Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi, target of previous threats, shot dead in Dharwad // Rationalist’s cold blooded killing shocks Karnataka’s literary capital // Bajrang Dal leader says another rationalist next

Kalburgi had often spoken up against blind religious belief

MM Kalburgi

NB - This is the third such murder of a renowned rationalist whose ideas were disliked by the so called Parivar. The assassins obviously had little compunction in killing a venerable gentleman of letters in the evening of his life. We now hear that a Bajrang Dal leader has hailed the assassination and threatened another prominent rationalist. This body is an RSS front and the public has a right to know whether this NGO (yes, that's what it is) approves of political assassination as a means of enforcing its 'line' on Indian culture and religion

We should not be surprised. After all, Narendra Dabholkar was warned he would meet the fate of Mahatma Gandhi. How is this different from the murder of the Syrian scholar Khaled al-Assad by the Islamist fanatics of ISIS? Or the systematic murder of secular bloggers in Bangladesh? There is every likelihood that this case too, like the murders of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, will go unpunished. Unless Indians decide to protect their democratic rights, we shall all live under the threat of assassination by the hoodlums who have gained confidence under the new dispensation. Rest in peace, Kalburgi sahib. We shall remember you in our battle to uphold the freedom of thought. DS

Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi was shot dead at his home in Dharwad on Sunday morning. According to Dharwad city police, two assailants rode up to Kalburgi’s house on a motorcycle and shot the scholar at close range in his head and chest when he answered the door. The identity of the assailants & the motives behind the murder are unknown at this point.
Former vice-chacellor of the Kannada University in Hampi, Kalburgi had an illustrious and richly rewarded academic career. He won the National Sahitya Akademi award in 2006 for a collection of research articles called Marga 4. He had also been awarded the Karnataka State Sahitya Akademi Award, Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award, Janapad Award, Yakshagana Award, Pampa Award, Nrupatunga Award and Ranna Award.

The 77-year-old scholar often spoke up against blind belief and so was no stranger to controversy. In June last year, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal in Dakshin Kannada accused Kalburgi of hurting the Hindu sentiments. Kalburgi had supported the late UR Ananthamurthy by saying, at a seminar about Karnataka’s Anti-superstition Bill, that there was nothing wrong in urinating on stone idols. Ananthamurthy himself drew the ire of Hindu groups when he recounted doing this in his childhood. The VHP and Bajrang Dal burnt effigies of Kalburgi and had demanded his immediate arrest.

One of the biggest controversies Kalburgi found himself in was back in 1989 over his first Marga treatise, a collection of papers on Kannada folklore and religion that included articles about Veerashiva saint Basava, his wife and sister. Kalburgi received death threats and had to recant references to the Veerashaiva founder Basava, his wife and his sister. At the time Kalburgi said in an interview that he recanted many years’ work tosave the lives of his family members. But, he said, he also committed intellectual suicide on that day.

Kalburgi was a champion of the Kannda language and was highly critical of the Karnataka government’s plans to shut down Kannada-medium schools. Kalburgi’s murder is a reminiscent of the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013 and social activist Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in February. Both men were shot at close range while on their morning walks.
Voice of rationality silenced by two bullets, shot point-blank

Rationalist’s cold blooded killing shocks Karnataka’s literary capital

By Aravind S Kamal
Dr. MM. Kalburgi (78), renowned Kannada writer, research scholar and rationalist has entered the history books as the first litterateur from Karnataka to be shot dead allegedly for his views on idol worship and Hindu rituals. Though no group or persons have claimed responsibility for shooting Dr. Kalburgi at point blank range at his home on Sundaymorning, initial reports suggest that right wing activists might be involved.

People and political leaders in Dharwad, the literary capital of Karnataka that has produced the highest number of Jnanpith awardees in Kannada, are still in a state of shock and disgust. For, this kind of cold-blooded murder targeting litterateurs was unheard of Karnataka till date.

Born in Vijayapura (Bijapur) district in 1938, Dr. Kalburgi studied Kannada literature and taught at the Department of Kannada, Karnatak University, Dharwad, one of the oldest universities in Karnataka. He was also the vice-chancellor of the Kannada University, Hampi, Ballari (Bellary) district. He had won several important awards, including those from Central Sahitya Academy, Karnataka Sahitya Academy, Pampa Award, Nadoja Award and Nrupathunga Award.

He had authored over 100 books in Kannada and was a natural orator too. He was considered an authority on Vachana literature (propagated by the 12th century philosopher and social reformer Basavanna). In fact, Basavanna was opposed to religion, religious practices and Brahminical rituals. Followers of Basavanna are called Lingayats in Karnataka and Dr. Kalburgi belonged to the same community. Of late, Dr. Kalburgi had developed a penchant for such subjects and they reflected in his public speeches, which led to anger among a section of society.

Last year, the police had filed a case against him for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Hindus after he criticized idol worship quoting a literary work of another celebrated writer and Jnanpith awardee late Dr. UR. Ananthamurthy. Not to be cowed down by such intimidations, Dr. Kalburgi continued his campaign against idol worship and Brahminical rituals.

His home in Dharwad town was targeted by miscreants, who pelted stones and bottles. In another instance, activists disturbed his public speech when he raised the issue of idol worship. For the last eight months, the police had deployed personnel outside his home and they also accompanied him wherever he went, as he faced threats because of his comments. The litterateur had never revealed in public whether he received any threats directly or indirectly.

Only 15 days ago, he requested the police to withdraw the special protection given to him. On Sunday morning, around7:40 am, two youths knocked his door and his unsuspecting wife ushered them in. Introducing themselves as students of the professor, they entered his room and shot him twice in his forehead. Before Dr. Kalburgi’s wife could come to her senses, the youths had fled on their motorbike.

While the circumstances leading to his death suggest that some rabid elements could be behind the incident, the police have not issued any official statement because they do not have any clues as of now. That a litterateur has been targeted in Karnataka for his sharp criticism of idol worship is something that has bewildered the police. Dr. Kalburgi led a content life with all his children pursuing different professions. There was absolutely no family feuds or property disputes that can provide different motives to the murder.

The police have to start probing the case from the scratch. Another hurdle for the police is that there were no official complaints or incidents involving right wing activists against Dr. Kalburgi in the last six months. Establishing a motive for the murder will be a major challenge. The police have to rely on the description of the killers to be provided by Dr. Kalburgi’s wife, who is still in a shock. If the police do not get it right from the beginning, this case in all likelihood will remain an unsolved mystery!

The gruesome killing of Dr. Kalburgi has already sparked widespread protests across Karnataka with the police bringing the situation under control. Now, there are calls to observe bandh in North Karnataka district to condemn the killing.

see also
Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti
Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism in India
Rationalist under threat of arrest for exposing the “miracle”
India's god laws fail the test of reason
India's new theocracy

Voice of rationality silenced by two bullets, shot point-blank

The Broken Middle - my essay on the 30th anniversary of 1984
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: Inquiry Commission Report (1969)
The Abolition of truth
RSS tradition of manufacturing facts to suit their ideology
Communist Party of India's Homage to Gandhiji October 2, 1947 // Communist Party's Appeal to the People of Pakistan August 15, 1947
V.D. Savarkar and Gandhi’s murder
Madhu Limaye's (senior socialist leader) observations on the RSS (1979)

A Hard Rain Falling (on private armies and political violence in India) (EPW, July 2012)

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