“My husband has been showered with posthumous honours now, but received only threats when he was alive,” said Shaila Dabholkar, wife of slain rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, who was conferred the lifetime achievement award on the Foundation Day of the University of Pune on Monday.
Shaila, in her first public appearance during the Foundation Day celebrations, also questioned the rationale behind Maharashtra government enacting the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act within a fortnight of her husband’s murder, for which Dabholkar had fought for nearly two decades.
“What kind of rationalism is this?” questioned Shaila, stressing that her husband was fighting for a larger goal of protecting human rights. Among different honours he received after his death, Dabholkar — who was shot on August 20 last year — has been named for the prestigious civilian honour Padma Shri recently.
“We always had a difference of opinion over the importance of public awards. My husband was in favour of accepting them. His contention was that we live in a society and such awards help in propagating the cause undertaken,” Shaila said.
Describing Dabholkar as an open university, she said he propagated the ideology of rationalism to whoever approached him. “Whether he came across a child or an adult, he was keen to disseminate scientific knowledge and rationalism. He was more like an open university of rationalism,” she said.
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In his speech, Governor K Sankaranarayanan described Dabholkar as one of the most prominent social activist, rationalist and reformer in Maharashtra.
“His persistent efforts for the eradication of evil practices like black magic resulted in the passage of the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act, a unique legislation in the country. The state can never forget the sacrifice of late Dr Dabholkar, who laid down his life fighting for the cause dear to him,” he said.