Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dr Dabholkar / By Dr Anant Phadke

Dr. Dabholkar was not working merely on superstitions though that work
occupied major portion of his mission. He began as a young socialist in the
early seventies, as part of 'Samajwadi Uvajan Sabha' and was involved in a
range of social movements; this involvement continued till his death. He
was instrumental in galvanizig a team of socially oriented dramatists
including Sreeram Lagu, Nilu Phule, Rohini Hattangadi to organise one
hundred performances of a marathi drama in different parts of maharashtra
to form a fund, through sale of tickets and through donations. This fund
called as 'Samajik Krutadnyata Nidhi' is being used to pay some small
honorarium to full time social activists in Maharashtra. Initially they
made a collection of around Rs 25 lacs. Now it is more than Rs 1 crore
through which 45 progressive social activists are being supported. He was
also the chief organizer for some years now, of the 'Maharashtra Foundation
Awards', a fund created by progressive Indians in the US. He was the editor
of Sadhana weekly, the progressive, socialist weekly magazine in marathi
founded by Sane Guruji. He was an excellent kabbaddi player and won several
gold medals and the 'Chatrapati Kreeda Puraskar'.
The 'Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti' which he founded and led for
more than 25 years, is one of the best active, progressive social
organization in Maharashtra with about 200 branches. He was not a
'rationalist' in the sense of rationalists like Abraham Kovoor. Unlike
some other rationalists, he did not preach atheism or ridiculed Hindu gods,
though he stood for critique of religion. He was very clear about the
socio-economic roots of superstitions and always worked for broader social
transformation. Even within the framework of the Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan
Samiti' he had recently started focusing against caste-ism, in view of the
horrendous killing of a woman by her own father because of her inter-caste
Dr. Dabholkar tirelesly campaigned for 14 long years for enactment of
the anti-superstition bill, which as Dr. Dabholkar used to emphasize,
sought to prohibit only exploitation in the name of religion by committing
fraud, barbaric practices. It is a matter of bankruptcy of the ruling
parties whose leaders time and again promised to enact this legislation,
but succumbed to even a little pressure of the saffron brigade and kept
postponing this step. They faced opposition from within their own party,
from the 'rank and file' leaders their parties. A large proportion of
these newer breed of politicians cum money-bags in the dominant parties
have their own babas. Dabholkar was targetting not even these babas but only
fraud, cheating, barbaric practice. Given the overall milieu of degeneration
of social-political culture, of increasingly intolerant stand by the
saffron-brigade, some fanatic madman must have carried out this murder with
the support of the fascist forces. I do not know whether this has any
link with Modi's ascendency.
Dr. Dabholakar was known to be extremely efficient, very active,
excellent organiser, and an excellent speaker who would argue very clealry,
convincingly, to the point and would never loose temper in any debate. With
his wife, he practised medicine for 10 years, but from 1982 on-wards he
became full time activist. For thirty years, he stayed home in Satara only
for two days a week and toured extensively in Maharashtra. He stayed for
only two days in Pune and within that time frame he managed to edit
Sadhana Weekly!
Dr. Dabholakar was sort of an icon for progressive activists and
some young medicos. It is no wonder that in todays' rally to denounce his
murder, more than 200 young people including about 50 students from the
Govt. medical College participated, thanks to some work by the SFI and
other groups with these students. I do not remember having seen medical
students in any such rally on a broader issue in Pune. The mobilization of
young collegians, many of whom are from upper/middle class/caste background
is a hopeful sign.
He was not very active on health issues as such. But we were in
touch. He presided over our Patients' Rights Convention 3 years back. For
last some months he has been republishing in the 'Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan
Samiti's magazine, some of my articles in Marathi on health policy issues.
In July, we travelled together for half an hour towards the venue of
a progrmame to celebrate the completion of 20 years of their branch in
Pimpari-Chinchwad, the industrial suburb of Pune; he had invited me as a
guest speaker during this programme. During our conversation he spoke about
the need for the 'Andha Shraddha Nirmoolan Samiti' to broaden it's scope of
work. One of his last contributions was a complaint against a fraudulent
doctor and follow up of this complaint up to Mantralaya. His son Hamid, is a
rational, socially oriented psychiatrist and with his like-minded frinds,
has been working on the issue of addictions.
The second generation leaders Dr. Dabholakar fostered, have
resolutely decided and would certainly do to continue to campaign for the
Bill. But we have certainly lost one of the finest progressive
leader-activist in Maharashtra, an irreparable loss.

Anant Phadke

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