The killing of anti-superstition crusader Narendra Dabholkar five years ago did not stop the expansion of his city-based organisation which has spread its wings in several states and is present even in faraway Assam.
Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) or Maharashtra Blind faith Eradication Committee has intensified the unfinished work of its founder and has entered new territories like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh, said a functionary of the outfit on Monday.
Narendra Dabholkar, a trained doctor who gave up his profession to take up the rationalist cause, was shot dead by gunmen in Pune on August 20, 2013. Monday marked his fifth death anniversary.
Milind Deshmukh, state chief secretary, MANS, said till 2013, the number of branches of the organisation was around 250.
But over the last five years, the branch count has gone up to 350 with full time volunteers increasing year after year, he said.
"When Dr Dabholkar was alive, besides Maharashtra, we had branches in Goa and Karnataka, but now we have branches in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Assam and Andhra Pradesh.
"Now due to the work and outreach programmes of the MANS, several organisations in states like Punjab, Haryana are inviting our members for giving guidance on various issues such as superstition and social boycott," said Mr Deshmukh.
MANS members go to these states and organise small workshops on how to create scientific temper among people. They also conduct demonstrations on myth busting and countering superstitious practices, he said.
Narendra Dabholkar's relentless campaign led the Maharashtra government to enact a law banning superstitious practices and black magic. The anti-superstition and black magic act came into force in 2013.
"Till date, with the intervention of MANS members, over 500 cases have been registered under this Act. Also, 23 cases have been registered across Maharashtra under the Social Boycott Act," Mr Deshmukh said.
He said the organisation is now campaigning for an anti-superstition and black magic law at the central level.
Nandini Jadhav, Pune district executive president, MANS, said social media outreach, too, has increased. Over 80,000 followers are associated with the organisation through social media platforms.
"So far this year, 5,000 new people, mostly youth and college students, have got associated with the MANS," she added.
Talking about her association with the MANS, Jadhav, who runs a beauty parlour, said she got actively involved with the organisation after Dabholkar's death.
"Besides creating awareness among people against superstitious practices, I have been working for women who develop dreadlocks (jata) and convince them to cut them off."
Mr Jadhav said so far she has persuaded 68 women to get rid of their dreadlocks.
According to the MANS, its aim is to oppose and agitate against harmful superstitions and rituals which misguide and exploit people.
It also works to inculcate and propagate scientific outlook, scepticism, humanism and critical thinking.
Get Breaking news, live coverage, and Latest News from India and around the world on NDTV.com. Catch all the Live TV action on NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for latest news and live news updates.