'If anyone must die, let it be me'

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Published On: 01:21:30 AM

Dabholkar, who was shot dead in Pune Tuesday, had made so many enemies that he sensed he was under threat, but chose not to seek security for fear that those targeting him would go after his aides instead, said his brother Dr Dattaprasad Dabholkar. "He used to say, 'If I get a security cover, my detractors will go after my comrades. If anyone has to die, let it be me'," said his brother.

In 2008, Dabholkar and actor Dr Shriram Lagoo devised a questionnaire for astrologers and promised them a reward if they could pass the rationality test; it remains unclaimed. In 2000, he led activists of the Maharashtra Andshraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), which he had founded, and hundreds of women from all over the state on a march to Ahmednagar's Shani Shingnapur temple, where women were not allowed. BJP and Shiv Sena workers prevented their entry and had them arrested, said activist Nisha Bhosale who was part of the agitation.

Dabholkar eventually moved the Bombay High Court seeking steps to ensure women are allowed entry in temples. The case is nearing completion, activists say. Since his agitation, even the BJP has picked up the cue and helped open Kolhapur's Mahalaxmi temple to women.

Among Dabholkar's targets were godmen who claim to perform miracles; MANS activists often toured the state to lay traps and get them arrested. He and his aides, particularly those in the MANS women's wing, fought witch-hunters and the concept of the "evil eye", holding workshops and lectures and rescuing various women branded witches.

Dabholkar, a doctor, was the youngest of seven brothers in the family, which hails from Satara. Many of its members donated their bodies after death. These included Dabholkar, but his having been shot makes the donation no longer feasible.

With Dabholkar dedicating himself to his social cause, his brother said, "it fell upon his wife, Shaila, a gynaecologist, to look after the family". His son Hamid is a psychiatrist in Satara and daughter Mukta a social activist in Dapoli.

Among his friends are actor Amol Palekar. When angry MANS activists threatened not to allow an ambulance to carry the body to Satara, it was son Hamid and friend Palekar who helped calm them by appealing to them. They have declared a Pune bandh Wednesday.

Dabholkar once said the cause of anaemia in women in Satara is fasts they undertake. At a lecture, he said a large amount of rice is wasted during weddings every year when it could have been used to feed the hungry. In Pune, he campaigned against immersion, promoting donation of the idol so that the rivers would be safe.

At the time of his death, he was working on an anniversary edition of Sadhana magazine, which he edited.

Courtesy : Indian Express

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