Five years since the first attack on rationalism
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Five years since the first attack on rationalism

Two bike-borne assailants shot Narendra Dabholkar, as he was taking his morning walk in Pune on August 20, 2013

mumbai Updated: Aug 21, 2018 01:05 IST
Narendra Dabholkar,Pune,BJP-Shiv Sena government
If any kind of extremists get space and their acts go unpunished, it will pose danger to free and liberal atmosphere in the state.(HT FILE)

It has been five years since Narendra Dabholkar, a well-known rationalist, was murdered. Two bike-borne assailants shot him as he was taking his morning walk in Pune on August 20, 2013.

The investigation into his murder has been going on for five years with very limited progress. There was a Congress-NCP government in the state when Dabholkar was murdered. Later, the BJP-Shiv Sena government took over. The pace of investigation, however, remained the same and the Bombay high court had to express its unhappiness over the same.

And while the state police were investigating the case, another similar murder took place in Kolhapur. Govind Pansare, a leader of the Communist Party of India and a strong supporter of Dabholkar’s rationalist movement, was shot by two gunmen on February 16, 2015. He died four days later.

The two murders led to uproar, special teams were formed to investigate, several persons were arrested but the investigation has not reached a conclusive stage yet.

There seems to be some progress in the investigation in past few days with the arrest of a person from Nalasopara on the outskirts of Mumbai with a huge cache of explosives. The investigating agencies have also nabbed an alleged killer in the Dabholkar case.

The latest progress is also being attributed to the information given by Karnataka police’s special investigation team formed to probe the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh.

Read more: Why civic poll results spell bad news for Opposition in Maharashtra

If the investigating agencies have arrested the actual killers as they are claiming, the citizens are now expecting them to nab those who were behind the murder of Dabholkar. Not just the two murders in Maharashtra but the killing of writer MM Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh in Karnataka were shockingly similar.

It has raised the question whether there is one group or outfit behind these murders and whether the motive behind the murders was to silence the rationalists, liberals and reformists. The investigators are working on this theory.

The people of Maharashtra always took pride in calling the state a progressive one. If any kind of extremists get space and their acts go unpunished, it will pose danger to free and liberal atmosphere in the state. Significantly, Maharashtra politics has been traditionally dominated by leaders who favoured tolerance and liberal atmosphere in the state. Prominent politicians from almost all political parties shared this view. Hope they continue this tradition. They can begin by ensuring that Dabholkar-Pansare’s killers are brought to justice.

Will there be simultaneous elections in Maharashtra?

Many in political circles have heaved a sigh of relief following the Election Commission of India’s stand that it can’t hold simultaneous polls unless there is an amendment in the Constitution for the purpose. The assembly elections in Maharashtra are held six months after the Lok Sabha polls. Though both, BJP chief Amit Shah and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis have announced that there won’t be simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and assembly in Maharashtra, developments in Delhi in the past few weeks have again led to speculations whether the ruling BJP would prefer to hold the two elections together. The speculations started with Shah sending a letter to the Election Commission of India favouring simultaneous polls in India.

Once again, there have been whispers within the ruling BJP camp whether they would have to prepare for both Lok Sabha and assembly elections. On the other hand, though they have been putting forth a brave face, the opposition parties too are hoping that the assembly elections are held separately. That will give them adequate time for preparations.

As of now, nobody in the state’s political circles is sure about the simultaneous polls. Only two persons know for sure and both of them are in Delhi, quip the politicians from both, the ruling as well as the opposition sides.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 01:05 IST