Dr. Narendra Dabholkar


Prabhakar Nanawaty

Suman Oak

Breaking the Barriers – 25 years of Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Vartapatra (ANV)

Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Vartapatra (ANV) is not just a house journal trumpeting the achievements and programs of Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti, a movement lead by Late Dr Narendra Dabholkar in Maharashtra. ANV is also a need we feel within us, of a desire to know and/or act in the path of rational thinking.

Twenty five years ago it was just 2-4 pages in the name ‘Kavadase’ published from an activist’s flat at Panvel. There was no proper office and there were no facilities to print and post. Sometimes it has to be cyclostyled. Activists delivered the copies by hand to save the cost of postage. However the content was rich and quite appealing. Today ANV has its own office facilities to publish 36 page monthly magazine with four colour cover page. Not even a single issue had been missed for last 25 years. In addition to the 36 page magazine, there is a special issue of 300+ pages published every year.  A rough statistics shows that there are 1000 + articles printed on  9000 pages and written by 500 authors.

It seems ANV has come a very long way since; eradication of superstition is no longer a subject of gossip or entertainment, but survival issue for downtrodden and gullible. If one can scan through the pages of ANV, he/she will certainly feel as though time has stood stand still or video cassette is being played again and again. Godmen are still thriving; quacks are in greater demand; astrologers are still fooling the people; claims of miracle are being entertained by the public. In fact, ANV covers subjects like witchcraft, poltergeist, haunted houses, miracle exposures, harmful practices followed in religion etc. ANV supported the campaigns like pollution free festivals like Ganeshotsava, Holi and Diwali. A series of articles were written against immersion of Ganesh idols made of Plaster of Paris (POP) which were polluting the flowing river and water bodies. ANV published the articles on noise polluting crackers and insisted that the crackers should not be used to celebrate Diwali. ANV advocated that instead of burning the sweet pancakes in the Holi fire, it is better to distribute the same to poor people.  There is a huge readership supporting the views of ANV.

ANV had published the articles exposing Satya Saibaba, Narendra Maharaj, Nirmal Baba, Radhe Maa, Mata Amritanandmayee, Asaram Bapu, and many self published ‘saints’,  detailing how these godmen and women are fooling people in the name of God, religion, claiming supernatural powers, so called their ‘spiritual philosophy,’ etc. ANV regularly publishes critical articles on religious practices and suggest the followers to take stock of the practices vis-à-vis what religions are preaching. One may find many articles written by eminent scholars about religion, spiritualism, existence of God, fallacy of rebirth, Moksha etc. These articles make readers to think critically about these concepts.

In addition to critical articles on religion, ANV also publishes articles on social and environmental issues too. The articles criticize the pseudoscience, malpractices in medical treatment, hypnotism as therapy, food habits, etc. ANV published a series of articles on so called value based education and exposed hidden agenda of the concerned to impose age old, religious rituals and practices on students which may lead to belief in superstitions. ANV also dealt with ‘New Age’ belief systems like Vaastushastra, Feng Shui, many facets of astrology, and explained the marketing practices behind such foolhardy issues. The magazine takes the issues of money making Ponzy schemes and cautions the readers not to fall pray to such fraudulent schemes. In fact globalization has brought many superstitions of the world and people are falling prey to them. ANV has accepted the challenges and is continuing its crusade against prevailing superstitions and other issues too.

While going through the pages of issues of last 25 years, it gives a complete picture about the stages in which Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti went through, its multifarious activities, its insistence to pass the bill against superstitions, and the acceptance of the issues raised by ANS. The magazine gives full publicity to conventions, conferences, workshops, meetings, etc undertaken by ANS. Generally during these conventions eminent progressive thinkers are invited to express their views. Their speeches are a sort of food for thought to readers of ANV.  ANV publishes full transcript of the speeches delivered.

Late Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, the founder of ANS, was a great contributor to this magazine. He used to work round the clock for ANS. In spite of his busy schedule he will find some time and write and/or dictate articles, columns, reply to the readers’ letters explaining various aspects of the issues, campaigns ANS was undertaking. He wrote detailed articles on faith and superstitions, scientific outlook, Mind, mental illness, haunting and possessing, Broad Ideological Stand of Eradication of Superstition, Eradication of Superstition and the Concept of God, Women and Eradication of Superstition,  Ethics and Eradication of Superstition, Miracle exposure: an opportunity to ANS, Shani Shinganapur, Sheshrao Maharaj, Theoratical stand for confronting Godmen, Law against inhuman practices, etc. which were mind captivating to readers.  He wrote a series of articles on passing the Bill on inhuman practices.  The articles covered almost all aspects of the law, the struggles he and ANS faced, confrontations with bureaucracy, and elected representatives who were supposed to pass the bill, etc.  His writing style was very simple and quite appealing to readers. It used to be a heart to heart dialogue between him and readers. Till his gruesome death on 20 Aug 2013, he contributed his writings to ANV.  In fact ANV published special issues which contained obituaries published in various magazines and newspapers and reminiscences by the activists.

Though the title of the magazine may suggest that its business is just to deal with superstitions and describe the efforts put up by ANS activists in this regard. No doubt ANV is reporting about these exposures so as to convince the readers not to be a victim to these superstitions. But ANV has a large share of articles about other burning issues of the society. One may find the articles on environmental issues, blood donation, eye donation, health and hygiene, nutrition, addictions, ill effect of cosmetics, etc. Most of the articles published in this magazine are quite informative. Some of the articles take critical view about the rituals, traditions, celebrations, caste, religions, and the idea of God, outdated religious values and customs, etc. ANV also published the articles on religious places like Shirdi, Tirupati, Ajmer, Mt Abu etc so that readers will know what exactly is happening in these places and expose their marketing tactics.

As a part of silver jubilee celebrations ANV arranged a literary meet and had discussion on Role of Rationalist Literature in Social Change and invited quite a few editors and activists from all over India. It was heartening to note that in spite of hurdles and hardships, the progressive movement is achieving success in various nooks and corners of the country.

ANV has a very long way to go to achieve its goal of building a rational society. ANV has to work even harder to break the barriers of miracle-mongering and superstitious society and confront the exploiters and protect the gullible. Readers are the only judges who will evaluate the efforts of ANV and guide the magazine to bring rationality in the public domain, … soon and very soon!.

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