Recent incidents in the past few days in Karnataka indicate the growing intolerance of the right-wing groups towards independent radical thinkers in the country who pose a threat to their saffronisation agenda.
Fundamental aspects of the Constitution like secular culture, freedom of expression and religious tolerance are already in danger. M M Kalburgi, renowned Kannada writer and former Vice Chancellor of Kannada University, Hampi, was shot dead by two unidentified men at his residence in North Karnataka on Sunday morning. kalburgi was known for strongly voicing his stance against the superstitious practices and the right-wing groups. He had been in a face-off with the radical elements within his own community over his speeches and writing and received death threats. Right-wing groups like Bajrang Dal had warned him. But Kalburgi had openly critisised idol worship and social evils and candidly written about the Kannada legends and folklore most of which opposed the conservative beliefs. He had to withdraw the controversial portions from his book under pressure from his community and also due to the threat to his family. His statements about major communities might have provoked the Hindutwa groups which led to his murder. The shocking incident clearly reinforces the fact that nothing unacceptable to the right-wing groups would be allowed to exist even on basic or conceptual levels.
Several other Kannada literary personalities have also questioned the religious practices and beliefs in the past irking the right-wing followers. Kalburgi’s aide Dr U R Anandamurthy had also attracted their ire. Kalburgi’s friend Govind Pansare, a social activist and veteran CPI leader was shot dead in February in Maharshtra. He held agitations to form laws to uproot superstitious practices and received similar death threats by the Hindutwa terrorists. No serious probe has been carried out so far. Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune in August 2013 for his strong independent views on social and religious matters. The murders of these literary personalities who carried out peaceful protests are the result of the communal stance taken by the hardliners against the freedom of expression and thoughts of individuals. Bharat Patankar, an aide of Govind Pansare also received death threats. These forces of intolerance had also raised threats against Professor K S Bhagawan.
The Sangh Parivar is ardently trying to saffronise the country to transform it into a one-religion nation. Their moves encroach upon the tradition of religious tolerance along with democracy and human rights and endanger the country’s secular fabric. Fascism is tightening its grip on the nation with a particular culture deliberately imposed on the people. History as well as tradition is being rewritten. The government seems to intervene in the functioning of institutions. The right-wing followers without proper educational qualifications are being appointed at top positions in several cultural and educational organizations and institutions. Pune Film Institute, IIAS in Shimla, IITs, IIMs, Universities, TATA institutes, NCERT, ICHR, ICCR and Prasar Bharathi are instances. A forum called Indian Writer’s Forum has come forward questioning the right-wing agenda. The Tamil Nadu government banned two books written by Tamil Dalits triggering a controversy. Not only individual, cultural and religious freedom is at stake but also the existence of the country as a whole.
The centre should abstain from the fascist moves of saffronising the country taking into account the nation’s Constitution and secular aspects. The people should also resist their attempts which otherwise would lead to the Hindutwa fanatics taking over the country. More groups like the Indian Writer’s Forum should be formed for regaining democracy and cultural secularism.