Narendra Dabholkar, who campaigned against superstition in India for more than two decades, was shot dead in Pune on Tuesday, police said.

Dabholkar, 67, was a physician-turned-activist who openly criticised and questioned supernatural phenomena attributed to practitioners of black magic in India.

He was instrumental in drafting a new law in Maharashtra state that sought to target conmen who exploited superstitious beliefs, especially among the illiterate. The controversial bill is yet to be passed by the state assembly due to opposition from right-wing groups and political parties who fear the new law might curb religious freedom.

Superstitions prevalent in parts of India, especially in its villages, range from animal sacrifices and dropping babies in rivers to killing or raping children as a cure for infertility.

In his speeches, Dabholkar said his draft law was not against religion but against exploitative practices.