Source: The Economist:
INDIA is so crammed with colourful “godmen”, quacks hawking dodgy medicines and palmists to trace your fate, it is easy to miss the mild-mannered rationalists in the scrum. Extreme followers of Kali, the goddess of power, occasionally still leave a decapitated human sacrifice at one of her temples, provoking a storm of attention and debate. But when a group of unbelievers organised a “hug an atheist day” on June 7th nobody noticed.
It took the murder on August 20th of an anti-superstition campaigner to remind India of the lot of its faithless. Narendra Dabholkar was on a regular morning stroll, in Pune, Maharashtra, when a pair of hitmen parked their motorbike and shot him dead (mourners paid their respects in traditional fashion, pictured above). He had campaigned for 18 years against those who pretend to use, or offer protection from, the arts of black magic or other religious or mystical harassment. He wanted a law to prosecute such con artists and to protect their victims from extortion and bullying.
A local sect and assorted Hindu right-wingers opposed his law, which Maharashtra’s state government finally agreed to enact, in Mr Dabholkar’s memory, on August 21st. He had received death threats before. The chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, compared the killing of the rationalist to the murder of India’s most revered figure, saying that “just as Gandhi was killed by those who could not digest his thoughts…[Mr Dabholkar] too was eliminated”.