Seven years since rationalist Dr Narendra Achyut Dabholkar was shot dead by two bike-borne assailants in Pune, the CBI is yet to arrest the main pivot and make a breakthrough in the case.
Dabholkar's killing had sparked nationwide debate surrounding issues of freedom of speech.
His son, Hamid Dabholkar said on Tuesday that it was 'painful' that even after seven years, the probe into his father's murder has not reached a conclusion.
"On Thursday, it will be seven years to the incident. It is painful that after seven years, a reputed investigation agency such as the CBI has not been able to complete the probe," Hamid said.
The agency filed a charge sheet against Sharad Kalaskar, Sachin Andure - the duo who allegedly shot Dabholkar, Virendra Tawde, Sanjeev Punalekar and Vikram Bhave, while the other arrested accused Amol Kale, Amit Degvekar and Rajesh Bangeraarehave not been chargesheeted. One of the accused, Punalekar is now out on bail.
Hamid's sister Mukta told the media that CBI apparently stopped after the arrest of eight persons, and demanded that the agency should find out the main pivot at least now.
Hamid says the killing of his father was not just simply killing, but an act of terrorism, as the threat to the freedom of speech of writers, rationalists and journalists still prevails. The last report of CBI in the case was in March this year, claiming to have recovered a firearm near Thane, which is believed to be used in Dbolkar's killing.
WHO WAS NARENDRA DABHOLKAR
A prolific Marathi writer and editor, Narendra Dabholkar, 67, was a well-known anti-superstition activist in Maharashtra. He was the genial doctor, social activist, rationalist, and the face of the anti-superstition movement in the state.
THe focus of his work was social justice. In 1989, he co-founded The Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS), the organisation that campaigned for the eradication of the superstitious practices like black magic and others in and across different religions, stating how they exploited the poor and illiterates.
Dabholkar also condemned people who god-styled themselves in the country. MANS worked extensively towards confronting such godmen who misguide people for personal benefit by promising miraculous cures to believers.
He also worked towards the upliftment of the Dalits and other marginalised sections of the society.
From 2010, the organisation campaigned for social reforms and the law against such practices and made several attempts to get an anti-superstition law passed by the Maharashtra government.
However, his attempts received massive flak from political parties particularly the Shiv Sena and the BJP who were of the opinion that such a law would go against Hindu culture. He was called 'anti-Hindu' and received multiple threats to his life.
On August 20, 2013, Dabholkar was shot dead by two gunmen while he was out for a morning walk. His assassination made many activists', citizens' blood run cold.
Four month after his killing, in December 2013, the Maharashtra government finally cleared the Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, the law Dabholkar had been campaigning for.
The family and the members of the MANS organization continue the path of Dabholkar's vision. The organization now being run by Avinash Patil, who has worked under Dabholkar.
PROBE BY MAHARASHTRA POLICE
According to The Indian Express report, the Pune City Police made the first arrest in January 2014 in the case. Manish Nagori and Vilas Khandelwal, who allegedly smuggled firearms, had already been behind bars in 2013 in an extortion case. The arrest by the Crime branch took place just hours after Dabholkar's murder.
Both the accused were transferred to the custody of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and 40 illegal firearms were allegedly recovered. The detailed research of the firearms revealed that it matched with the cartridge seized from Dabholkar's murder spot.
On January 21, 2014, when the duo was produced in front of the court, they claimed that the ATS chief Rakesh Maria had given a bribe of Rs 25 lakh for confessing Dabholkar's murder. However, they later said the statement was just an outburst against the ATS chief.
Both Khandelwal and Nagori were released on bail by the court and no chargesheet was filed against them in the case.
CBI TAKING OVER THE CASE
In June 2014, the case was handed over to the Crime Branch of India (CBI). The agency arrested ENT surgeon and a member of Sanatan Sanstha Dr Virendrasinh Tawade. Prior to this, Tawade had been arrested by the state police for Pansare's murder, who was shot at near his residence in Kolhapur in February 2015.
The arrest by the CBI was made after recording statements of witness Sanjay Sadvilkar, a Hindutva activist.
CBI said that there was an enmity between Dabholkar's organisation MANS and Santan Sanstha and was the possible reason behind his murder.
Later in 2016, a charge-sheet was filed against Tawade and other two members of the sanstha, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, along with two other assailants.
After two years, in August 2018, CBI arrested Hindutva activists Sachin Prakashrao Andure and Sharad Kalaskar.
Last year, in May, the CBI arrested Sanstha's lawyer Sanjeev Punalekar and his aide Vikram Bhave. While Punalekar is currently out on bail, the other four are in prison, as per the media reports.
CBI also arrested three others including Amol Kale, Amit Digwekar and Rajesh Bangera. All three of them are also accused in the 2017 murder of Bangalore journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Narendra Dabholkar's murder has also been linked to the killings of communist leader Govind Pansare (February 2015), Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi (August 2015) and Bangalore journalist Gauri Lankesh, as all the cases had common perpetrators and had used similar firearms.
Both, daughter Mukta and son Hamid said that it is unfortunate to see that the investigation of the murder of a person who gave up his entire life to create a society based on progressive thoughts is not completed after seven years.
"In the last seven years, Maharashtra has seen different governments. When Dr Dabholkar was murdered, the Congress-NCP government was in power. At the time of Comrade Pansare's murder, BJP-Shiv Sena government was in power. Now it is the Shiv Sena-Congress and NCP government. All these parties like to use phrases like 'progressive Maharashtra' or 'Phule Shahu Ambedkar's Maharashtra. But it's painful that the probes in the murders of those who strived for these notions, remain incomplete," The Indian Express quoted them as saying.
The probe in the murder continues to linger on, while the list of killed activists, journalists keep growing.