imposing self-censorship Madhav said that he has told his team of ‘Shivaji Underground…’ to be alert during the play and keep a lookout for any suspicious occurrences. There are a total of 27 artists working in the play. “Chhatrapati Shivaji was a ruler who was respected by people from all strata of society and his work is not restricted to upper Hindu castes. We are disseminating this message through our play and we will continue to perform shows, no matter how many threat calls and demands for bans we received from fundamentalists,” added Madhav.
Senior academician and HoD of the political science department of the University of Pune (UoP) Dr Suhas Palshikar is another known personality in the national media. His area ofwork includes political and social movements in Maharashtra. Talking about Dabholkar’s assassination, Palshikar said, “It is a major setback to a social movement in Maharashtra. Every social activist is prepared to face some kind of opposition. But everyone is not courageous like Dabholkar. The assassination has led to panic and it would impact leadership and overall social atmosphere.”
In May 2012, controversy erupted over the inclusion of Dr BR Ambedkar’s cartoon in an NCERT textbook and as an advisor of NCERT; Palshikar got roiled in the row. Even after he resigned from NCERT, some three people ransacked his office in UoP on May 12, 2012. However he has not initiated any action against the attackers explaining that they have been provoked and punishment would not help them.
Veteran literary figure and former chairperson of Maharashtra literary meet Dr Nagnath Kottapalle is also an activist who talks about ways of social progression in public. “Dabholkar’s assassination has raised serious doubts about the progressive status of Maharashtra. If we study the cause for which he was fighting, our society has in fact regressed due to this incident. If we see the rising incidents of owner killings, attacks on Dalits, it seems like fundamentalism is increasing in the state. But we should continue to fight against it,” Kottapalle said.