Day after Dabholkar murder, Maha clears anti-black magic, superstition ordinance

The killing of noted rationalist Narendra Dabholkar that has sparked an outrage prompted the Maharasthra government today to announce that a law to ban superstitious practices and black magic will be enacted through an Ordinance.

The decision to approach the Governor for promulgating the Ordinance was taken at a meeting of the state Cabinet presided by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan here, Mantralaya sources said.

The Ordinance is expected to be issued in a day or two, the sources said.

The legislation is aimed at banning superstitious practices, inhuman rituals and black magic that have been used to exploit people in the name of religious beliefs.

Narendra Dabholkar
Narendra Dabholkar

The draft legislation is ready and will be converted into the Ordinance, they said, adding that the Bill would be passed in the next session of state Legislature.

The ordinance is being issued since the next Legislature session will now be held only in December, the sources said.

The Bill was first tabled in the Assembly in 2003 and has had a controversial history and went through several drafts and 29 amendments in the last decade.

The 69-year-old social activist, who was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne unidentified assailants at around 7.15 am yesterday, when he was out for a morning walk on the Omkareshwar temple bridge in Pune had waged a long and lonely battle for an anti-superstition law.

Dabholkar, who was running an anti-superstition movement in Maharashtra, had even drafted a Bill for the purpose in the late 1990s.

As the police launched an intensive search for the two killers, Sanatan Sanstha, the Hindu right-wing group often at loggerheads with Dabholkar, sought to distance itself from the attack.

"We are shocked by Dabholkar's murder...We don't have anything to do with the killing," Sanatan spokesperson Abhay Vartak told reporters in Mumbai.

Although the police claimed that they had got "some information", they refused to divulge any details saying it would hamper the investigation. After the Cabinet meeting, Chavan appeared to hint at the possibility of right wing groups being behind the murder of Dabholkar when he equated his killing with that of Mahatma Gandhi.

"Forces who could not tolerate Gandhiji...who could not tolerate his views and silenced his voice... the same way forces who could not stand the power of Narendra Dabholkar's views have silenced his voice by his brutal murder," he said.

A protest march was taken out by students and citizens against the murder in Pune.

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