Rationalism is back in focus with the CBI having made the first arrest in the Narendra Dabholkar murder case. After crusading against superstition for years, Dabholkar’s voice of reason was silenced nearly three years ago. This arrest has brought a ray of hope to all those who had despaired of any breakthrough in the murder investigation after such a long time. The CBI has pointed out that the arrested man — Hindu Janajagruti Samiti member Dr Virendrasinh Tawde — is the key link to not just the Dabholkar murder, but also the assassination of fellow rationalists Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure that the rationalist movement gains strength. In a country rife with godmen and charlatans professing miracle cures, and the public seeped in misguided faith and mumbo-jumbo, we need rationalism as a potent weapon to fight such superstition.
We must give more teeth to the anti-superstition law originally drafted by Dabholkar in 2003. The act criminalises practices related to black magic, human sacrifices, use of magic remedies to cure ailments and other such acts which exploit people’s superstitions. Every day, we hear of and see bogus healers professing cures and antidotes for everything from cancer to failed marriages, and thousands fall prey to these claims, because the desperate will cling to any hope, no matter how false.
It is vital then that rationalism stay alive, so it can give us power to battle these fraudulent gods. Sanal Edamaruku, India’s renowned rationalist and president of Rationalist International, who was forced to flee the country following threats, had told this paper after Dabholkar’s death, that rationalism is the new freedom struggle.
One is heartened by the fact that the net seems to be closing in on the killers, but a far bigger tribute to the slain rationalists would be to add power to the movement they gave up their lives for.