With the Lower House of the state Assembly passing the anti-superstition Bill,Friday afternoon marked the culmination of 10 years of activism by the Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmoolan Samithi (MANS) for the Bill. Dr Hamid Dabholkar,son of slain MANS leader Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Avinash Patil,president of MANS,welcomed the move. They said the Bill will be strong enough to fight superstition in the state. Maharashtra becomes the first state to pass such a law.
Anish Patwardhan,son-in-law of the slain rationalist,said the family and the rationalist movement had to pay a heavy price in the life of Dr Dabholkar. We are happy about the passage of the Bill in the Lower House and hope it would be passed in the Upper House soon. Now the onus is on the government to ensure it is brought into action, he said.
The Bill was opposed by various religious and right wing groups,and the BJP and the Shiv Sena had expressed their reservation. Infact,the Bill which has been passed has taken off the third-party complain clause. Now police complaints can be filed only by the victim of banned activities or the victims kin.
Patil said the law would be effective in stopping the spread of spiritual terrorism. The passage of the Bill was possible only because of the spontaneous outpouring of the public anger that followed the murder of Dr Dabholkar, he said.
He said the fact that 18 cases were registered across the state following the promulgation of the ordinance shows that the law is strong enough. Dr Hamid Dabholkar hoped the upper house of the state legislature would pass the Bill early next week so that the law comes into force soon. The dropping of third-party complaint clause is sad but we are happy that the Bill has been passed. As a family we have lost a lot in our fight for the Bill, he said.
The first Bill was drafted by Dr Dabholkar in 2003 and was endorsed by the then chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde. However,the ordinance was not made into a law as the state government had failed to introduce the Bill in the legislature.
The Pune connection
Pune plays a central role in the formulation of the Bill as it was here that Dr Dabholkar and other rationalists drafted it. MANS activists recalled the days when Dabholkar used to hold meetings to discuss the draft. The office of his weekly magazine Sadhna in Shaniwar Peth was the headquarters of the movement.
Even a day before he was killed,Dabholkar had held a meeting of activists to discuss the Bill. The city had witnessed many protests on the issue ,especially after Dabholkars murder.