Two Years after That Dark Day…

Vinayak Savale

A letter to Late Dr. Narendra Dabholkar……

Dear Doctor,

Two  years after that dark day, our organisation is bravely fighting against the brazen government machinery and the intense darkness of superstitions, carrying the torch of the thought you gave us. With our hearts full of grief and anger we have not deviated from the path of reason and sanity and are fighting united, helping each other not to lose faith and courage. Your killers could not kill your thought or stop it spreading by the day.

We have stood together encouraging each other and working harder than ever. Here is an account of the last two years- our achievements and the narrative of how ANS faced the challenges before it.

The first challenge before us was that of getting the anti-superstition law enacted by the Legislative Assembly. Doctor, you had fought for it for all of 18 years and you finally laid down your life. But immediately after your assassination, people were so enraged that the government had to hurriedly issue an anti-superstition ordinance; it was now necessary to convert it into a law or else it would lapse. The atmosphere was conducive but government was still dilly-dallying.  Avinash Patil who trained under you, drew an effective strategy to keep the heat on the Government through communication, dialogue, demonstrations, agitation, protests, campaigns and what not. Finally the law was passed; we were witnessing the procedure from the gallery and hugged each other with joy; but at what price! We have learned a lot from this experience. Since then about two hundred anti-superstition cases have been filed. In one case the accused have been convicted. Moreover, now the Government on its own is publicizing it through ‘Janasanvad Yatra’. We have criss-crossed the whole state to educate people regarding the law and with the help of the Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Centre, Pune, we have organised many training centres all over the state.

Doctor, another such success was gained in the fight against the ‘Jaat Panchayat’ (Caste & Community Council) system. The supreme leaders of the Vaidu community have decided to dismantle their Panchayats. Accordingly thousands of Jaat Panchayat meetings have been cancelled. This has opened a new panorama and volunteers from many nomadic tribes are joining us. After the first conference, ‘put an end to Jaat Panchayat’ where you were present, we have successfully held meetings at various places such as Jalgaon, Latur, Mahad, Mumbai where all those who suffered at the hands of their Jaat Panchayats gave vent to their grievances, throwing light on various aspects of this atrocious institution.

 I assure you dear Doctor, we, your enthusiastic followers, though stunned by the shock of your loss, did not keep wailing over it. The pain in our hearts has produced novel ideas of disseminating your message. One of them is ‘Ringan Natya’ (a kind of street play) organized by Atul Pethe, a famous personality in experimental theatre. This novel activity not only enriched the cultural aspect but also provided an opportunity to our activists to give vent to their suffering, defiance and condemnation of the heinous crime. By now we have been able to organize ten groups performing Ringan Natya. The Islamapur group has developed a very powerful dramatic piece, ‘Socrates to Dabholkar- Pansare  via Tukaram’.  The audience are greatly moved by it and after watching the show are determined not to let the sane thought of these great men die. This play was enacted at the Gandhi Memorial in Delhi establishing its connection with Gandhiji’s thought. Other similar groups from Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune and Kolhapur are equally active in spreading your message.

Another dream of yours -possessing a ‘Digital Planetarium’ of our own, too costly for us to afford earlier, has now materialized. Dr. Atish Dabholkar persuaded the renowned scientist, Dr. Ashok Sen to give us a generous donation for the long desired planetarium. The new planetarium is making us proud and is helping students to make an amazing tour of the skies.

We can assure you dear Doctor, that our organization’s business is alive and well. Regular meetings are held at state and district levels. Other programmes like ‘Nirdhar Melave’, and conferences are organized frequently and efficiently. Every activist is alert and leaves no stone unturned, so that the organization always remains in the front of every progressive movement. All these are just the most important achievements. The full list of other major and minor ones is rather long.

Many people are astonished to see our organization running smoothly with renewed vigour despite our grievous loss. You have already answered this doubt in your article, ‘From where does all this come?’ You said, ‘The pristine spring emanates from you, the activists, from your urge to do good to society. Your thoughts get connected through the programmes and activities of the organization.’ But Doctor, the real spring of all this lay in you; the work culture you created; your simplicity, your prudence and parsimony, your studiousness, modesty, drive, perseverance and such innumerable attributes have deeply affected the work culture of the organization and shaped its character that refutes orthodox thinking, emphasizes action and encourages sane liberal consciousness. Doctor, we have preserved this consciousness and proved our integrity. No activist possesses the elephant like strength that you did. But in the last two years all of us activists have gathered huge strength.

Many of our workers have earned awards from 5 thousand to 50 thousand rupees during the last two years. Every one of them donated all that they received to the organization with all humility and without any conceit, just as you did when you received ten lakh rupees award in the U.S.A.

 The media, both print and electronic have been helping us throughout these two years supporting our demands and telecasting our activities during prime time.

Our organization is progressing under the collective leadership headed by Avinash Patil. Dr. Shailatai, Muktatai and Dr. Hamid have faced the tragedy with great courage and also with restraint. The whole family seems to have merged into the larger family of the organization.

Doctor, just two years back, we all were standing by the side of the funeral supporting each other with tearful eyes; but those tears were not just the tears of grief and helplessness. Those were tears silently reassuring each other not to give up but to keep on fighting for the freedom of thought, freedom to criticize exploitative religious practices, freedom to eradicate atrocious ‘Jaat Panchayat’ and superstition and freedom to usher in a new era of reason, of scientific temper and of overall human progress.

(Translated by Ms Suman Oak)