Anti-superstition Bill: Warkaris to flex their political muscle

Shrines where tribals of Nandurbar district worship; (right) an animal skull in a field. Express

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's statement assuring the passage of the Anti Superstition Bill during the winter session of Assembly has ruffled the feathers of the Warkari community. Moments after the annoucement, the Warkari community made it clear that warkaris would campaign in the elections against those responsbile for passing the Bill.

The murder of anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar by unknown assailants in August had brought the Bill back into focus. Days after his murder, the state government had promulgated an ordinance. Now the CM's statement makes it certain that it would be enacted soon. However, Warkaris and other religious groups have raised a banner of revolt.

Bapu Maharaj Raokar, president of the Warkari Sena, said the passage of the Bill, would force the community to take to electoral politics and ensure the defeat of politicians who pass the Bill. Raokar, who had opposed the ordinance, said the Bill would endanger the age-old practices of the Warkari Sect like the Wari (pilgrimage) and Hari Paath. "To discuss our course of action, we held a state-level conference at Alandi recently. The conference was attended by Warkari leaders from across the state," he said. Raokar said the Warkari Sect has the most extensive reach in the state and they would reach out to the masses to get their message across.

"With elections round the corner, we have asked our members to start talking about the Bill and to oppose the politicians who pass the Bill," he said.

Although the sect exerts wields influence over the masses, it has traditionally steered clear of politics. Raokar said the sect would not have to actually get into the fray to make their displeasure felt. "By working behind the scene we can pull many strings and we have already started. Those who are in power should not forget that we are closest to the masses and we will ensure that they would feel our power," he said.

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