By Aravind S Kamal
It is risky being a ‘rationalist’ in Karnataka these days and it becomes riskier if you are outspoken about your views. After eminent Kannada scholar and rationalist MM Kalburgi was gunned down for his views on idol worshipping, the latest target of the religious extremists is Professor KS Bhagwan, a retired professor from the Mysuru University.
A few Hindutva sections were angry after Bhagwan took on the priestly class and Brahmins in a chat show on a leading Kannada television channel. A letter, threatening Professor Bhagwan, was delivered at his home even after the police have provided him with 24/7 security cover.
Not to be cowed down, Prof Bhagwan has vowed to counter such hardliners. “All that I can say is that these people have not even read what I wrote or interpreted my viewpoints. I undertake extensive research before making public statements. Anyway, this is not for the first time that I have been threatened by these fanatics,” he said.
The police in Dakshina Kannada district had arrested a leader of the Bajrang Dal for threatening Prof Bhagwan. The incident was soon after Dr. Kalburgi's murder. Bhagwan, however, is not the only person who is facing threats from the Hindutva hardliners. Jnanapith laureate Girish Karnad, renowned Kannada writer and novelist SL Bhyrappa, and social reformer and seer Sri Veerabhadrachannamalla Swami of Nidumamidi Mutt have been on the ‘hit-list’ for a while now. The Karnataka government has realised the seriousness of these threats and has been quick in providing police security to all of them following Dr. Kalburgi’s death.
Girish Karnad in particular has often been the target of the extremists, especially for endorsing beef consumption. He has also been a vocal supporter of rationalists like Dr. Kalburgi. “This is a worrying trend… This is not part of our Kannada culture. All of us have the right to express our opinions. We are in trouble if this kind of incident grows,” he lamented.
Echoing a similar view, well-known Kannada writer and filmmaker Dr. Baragur Ramachandrappa, remarked that killing is not the answer to everything. “All of us have views and counter views. People may differ with writers and rationalists, but killing or threatening is not acceptable,” he maintained.
It is not just rationalists and writers, who are being targeted and threatened by Hindu activists. Even, progressive seers, who are working for the cause of inclusive growth in society, have not been spared. It is now common for Sri Veerabhadrachannamalla Swami to be threatened after he criticized the caste system and called upon his counterparts (Jagadgurus) to stop promoting communities on the basis of Mutts. There are plenty of Mutts (religious centers) headed by their respective gurus for Brahmins, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Kurubas and other influential communities in Karnataka. The heads of these Mutts simply despise Sri Veerabhadrachannamalla Swami for questioning the caste system.
“These kinds of threats to people like us will only make us stronger. I am part of their (fundamentalists) hit-list since several years. But that does not scare me. It is time that the law enforcement agencies reined in on such people. The government should take these threats seriously in view of the latest developments,” he said.
Updated Date: Sep 10, 2015 20:54 PM