Dabholkar murder: Two years on, mystery remains

Pune : It has been exactly two years since rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead here, but his killers continue to elude the law. In protest, several hundred activists, including his wife and two children, held a march here on Thursday.

Dabholkar, a medico-turned-campaigner against superstititions and black magic who headed the Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS), was gunned down by motorcycle-borne assailants during a morning walk on August 20, 2013.

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“It has been two years and investigators are yet to achieve a breakthrough. We have a single-point demand: nab his killers,” said his daughter Mukta Dabholkar, who with her brother Hamid have been carrying forward their father’s legacy.

Stung by severe criticism over the failure of the investigators, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday announced a team of police officials to assist the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is handling the case.

The team would include an assistant commissioner of police, four inspectors and two sub-inspectors.

“We have made them available taking into consideration the demand of the CBI,” Fadnavis said.

In a sensational disclosure on Thursday, senior Congress leader Narayan Rane said then home minister, the late R.R. Patil, “was close to cracking the case”.

“I would like to tell you, R.R. (Patil) was close to cracking the case… and I am witness to it,” Rane told mediapersons.

He dismissed the present government’s moves alleging that with Fadnavis at the helm, “I am sure they would not be able to reach the killers”.

Earlier in Pune, protesters gathered at 7.55 a.m. at the exact spot and time when Dabholkar was shot dead, and marched from Omkareshwar Bridge to Mehendale Garage, around two kilometres, carrying placards and banners and raising slogans.

The Dabholkar siblings, along with their mother Shaila, led the march of rationalist-activists who wore black bands.

In attendance at the protest march was Sandip Shetty, brother of slain RTI activist Satish Shetty, slain Communist leader Govind Pansare’s daughter Smita, film stars, social activists and prominent citizens from across the state.

The march caps a year-long campaign, including street plays, performed to highlight Dabholkar’s ideology and marches all over Maharashtra.

“It is a shame that the government has failed to nab the assailants even two years after the murder,” Hamid said.

Earlier, he accused the government of “trying to hide something” since all evidence have been handed over but there had been no breakthrough.

For nearly a year, Maharashtra Police tried to crack the case but without success. The case was handed over to the CBI in May 2014.

In May 2015, the CBI released the sketches of two suspects in the killing but no further progress has been made.

In the past two years, police questioned nearly a 1,000 people, including ‘tantriks’, godmen and black magicians against whom Dabholkar campaigned vigorously all his life.

Dabholkar’s killing prompted the government to enact the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices, and Black Magic Act, 2013. It is popular as the anti-superstitions and black magic law.