Dear friends, I am Avinash Patil, Executive President of Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti, India. I am here to receive the prestigious Avijit Roy Courage Award, 2019 on the behalf my organization and dedicate this award to our luminary leader Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and the continuous and hazardous efforts of our thousands of volunteers that struggling for the cause. I remember lakhs of well-wishers and supporters from Maharashtra, India, and abroad for assisting us since last 30 years.
At the outset, I express deep sense of gratitude to the FFRA and the members, authorities, and other stakeholders of the foundation for selecting Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti for this award. This praise and recognition of our work and dedication at International level would ignite our desires and aspirations of the work and would help to increase the credibility and reliance of the work among people. We feel that FFRA is one of our likeminded organizations that struggles for the same cause here in America that we dream in India. We will be happy and enthusiastic to be associated and affiliated with you for some future projects. We can share our scholarships and expertise to each other of our work as we are the co-travellers of the same road. The road that leads world towards the humanity, rationality, and equality based on true values of life.
Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti and works, ideas, and perceptions of Avijit Roy are same as both dream a society of ‘Mukto-Mona’ (freethinkers). The core values of Avijit Roy are reason, logic, science, rationality, and eradication of superstitions; that are our core principles too. MANS worked for the same ideas in the last thirty years in Maharashtra. The writings of Avijit Roy and Dr. Dabholkar are same as they were the same travellers of that less travelled road of religious assessment and criticism.
Avijit Roy was killed in 2015 and Dr. Dabholkar was killed in 2013. Many freethinkers during this decade are killed by religious extremists in the name of religion, traditions, and culture. This tendency is more dangerous occurring in the world especially in developing countries. But more dangerous and apprehensive situation is the attitude of the states and police authorities that are unsuccessful to arrest the killers of these people or some time police remains silent or dumb while killing of such people happens in their presence. The more dangerous and worried situations is this that space of assessment and criticism of institutions like religions is becoming less day by day.
Eradication of Superstitions in a society where it is used for socio-political and economical gains of the few becomes a hazardous task. It needs a lot of patience and rationality to contribute in this field. It also needs deep rooted courage to face the challenges of the work that can take your life. An award entitled with the word “Courage” becomes more important and complementary of our work. So many people have lost their lives in the history of human civilization for the ideas of freedom of speech, secularism, humanity, science, equality, justice, scientific temperament, and enlightenment of the people based on religious assessment and criticism. I have mixed emotions of pleasure and miserable to receive the award for the philosophy and ethics of courage in twenty first century world that is based on science and technology of one hand and full of superstitions and lack of scientific temperament and rationality on the other.
Dr. Narendra Dabholkar sacrificed his life for the cause of our work. Not only Dabholkar but other rational volunteers and social reformers like Comrade Govind Pansare, Prof. M. M. Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh have also sacrificed their lives for the courage they embodied for the thoughts, ideas, and principles of their works. I also dedicate this award for their memories and contributions.
I would like to share the nature of our works, ideas, thoughts, and structure of our organization that worked in last thirty years in my speech. ‘Eradication of Superstitions’ is a coin word in today’s socio-cultural context of Maharashtra due to the contributions of Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti and creative leadership of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. He established this organization on 9th August, 1989 and it completes 30th anniversary in 2019. We organized an International conference in Mumbai in this August to celebrate thirty years of our work. MANS’s campaigns, imaginations, works, and organizational skill spread the work at 350 branches. The base of this work is the ideas of saints and reformists of Maharashtra who criticized caste system, superstitions, and rituals. MANS continued this legacy of works with creative activism and organization. MANS started its works with exposing so called Godmen and people claiming themselves as the incarnation of Gods on earth. Later, the works got the basis of scientific temperament, criticism of religion, secularism, rationality, and humanity.
Exposition of exorcists to pass a bill on black magic and social boycott is the journey of MANS with inter caste inter religion marriages. Thirty years of the work may be divided into three decades: in first decade, MANS started its works at five to ten branches and a handful of volunteers connected with the works. The achievement of the first decade was to convey the importance of the work. Society accepted that there are superstitions and they must be eradicated. We exposed so many Godmen, black magic incidents etc. People attracted towards this work. Especially youth attracted towards it due to thrill and innovative nature of the work. In the second decade, society certified the MANS as the chief whistle-blower of the work and recognized its expertise in the field. MANS worked on different issues such as: animal sacrifice, enlightenment, dakin tradition, bhanamati, black magic, human sacrifice, exploitation of women, astrology etc. Activists went through the society and raised different questions to rituals and superstitions among school students, teachers, and parents. Programmes such as: women’s temple entry at Shanishingnapur, donation of Ganesh idol, cracker free Diwali, environmental Holi, inter caste, inter religion marriages, simple marriages or rituals free marriages underline importance of constitutional awareness among people. In the third decade, the journey from constructive criticism of religion to rationality became the coin term. It reflects the fundamentals of MANS. Our urgent need is to understand the importance of rationality for the development of humanity. Humanity has been developing since its inception but it has to change its dimensions according to time and human conditions within natural circumstances. Once, in ancient time, religion developed different concepts and dimensions with divine powers such as God, Goddess, and incarnations. However, later development of sciences and humanities changed the discourse of religion and humanity reached to modern thoughts of freedom, justice, equality, and rationality without religion and celestial powers. MANS did the same in Maharashtra to change the perception of common people towards these aspects. MANS has its commitment to two major aspects: first its commitment to saint and reformists of Maharashtra and India who messaged morality, ethics, brotherhood, rationality, humanity, justice, and nonviolence through their works; second, the constitution of India that supports all these things through its preamble and constitutional provisions. It does not make difference between man and woman and permits both the genders to walk at all places including school, college, market, parliament, and temple. It does not support any inhuman and atrocious ritual that decrease the person’s dignity and freedom. The constitutional behaviour of Indian society will lead it to a society that aimed by MANS as ‘ethical and rational society’. Our experience of thirty years shows that superstitions are one of the main hurdles in establishment of humanity in the world. They don’t give ample space for the development of the women, downtrodden, and deprived, but it makes exploitation of these classes easy. Superstitions create Godmen, they create rituals as theirbusiness. Unscientific thoughts, lack of criticism and evaluation of customs and traditions, fake pride of traditions and religion make possibilities of exploitations.
