Greta Christina recently wrote a piece on a severely under-reported story within the secular community: the assassination of Narendra Dabholkar, a skeptical leader in India. There has been a disappointing lack of coverage within our community regarding this travesty. I haven’t seen a huge amount of coverage apart from Greta’s Alternet piece, a Skepchick post, and excellent coverage from Ophelia Benson. Conspicuously, many of the biggest secular groups and writers have remained silent on what many would deem to be a global travesty.
This didn’t happen in a tyrannical theocracy. This happened in a modern, supposedly secular nation, with no state religion, and with first-class programs of science and medicine. And still, for the crime of criticizing religious beliefs, questioning them, and subjecting them to scientific scrutiny, a great skeptical leader was gunned down on the street in broad daylight.
It saddens me that this story hasn’t received the attention it deserves. Narendra Dabholkar made great strides for modern skepticism, and was hardly what many in America’s Capital-S Skeptic movement would deem a “slacktivist.” Dabholkar made multiple attempts to enact an anti-superstition bill, a bill that was ultimately passed days after his death. He travelled to the most superstitious parts of India to promote skepticism. And ultimately, he was assassinated for his beliefs. While no charges have been made as of the time of this post, the only arrest thus far points to to Sandeep Shinde, a member of the fundamentalist Hindu group Sanatan Sanstha. In case you were wondering what kind of a group Shinde was a part of, here is a portion of the statement made by the group’s leader:
Leader Jayant Athavale said births and deaths are pre-destined and everybody gets the fruit of their karma. “Instead of dying bedridden through illness, or after some surgery, such a death for Dabholkar is a blessing of the almighty.”
Can you imagine the outcry if Dawkins, Randi, or Harris had been violently slain for their beliefs? Twitter, the blogosphere, and all major organizations would be promoting the story. For months, not a day would go by without a new piece written about their fine work and untimely or violent demise. But the community has been relatively silent following the death of Narendra Dabholkar. Hopefully as time goes on, we will all find ourselves recognizing him for the voice that he was, and for the work that will inevitably impact the country he called home.