Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The other Narendra

Narendra Dabholkar, Maharashtra's most prolific anti-corruption crusader, was shot down today. We don't know who did it yet.

I remember watching Dabholkar a few years ago on some news channel, battling alone with about a dozen TV astrologers. It was the most frustrating thing I've ever watched, and for Dabholkar to keep refuting senseless "arguments" over and over again must have been soul-crushing.

It is saddening that a man of his caliber had to deal with demonstrating how babas and tantriks' tricks were tricks for a great chunk of his life. It is saddening that this had to happen in Pune, Maharashtra's cultural capital. Even more saddening is that pictures attempting to understand the "real story" behind Nathuram Godse have been doing the rounds on the internet for the longest time and that everyone bought into it, never questioning its implications on the acceptance of violence and religious chauvinism.

So far the BJP's and Shiv Sena's statements have been to the tune of, "We disagreed with his views, but they shouldn't have killed him." This is no less than these parties openly stating they disagree with the removal of superstition.

There are plenty of people on TV emphatically stating that Dabholkar, although an atheist, never campaigned against religion, only superstition - but what if he had campaigned against religion? Does India allow its people to kill dissenters of religion, or even those working to peacefully limit the influence of religion on public life?

But the overarching feeling is that of powerlessness - I cannot register my disgust at what has happened, except perhaps through my vote. A few days ago I was beginning to wonder if I'd like to give the BJP a chance, maybe see if economic reforms could actually happen. But now I'd just like to emphasize that although it would be really nice if we were led by someone with supposedly amazing economic and administrative policies, there are things that are more important than growth and wealth - a rich, Talibanised India is not worth it. Stop calling politicians who support minorities "pseudo-secular"; I'd rather take pseudo-secular than those who openly challenge the idea of India.

Image credit: www.antisuperstition.org
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