Blaming opponents of the anti-superstition bill for the killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has said organisations behind such acts should be isolated and their activities stopped.
Amid spontaneous public outrage and grief over 69-year-old Dabholkar's killing in Pune on Tuesday, the state government on Wednesday had cleared a proposal to promulgate an ordinance to check black magic and inhuman religious rituals.
"The forces which did not want this Bill to be presented and passed into a law were the people responsible for silencing his voice," Chavan said.
"Those who targeted Dabholkar were not political organisations. This is ideological rift. People who carried out such assassinations, they are not political parties," he said.
"This organisation had earlier indulged in bomb making and terrorist activities," he said but added, "I am not saying specifically because I have no information as to who killed him."
"What I am trying to say is the organisation, similar organisations indulged in terrorism. Such organisations have to be identified, isolated and their activities have to be stopped," the chief minister said.
"It was a well planned and premeditated murder is what I am saying," he said.
"What has happened is most reprehensible. It brings a black name to the fair name of Maharashtra. The only thing we can do is to catch the culprits and the conspirators. The ideology which created such hatred...that they have silenced the voice," he said.
"What we are seeing is a fractured polity and special interest groups making unreasonable demands just to become popular, so that they play for the vote bank politics to expand their political space," he said.
"Dr Dabholkar had been fighting for the cause for a long time. In 2005, a law was drafted and introduced in the state Legislature. There was lot of ruckus, there were other issues...there was a lot of misunderstanding. The government agreed to discuss," Chavan said.
"This is what Dabholkar preached...that let discussion be the key to resolve disputes," he said.
"In 2005, the then government had an all-party meeting. Dabholkar was invited. There were some differences of views. A committee under Justice Dharmadhikari was appointed. That committee reduced some differences. Then again, a bill was introduced in state Legislature in 2011," he said.
"That bill continues to be in state Legislature. A discussion is going on in the House. The government took the initiative to discuss," he said.
After the 2001 bill, which is pending in state Legislature, there were still differences. Dabholkar came and met with us. He said he was willing to take a conciliatory view.
"Everywhere the word "andhshraddha" (superstition) appeared in the bill, it was removed. The argument made was that "shraddha" is something which has religious connotations and is not a bad thing.
"So the word "andhsharddha" was removed. Now, there is no mention of the word in the entire bill," the chief minister said.
"After that, further discussions were held and a new draft was created in consultation with elements opposing it and the draft was approved by the state Cabinet in April (this year).
"Let me tell you, the third draft, after a lot of reconciliation and discussions...was approved by the state Cabinet. If we had no intentions of going ahead (with the bill), we would not have done it," Chavan said.
Chavan further said, "After the draft was announced, what was required to be done was to withdraw the old bill and introduce a new bill in the House."
"Unfortunately, you know how a parliamentary calendar works. We could not do it till the last day of the Assembly (monsoon session) which was August 2.
"All we could have done was to introduce the bill in the House and let there be a further debate on it. But I think, this is counter-intuitive. The forces which did not want this bill to be presented and passed into a law were the people responsible for silencing his voice," he said.
"How does the passing of the law... the elements who were opposing this law, how would they be satisfied if the law was passed?" he said.