It was a sad day for me, when I realised that it took the man's death to bring him to our notice. The death of the anti-superstition crusader, Dr Narendra Dabholkar was a shocking affair and a wake up call for us, as Indians, to take some time and ponder over our diminishing tolerance and helplessness. The articles on the late Doctor and my further reading about his Anti-Black Magic Bill, only saddened me further. What went wrong through our 66 years of Independence? Where are the leaders- who could at least spell the word "Intellectual" for us now? And has our education system been successful in "developing scientific temper" in our minds - as dictated by our Indian constitution? Where a 72 year old self-styled god-man can prolong arrest over his alleged sexual-assault on a minor, why can't a man, who had devoted his life towards creating a society free of barbaric superstitious beliefs be allowed to live?
We are left now- with a society that is intolerant to another individual's thought. Are we even able to understand that individual's thought- is a different matter. "Protests" were the "in-thing" these days. Where are they now? Or is this because that there has been no or not enough media coverage on this issue? Is an hour worth of "prime-time" slot in a news channel- enough to discuss and come to a conclusion about depletion of intellectual thinking or "scientific temper" in India?
I read somewhere that critics of Dr Dabholkar had called his Bill too vague and abstract- and something that cannot be understood by common man. Aren't the concepts of "religion" and "superstition" themselves abstract? The Bill- in reality does not target any religion. It presents a general outlay of illogical practices that are being used to target victims. Political parties that have opposed this Bill have claimed that the Bill could be used to ban or make some of the religious practices like puja or pilgrimage unlawful. The claims are absurd. But on another thought- so is the concept of secularism in India.
Had our education been more effective, it should have helped people to think and come to a logical conclusion about the relevance of religion. "Religion is a way of life"- are we capable anymore- to understand what the statement tries to convey? When the society was largely uneducated- there was a need to govern a mass. Hence a blind faith in religion was encouraged. And religion, with its set of rigid rules was able to help rule the society back then. But there always comes a time when the old system becomes redundant and a new one takes its place. And this time can be recognised by growing intolerance on the part of groups that have vested interest on existing system. The logic seems simple enough to me.
I can only make an appeal to people who read this article or people who have read about the murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar in the news papers. "Is religion relevant"? Or rather "Are we secular enough"? Please think about about it.
Photo: Thanks, Times of India.