A leading social activist and journalist, who had been fighting against superstitious believes in Maharashtra state of India, was killed by two unknown assailants on Tuesday.

Narendra Dabholkar had been campaigning for a law for more than three decades to ban exploitative religious practices.

Dabholkar was on his morning walk near Omkareshwar Temple in Pune city of Maharashtra, when two men riding a motor cycle shot him with a gun and fled the scene. Though the veteran was immediately rushed to a near-by hospital by onlookers, he succumbed to his injuries. The tragic incident took place around 7:30 am.

In his life time, the 65-year-old had founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti and was also the editor of Sadhana magazine.

Dabholkar, a doctor, was actively persuading the Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill called the anti-JaduTona bill.

The bill, which was in its final stages of legislative approval, was strongly opposed by right-wing Hindu groups and certain political parties.

According to a witness, the rationalist was shot from behind while was on his regular morning walk.

The witness described the assailants as young men aged between 25 and 30 years.

Police were also able to get the registration number of the vehicle used by the suspects through the witness who has helped prepare their sketch.

Joint Commissioner of Police Sanjeevkumar Singhal said that the police would look into all the possible angles would not rule out any possibility.

"He was shot dead this morning, our investigations are on," Pune police commissioner Gulabrao Pol told AFP. He further said that no suspects have been identified as yet.

Dabholkar has faced accusations of being anti-religious but in an interview with AFP two years ago, he had rejected such charges saying: "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".

"This is about fraudulent and exploitative practices," he had added.