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Amol Palekar calls out Maharasthra's intolerance to dissent

While the rest of the world might unanimously agree that getting shot by goons is no admirable way for a man to die, a Hindu fundamentalist group has found a way to, well, rationalize it. The head of Sanatan Sanstha in Pune has declared that there is no reason to bristle at Dabholkar's death as it was god's wish that the 67-year-old doctor died without much suffering. While most people with any claim to intelligence and sense might end up choking on the explanation, Dr Jayant Athvale, the Sanatan Sanstha ideologue thought it was a fitting explanation to make Dabholkar's murder seem rational. Hindustan Times quotes Athvale:

“It’s God’s grace to die in a manner in which Dabholkar died. It [instant death] is better than dying of a prolonged illness or suffering from pain induced by surgical procedures"

Amol Palekar in the CNN IBN discussion.

Amol Palekar in the CNN IBN discussion.

It is probably this infuriating battle against logic and rationality being waged by certain sections of the society,  that is Maharashtra's newest challenge. In a discussion on India at 9, hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN, actor, playwright and activist Amol Palekar expressed his fear that the presence of such elements with extreme, illogical views have shrunk the space for debate and dissent in the state.

"Dabholkar always used to say that we shouldn't indulge in fistfights. He asked people to disagree with him, to go and argue with him so that he can have a dialogue with them and explain his point of view. When intolerant extremists are faced with a thought provoking rationale like that, the only way they can deal with it is by muzzling the voice," he said.

He added that what was more disturbing was the fact that such incidents of intolerance were on the rise in India and especially in Maharashtra. Palekar referred to the attack on the Bhandarkar Institute in Pune for helping American author James Laine who wrote a controversial biography of Shivaji titled Shivaji: A Hindu king in Islamic India and added that complete intolerance towards another point of view was something that hampers the mental peace of rationalists like him.

He also recounted an incident from the 1970s when the Maharashtra government had banned his play. "This was more than 30 years back. The government banned the play saying it will have a detrimental effect on law and order situation in the state. I had appealed to the High Court against the ban. The Bombay High Court then had said something very significant. They said that if a situation like that arises, hypothetically, the government should protect the play and the thought, instead of indulging those who want to disrupt it," said Palekar.

Thirty years later, he rued, Maharashtra is still in the grips of such crippling ideological backwardness.

"Can anyone say that I'm hurt, my religious feelings are hurt and express their 'hurt' this way? You go and blacken someone's face, you go and bash someone up, you go and ransack someone's office or shoot him? Is this a way of expressing dissent?" he asked.

He also posed a question to the Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan who was also a part of the show. "If we didn't have to sacrifice the life of an invaluable person like Dr Dabholkar before passing the anti-superstition and black magic bill, wouldn't it have made us all happier?"