Mumbai: With his alleged killers still on the loose, a large number of activists and admirers of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar staged protests across Maharashtra on the fourth anniversary of the killing to ask probing questions of the investigators and the government.

Dabholkar’s son Hamid and daughter Mukta led the protests in Pune on Saturday and Sunday while activists from a host of social and political organizations held marches and public meetings in other cities, including Mumbai, to remind the government that the killers are still at large. According to Hamid Dabholkar, protests were also being held in other states, including Karnataka, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Assam.

Narendra Dabholkar, founder of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS, or Maharashtra Eradication of Superstition Committee), was killed by two bike-borne assailants in Pune on 20 August 2013, while he was out on his morning walk. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which, along with the Special Investigation Team appointed by the state government, has probed the case, has named Virendra Tawde, Sarang Akolkar, and Vinay Pawar of the Sanatan Sanstha, a right wing Hindu group, as prime suspects in the case.

While Tawde was arrested by the CBI in June 2016, Akolkar and Pawar are absconding. The CBI has maintained that it was Akolkar and Pawar who shot Dabholkar dead.

This year in March, the CBI announced a reward of Rs5 lakh for information on Akolkar and Pawar but no breakthrough has been made in tracing them.

On Saturday, Hamid and Mukta Dabholkar led a candlelight protest at Shinde Bridge, where the rationalist was murdered. In Mumbai on Sunday, activists and representatives of various organizations braved heavy showers to take part in a ‘Nirbhay Rally’ to protest the murder of not only Dabholkar, but also another progressive thinker Govind Pansare in Kolhapur, and rationalist M.M. Kalburgi in Dharwad of Karnataka. The activists and MANS say the similar modus operandi used in all three murders point at a pre-planned and coordinated conspiracy to eliminate critics of superstition and right wing Hindu groups.

“The case made some progress only after the Bombay high court pulled up the investigators," Hamid Dabholkar said. He demanded that a special task force be constituted with a dedicated task to nab Akolkar and Pawar.

Expressing deep resentment over the state machinery’s failure to catch the killers, Hamid Dabholkar said on the phone that the three killings were intended to kill the “thought" that Dabholkar, Pansare, and Kalburgi espoused.

“These were pre-meditated murders done out of a well-planned conspiracy. Right from the beginning, we have said that the investigating teams needed to look at the motivations of those organizations who are suspected to be behind these murders and demonstrate a certain capacity to crack the cases. Unfortunately, the investigators have not shown this ability and intent," Dabholkar said.

He acknowledged the fact that the Congress-led governments were in power in Maharashtra and at the centre when Dabholkar was murdered and pointed out that “there was not much difference between the previous government and the current BJP-led government" when it came to the intent to solve the case.

The Maharashtra government also needed to state its position on the organisations like Sanatan Sanstha which “under the garb of religious activities were engaged in promoting hatred and resorting to violence to kill contrarian views," Dabholkar said.

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