New Delhi: The Praful Bidwai Memorial Award for 2017 goes to the Maharashtra-based Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS, Maharashtra Blind Faith Eradication Committee).


The award citation noted that MANS’s work exemplifies the values and concerns that Praful Bidwai, a courageous journalist, passionate social activist and engaged public intellectual, who passed away on June 23, 2015, strove to achieve through his own work.


Set up in 1989 by Narendra Dhabolkar, a medical doctor who was a rationalist and committed public intellectual, MANS has over the years involved itself in multiple social interventions, from battling superstition and caste to engaging with young students. The organisation’s prime focus has been to challenge blind faith and superstition and disseminate ideas of rationalism and secularism. The fact that Dr Dhabolkar was shot dead for his beliefs and activism in August 2013 by suspected Hindu extremists, followed by the murders of Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi, testifies to the deep relevance of campaigns of this kind in contemporary India.


The award seeks to honour MANS’s activism of two and half decades. In 2013, thanks to its persistent campaigning, it was able to persuade the state government to pass the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifices and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices, and Black Magic Act, 2013. For years it has been struggling against caste panchayats dispensing arbitrary and inhumane punishments (’Jaat panchayat muthmati abhiyan’).


By bestowing the Praful Bidwai Memorial Award on MANS, the effort was to also celebrate the work of other organisations working to promote rationalism in India under similarly difficult circumstances , even as the struggle to bring the killers of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi to justice continues.


The award giving ceremony was held in evening at the Delhi’s India International Centre. The keynote address was given by Dr. Satyajit Rath a noted scientist, the meeting was chaired by Fiona Dove, Executive Director of The Transnational Institute in Amsterdam.


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