From this early works and experience of MANS, it reached in the sphere of humanity from constructive criticism of religion on the basis of ethics.Constructive criticism of religion sprouted humanity based on rationality. European renaissance and enlightenment movement rejected the God and it does not believe on religion as the source of ethics; however, MANS wants to make these more humanitarian. It welcomed ethics, values, morality, and rationality from the religion and God, and rejected the exploitation, atrocities, and injustice in the name of religion and God.
The dialogue, sympathy, and acceptance that created for the MANS in the society was not digested by the fundamentalists and extremists. Fundamental and extremist bigotry resulted into murders of these people during last decade.All these murders have links, as investigated by agencies, to religious extremists in the state. During this period MANS started inclusive and initiative programmes such as constitutional festivals, mental friend project, rational selection of life partner, awareness about pseudo-science, annihilation of caste panchayats, ringan natak, (play), matted hair removal etc. MANS organized timely and innovative activities. This made it always dynamic.
MANS has reached a stage of thirty years with many programmes interfering in society towards reformation. We have two major assets to work effectively and creatively: first our activists that work in this organization without any personal desires and interests. Their tireless efforts have taken this organization to this stage after thirty years. And second asset is acceptance and recognition by society and media to this work. To get social recognition is an important stage in the development of any organization and movement.
This is true that superstitions are anti-development but this is also believed that development should have humanitarian face. Eradication of superstitions means eradication of hate, anger, greed, fear, unfair competitions, and negative emotions; through inculcating love, cooperation, brotherhood, tolerance, peaceful co-life, sympathy, reliance for each other, rationality, and reason. This is not momentary journey; it may take hundred years together. One life of one generation is not sufficient for it but generations together have to contribute for this. I, on behalf of MANS, appeal you on this occasion to be our comrades, supporters, and companions.
Constructive and timely assessment of God, religion and its beliefs, traditions, customs, mores, and prevailing perceptions is necessary for eradication of superstitions. It explicitly requires rational assessment and examinations of Godmen, Buvabaji, (Exorcism) miracles, incarnation, and pseudo-spirituality of Godmen; through this, superstitions like ghost, soul, rebirth, planchette, sin-virtue, hell-heaven, astrology, bhanamati (black magic) etc. are being scientifically exposed. This has shaken, we may assume, unscientific, irrational, inhuman, and conservative perceptions, societies, beliefs, customs and traditions. This shows that, we, in a limited area, could use the rationality to eradicate superstitions. It is a way of life to look at human life, present, and most important, it is a way to live. So, we believe that rationality, while living and understanding, is to be adopted on wide scale experience and utilitarian approach. MANS has this humble standpoint while organizing the 20th August as National Scientific Temper Day.
Human life has travelled to scientific thoughts from logic, assessment, and inclusive thought process. The next developed stage of this is rationality. So, development of mere four centuries of rationality on basis of human values has revolutionally changed and shaken the dynamics of paradigms of human life. Human beings have made their life happy and developed on the basis of this. A few first centuries have noted the development of science and research to meet the primary and fundamental needs of human life; later, during the development of civilized and agricultural life, tools and mediums are developed on the basis of modern technology. On the subsequent stage of human life, human beings developed religion, region, and nation by positive use of rationality on the one hand and use of scientific temper on the other. Due to this, in last century, the need to use rationality along with ethics and values of human life and environment is tried. Now, we have to nurture and renew a rationality, primarily, based on mere carving the values and ethics of life towards a comprehensive personality of human life.
Determined to change human personality on the basis of only thoughts is not enough because the human personality is the combination of thoughts and emotions. So, we have to nurture human personality on the basis of rational and ethical emotions too. We may see that this was done by religion in a limited sense. So, we are the people, venture to say, that dream to create rational society, should think thoughts and emotions of human beings and should give priority to solve human problems on the basis of this. This takes us towards the works of organizations that concentrate to resolve material problems of the people with careful and sensible attitude. They have also practiced scientific temper to solve material problems of humans.
We see some challenges in future for this work. The increasing violence, bigotry, influenced youth towards these; all these create frenzy along with a self-centred society due to influence of globalization create so many challenges before these works. But we are firm to connect these small units in future to form a combined unity of our work. We, on this occasion, declare that MANS is bound to shoulder any responsibility, either minor or major, towards this gigantic task to form a union of all likeminded organizations towards creation of rational world. We want an alliance of the humanists and rationalists of the world; they should come together and travel hand in hand towards a beautiful and flourished world with mutual human relations with each other irrespective of and with a tolerant view towards region, religion, culture, race, and beliefs.
(Author is Executive President of Maharashtra Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti)