Narendra Dabholkar, an activist dedicated to eradicating superstition in my home state of Maharashtra, was shot dead in Pune yesterday. The news fills me with sadness, anger and shame. How can we do this to one another?
When the fog around this senseless murder clears, it will most likely reveal the age-old dictum that the interests of the tyrannical few are served by amplifying the ignorance of the many, that extremists of all kinds will thrive on the indifference of the moderates, that the brave ones who speak up will be brutally cut down.
I can summon enough clarity to understand this. However, I have no satisfactory explanation for the nature of the public internet discourse following Mr. Dabholkar’s death. On the Times of India’s website, for example, there are some who are saying that he got what he deserved for imposing rational views upon others. Some have compared him with the Taliban. Some have complained that he only found fault with so-called black magic within Hindu customs, and let Muslim or Christian superstitions go scot-free. Nowhere to be found in these messages is the awareness about the value of a human life, or a modicum of horror at the terrible way in which it was extinguished. The whole thing is enough to shake one’s faith in humanity.