India anti-superstition campaigner Narendra Dabholkar shot dead

Narendra Dabholkar Narendra Dabholkar had openly criticised India's so-called "godmen"

A high-profile Indian anti-superstition activist, who was campaigning for a law to ban black magic, has been shot dead in the city of Pune, police say.

Narendra Dabholkar, 71, was attacked by two gunmen on motorbikes while he was taking his morning walk.

He was known for founding the Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith more than 20 years ago.

Critics accused him of being anti-religion in a country where mysticism and spirituality is venerated.

But in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency two years ago he rejected such charges.

"In the whole of the bill, there's not a single word about God or religion. Nothing like that. The Indian constitution allows freedom of worship and nobody can take that away," he said.

"This is about fraudulent and exploitative practices."

Mr Dabholkar and his committee (Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti) was particularly well-known for openly criticising some of India's so-called "godmen", the self-styled Hindu ascetics who claim to perform miracles and are revered by many. He also campaigned against animal sacrifices used in certain rituals.

The chief minister of Maharashtra state expressed his grief at the murder and announced a reward for any information.

Media reports say his killing comes days after the state government said it would introduce the controversial anti-superstition bill.

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