Is India a civilised nation? Or just a regressive superstitious country?Sumitra Padmanabhan
Anti superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, who was heading the “Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti” and was in the forefront of a campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill, was shot dead in Pune this morning. Dabholkar, a relentless fighter against inhuman rituals and superstitions was also editor of “Sadhana” magazine devoted to propagation of scientific temper and progressive thoughts. He succumbed to bullet injuries in the Sassoon Hospital.
At a time like this we think again — are we as Indians really progressing? With our overrated and exaggerated stories of ‘development’ and ‘scientific progress’, are we still not an ancient civilisation immersed in cruel rituals and the unthinking folly of practicing religious pilgrimages in hordes! Along with a shining photo of INS Vikrant we have to witness a picture of scores of pilgrims lying dead beside the railway track in a remote village. They got run over by a speeding train. They were waiting on the track – unaware of the danger. The number of dead is not one or two—it’s between 30 and 40. Such things keep happening. If we go through regional newspapers we can still find, at sickeningly regular intervals, incidents of witch-hunting, human sacrifice, child sacrifice…leave alone child marriages, honour killings and dowry deaths; many of them find a place in national English newspapers. But nothing happens after that. Only some stray science clubs and rationalist organisations led by a handful of fiery workers try to address the vice. They try their best to – book the culprit, save the victim or educate the people in general.
This… exactly this three-pronged attack is needed for real progress. And since that is rarely happening – initiatives are rarely taken by the state, we can say for sure that India is still a superstitious nation. Individuals who try to act are either suppressed or maligned in many ways, with joint effort by various groups with vested interests. Mr. Dabholkar had to face the extreme consequence.
Here various cults showing miracles thrive without opposition. Those who dare to oppose are treated as anti-establishment or anti-religion. Even though there are acts like ‘Drugs & cosmetics Act’ and ‘Drugs and Magic remedies (objectionable advertisements) Act existing in our constitution. Our administration have forgotten that great thinkers like Einstein or Rabindranath Tagore perceived long ago of religion as “Humanism”—that is ,true religion should teach us to be more humane. And religion, as practiced by individuals is supposed to be absolutely personal, and can in no way interfere with that of others. Religion as a group activity is becoming more and more powerful, which is just the reverse of what should have happened especially in a secular country!
A scientist doesn’t kill another scientist who thinks differently. A rationalist may work differently from another rationalist from a different region, but they cannot be enemies! That would be against the basic tenet of freethinking! As Voltaire probably said—I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight till the end for your right to say it. People of our country will take another 100 years to even understand the essence of these words. But what about our leaders?
People have different ideas—in a way it adds charm to a multi-cultural nation like ours. But who gave the right to kill or harm in any tangible way someone who thinks differently? ‘I will kill you if you if you think or speak differently’—by saying this don’t we betray our own weakness? Doesn’t it show how flimsy our religious sentiments are! Those who take up arms against a social worker only betray their own cowardice and expose their possible vested interests.
If our government cannot book the culprits, take stern action against cruel, meaningless occult practitioners and start serious efforts to educate people for inculcating a rational, scientific outlook, India with all its so called developmental activities will remain a regressive, superstitious nation.
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