Pune: Thousands of people in Pune trooped out on the streets Wednesday to protest the murder a day ago of social reformer and anti-superstition campaigner Narendra Dabholkar. The city observed a near-total spontaneous shutdown.
All major roads and commercial areas wore a deserted look, as Punekars, together with various political parties, social organisations and civil society groups, organised a massive rally at Mahatma Phule Square near Omkareshwar Temple, near where the 69-year-old Dabholkar was shot dead Tuesday morning, while on a morning walk.
Pune police have yet to make any headway in the murder case, even though eight special teams are working on it.
A Mumbai police crime branch team has reached the state's academic and cultural capital to assist local police in solving the sensational murder case which has left the entire country shocked in its sheer brutality and brazenness.
All major political parties in the city, including the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, besides scores of social and student organisations, joined in the procession and rally.
At a public rally after the procession, several speakers paid homage to Dabholkar, condemned his cold-blooded killing and demanded action by the police to nab the killers.
A leading campaigner against blind belief and witchcraft, mild-mannered Dabholkar, a social worker and journalist who was trained as a medical doctor, was shot dead by motorcycle borne assailants near the Omkareshwar Temple Tuesday morning, around 7.30 a.m..
Of at least four bullets fired, at least two found their target in Dabholkar's neck and back. He succumbed shortly afterwards at the government-run Sassoon Hospital.
A stunned Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan immediately announced a reward of one million rupees to anybody providing information on the killers.
Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R.R. Patil and other leaders across the political and social spectrum condemned the killing.
Patil vowed that the killers would be nabbed at the earliest.
So far, the police claim to have secured leads on the killing and released a sketch of one of the killers, based on questioning of people in the vicinity.
His funeral was performed in his home town Satara with Chavan, Pawar and other top state functioneries in attendance Tuesday evening.
A rationalist, known for his bold views and sustained campaign against superstition for over three decades, Dabholkar had rubbed many the wrong way, and had reportedly even received threats, which his son said he refused to complain about, claiming that he needed no weapons in his cause.
Dabholkar was largely instrumental in pushing the state government into framing an anti-superstion law, which is in the final stages of legislative approval.
In 1989, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), with a few like-minded people and raised cudgels against all types of superstition, irrational practices, blind faith and beliefs, confronting dubious tantriks, babas and buas -- people who claim to have supernatural power -- who preyed on gullible masses.