Known for his over two-decade long campaign against outdated and inhuman social practices, Dabholkar was currently engaged in mobilising public opinion and holding discussions with Maharashtra government for passing an 'anti-superstition and black magic' law in the state legislature, opposed by certain sections of the society, including the Warkari sect.

69-year-old Dabholkar, who headed the 'Andhashraddha Nirluman Samiti' (anti-superstition movement), was out for a morning walk when two motorcycle-borne unidentified assailants fired two bullets fromclose range into his head from behind, police said quoting an eyewitness.

The offence took place on the bridge near Omkareshwar Temple in the city in the vicinity of 'Sadhana' magazine, which Dabholkar edited to propagate progressive thought to change social mindset.

Police said Dabholkar, who lay in a pool of blood on the bridge, was identified by a photo in his wallet and a cheque in the name of the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANS). He was taken to Sassoon Hospital where he succumbed to injuries.

Four bullets were fired at the activist out of which two were lodged in his head, police added.

For Dabholkar, who hailed from Satara, spreading scientific temper and eradicating superstitions and undesirable rituals in the society was a lifelong mission which he carried with zest and rational thought, notwithstanding resistance from retrograde elements.

Maharashtra home minister R R Patil, expressing shock and grief, said he had instructed top police officials to get to the bottom of the reprehensible act and book the culprits using all their "investigative skills".

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