For thousands of activists of a social group in Pune, there is no better place than the precinct of a Gandhi statue to hold their self-slapping protest and follow the footsteps of Bapu who asked people to offer their right cheek if slapped on the left.
Protesting against the "inordinate delay" of the government in enacting a law to ban black magic, more than 2,000 volunteers of the Mahrashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS) launched their Gandhigiri on Wednesday to put pressure on the government.
With a target of 20 lakh slaps, the Samiti has launched the 10-day agitation to coincide with the Assembly session, which started on Wednesday. The protest aims to highlight the "absence of political will" of the Vilasrao Deshmukh government and the "slaps on the faces of people" who have been demanding enactment of the bill approved by the Cabinet in 2003.
MANS Working President Narendra Dabholkar said Minister for Social Justice Chandrakant Handore, who heads a committee to examine the draft of the bill, had not convened its meeting for the last nine months despite a demand by the members. The Samiti said black magic and similar practices in the state are a type of exploitation.
On top of it, the government did not even try to defend the proposed Act against a deceptive propaganda that this law was against the Hindu religion, Dabholkar regretted.
Rejecting suggestions that the stir was farcical in nature, he said the outfit had no other alternative to highlight the ugly face of superstitious practices.
Asked what method will be employed to achieve the target figure, Dabholkar said the Samiti noted the number of slaps one activist would complete in a minute. It would then work out the total by calculating the duration of the stir and the number of volunteers taking part state-wide.