Jalagav District Rotary Club had arranged my lecture on 4 Jan 08. Besides the Rotary Club, a few more colleges in Jalagav and Bhusawal also arranged the lectures in their respective colleges. The arrange-ments were in full swing at both the places. I was on my way to Jalagav from Pune by train. Suddenly at 9 pm my cell phone started ringing. The call was from Jalagav itself. The message was that the Jalagav Police had imposed ban on my lecture program. The authority had also cautioned the organizers to face the dire consequences if any one disobeys their orders. While explaining the background for the ban, the organizers told me that as soon as the lecture details were announced, a few local pro-Hindu organizations approached the police. They pleaded that Dr Dabholkar should not be allowed to deliver the lectures since he vehemently criticizes the Hindu Gods and Goddesses in his lectures by which the religious feelings of Hindus would be hurt. If Dr Dabholkar utters a single word against our sacred Gods the police will be held responsible for any disturbances. In the past, these fascist organizations just used to give warnings to organsiers of their discontent and pressurize to cancel the programs. This time they had gone one step ahead to bulldoze the police to cancel the programs. Rotary Club tried their level best to convince the police. But efforts were not fruitful. In spite of pleading and requests, police denied the permission to arrange the lecture program.
I had two phone numbers on my cell screen. One was of Hon. Home Minister RR Patil and other one of Dist Police Commissioner of Jalagav. I was trying both the numbers alternately. However the connection to Jalagav came through. The gist of my conversations with the DSP on duty was as under:
- Police Dept is expected to protect the Indian Constitution which has granted the freedom of speech to all its citizens. If any one comes on the way of this right, the police have duty to take appropriate action to remove the hindrances. However in this present case, the police are taking opposite stand. Hence they should realize their serious mistake and act accordingly.
- For last 30 and odd years I might have delivered more that thousand lectures. I had written hundreds of articles. I had also written more than15 books, a few of which have won awards form the Govt. Not even once I was found guilty for my spoken or written words.
- All the while I propagate the theme of scientific temper and secularism in my lectures, writings and through my organization which have also been mentioned in the constitution. In fact those who are objecting my lecture, they take anti-constitution stand.
- Police cannot impose ban on my lecture program. I will be coming to Jalagav. My organization has arranged my programs and I cannot disappoint them at this juncture. You may arrest me if you like. I will sit in front of your police station on indefinite strike till you grant me the permission.
- As a coincidence, I am contacting you first. Otherwise I would have contacted the Home minister. Then you would have been forced to take orders from your superiors to give permission to lecture programs.
This conversation was continued for more than 10 minutes. Police are not used to listen from the public and that too such one sided conversation. Even then DSP was forced to listen to whatever I was saying. DSP then asked me the topic on which I am giving the lecture.
“It is my personal issue”
“Please … as a friend, Doctor…” DSP
“The topic of my lecture is ‘My Spiritual Apprehension’ and I don’t think this has anything to do with Hindu Gods or Goddesses.”
“I will grant you the permission. I will see to it that no untoward thing will happen as long as you are in this place.” DSP
The phones in Jalagav started ringing. The newspaper headlines need to be changed. “The permission granted to Dr Dabholkar’s Lectures” became the front page headline of local newspapers. The programs at Jalagav and Bhusawal were successful. Everything went smoothly without any incidence. The students and the public listened to me attentively. My activists were able to collect a good amount from the sale of ANS publications.
In fact this is second time after similar episode at Sholapur. Even then the fascists don’t learn any lessons. I think they will never act rationally. I soon realized their irrationality while I answered the phone immediately after my program at Jalagav.
Nandakishor Talashilkar from Mumbai was on phone. He was speaking from Andheri Railway Police Station. He told me that Swapneel Taware, a young ANS activist, was selling ANS publications, booklets on Kurla Railway Station platform. While he was alone, a crowd of 40-50 people, taking the name of Bajarang Dal, VHP, Hindu Jan Jagaran Manch etc attacked him, threw the publications, torn the banner and mishandled him. They then forced him to sit in an auto and took him to nearby Andheri Railway Police Station. The leader of the crowd insisted that Swapneel should be arrested immediately for displaying the disfigured trident (Trishool) with lemon on the cover page of a book for hurting the religious feelings of Hindus. They were pressurizing the police to take action.
I immediately contacted Dr N D Patil and narrated the incidence. In turn, he contacted police and told “The publications sold by ANS have not been banned by Maharashtra or any Govt. When someone interferes the sale of books which are not banned, it should be treated as breach of freedom of speech. If police, on their own, tries to lodge a case, you will be in trouble”. After listening to him, DSP stopped further proceedings. He refused to admit FIR against Swapneel as desired by the crowd. He suggested a meeting next day.
Meanwhile I talked with Home Secretary on this issue. He contacted the police. While we were in the police station next day, the behavior of the police took 180 degree turn. They talked courteously. Even they offered tea to us. Only one person from the crowd, which attacked Swapneel, came to station. Police told him that police will not take any action. If desired he can do so on his personal level. He had to swallow his pride and had to go back. Police told that they can arrange protection while selling the publications of ANS. The police refused to take any action against miscreant crowd which attacked Swapneel. However one should appreciate both Swapneel Taware and Nandkishor Talashilkar for their exemplary courage to handle such grave situation.
It should be noted that we are aware of our mission. We are committed to scientific temper and secularism, the guiding principles of the constitution. As mentioned in the constitution we respect the religious feelings of others. In fact those who oppose us are supporting the concept of Religious Hindu Nation. They don’t believe in scientific temper, secularism, democracy, non violence. Instead they take shelter of violence, vandalism, and false allegations to achieve their vested interest. There appears to be no hope of their reformation. Considering their attitude, we have to be more cautious and alert to counter their attacks and strategies. Our communication, our knowledge of legal implications, networking etc should be up-to-date so that we will not face ugly situations in future. If desired each unit should have its own legal expert who can assist us in difficult situations. We have to live with these fascists though they are being downsized. There is no escape.