Bishop joins condemnation of Indian scholar’s assassination

Pune (Matters India): A Catholic bishop has joined social and political leaders to condemn the assassination of a renowned Indian scholar allegedly by rightwing groups.

mqdefault“It is very sad that such free and independent thinkers are killed,” Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune said in a message post on his Facebook timeline on Monday, mourning the death of M M Kalburgi, former vice chancellor of Hampi University in Karnataka state.

Unidentified gunmen Sunday shot dead the 78-year-old Kannada writer, research scholar and rationalist at his house in the Kalyan Nagar locality of Dharwad, a town in the southern Indian state.

The men, posing as his students reached his residence on a motorcycle and knocked at the door when his wife, Umadevi, answered. As she went inside to fetch coffee for them, one of the men fired two rounds at Kalburgi from a point blank range on his forehead and chest, while the other waited outside. The duo then fled on a motorcycle.

An ambulance was called and he was first taken to a private hospital and then to the District Civil Hospital of Dharwad, where doctors declared him dead on arrival.

Kalburgi was the first litterateur from Karnataka to be shot dead allegedly for his views on idol worship and Hindu rituals. Although no group or persons have claimed responsibility for the shooting at point blank range at his home, initial reports suggested the involvement of rightwing activists.

Kalburgi’s family and friends said he had received many threats to his life, but he had never taken them seriously.

Because of the threats, the administration last year provided him a gunman as an escort, but he asked his withdrawal 15 days ago.

Bishop Dabre, who is active in interreligious circles, described Kalburgi as “outstanding in his creative interpretation of religious and literary texts as also of his liberal criticism of social issues. He also made remarks about reforms in Hindu society.”

The Catholic prelate asserted that none has the right to kill those disagreeing with their views. “One may not agree with the views and interpretations of people like Kalburgi, but that should not mean that they can be killed,” he added.

“It is hard for people to be cool, calm and thoughtful before those who are powerful critics of thought-patterns, views and customs in society. But in a human society we have to learn to respect human life and live with dissent. In spite of our possible rejection of what the dissenters may be saying. Living with dissenters does not mean agreement with them but both in the city of God and in the city of men there can be no justification for such a killing,” Bishop Dabre said while praying for light of truth for those who are unable to live with dissenters.

Kalburgi had provoked the anger of some rightwing Hindu groups by supporting another Kannada writer late U R Ananthamurthy, who opposed religious fundamentalism.

A Sahitya Academy winner Kalburgi also asserted that his Lingayat community was not Hindu.

The police hd filed a case against an activist of Hindu rightwing group Bajrang Dal, Bhuvith Shetty, for a threatening tweet after the killing.

Former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, also a lingayat community leader, said: “Whatever be his views, he was a great historian and cannot be replaced. The culprits must be hanged.”

India has witnessed assassination of a few rationalist thinkers in the past couple of years. In August 2013, anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune while he was out for a morning walk. In February this year, social activist and veteran CPI leader Govind Pansare was shot dead in similar circumstances in Kolhapur.

Sanal Edamaruku, a top rationalist leader who was forced go into exile after a run-in with Christian groups in Mumbai, mourned Kalburgi’s death and said rationalists have become vulnerable in India. “Rationalists who stand for scientific temper and reform are promoting the ethos of Indian Constitution. But they are not protected,” the 60-year-old president of the Indian Rationalist Association and the author of twenty-five books and other articles wrote in his Facebook wall.

Born in Vijayapura, a village in Bijapur district of Karnataka in 1938, Kalburgi studied Kannada literature and taught at the Department of Kannada, Karnataka University, Dharwad, one of the oldest universities in the state. He had won several important awards, including those from Central Sahitya Academy, Karnataka Sahitya Academy, Pampa Award, Nadoja Award and Nrupathunga Award.

He had also written more than 100 books in Kannada and was considered an authority on Vachana literature (propagated by the 12th century philosopher and social reformer Basavanna). Basavanna was opposed to religion, religious practices and Brahminical rituals. Followers of Basavanna are called Lingayats in Karnataka.
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 Ananthamurthy.

His home in Dharwad was targeted by miscreants. In another instance, activists disturbed his public speech when he raised the issue of idol worship.

The Kalburgi’s killing has sparked widespread protests across Karnataka and the police have brought the situation under control. Some groups have called for general shut down in northern parts of Karnataka to condemn the killing.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *