Noted Kannada scholar and researcher, M M Kalburgi, who often courted controversies with his outspoken stand on various issues including idol worship, was shot dead at point-blank range by two unidentified men at his residence here today.
Two men came on a two-wheeler and knocked at the door of Kalburgi's house and as it was opened, two shots were fired at him on his forehead and chest, after which the assailants fled, Hubli-Dharwad City Police Commissioner Ravindra Prasad told reporters here.
77-year old Kalburgi, a former vice-chancellor of Hampi Kannada University, was rushed to the civil hospital where he died without responding to treatment, he said, as the audacious act shook the Kannada literary world.
A special team had been formed, Prasad said, adding, the culprits would be caught soon. Forensic and fingerprint experts were also summoned.
Asked if there was "personal or other reasons" behind the killing, he said, only the inquiry would reveal the real motive.
Kalburgi, who had won the central and state "Sahitya Akademi" awards, had often stirred a hornet's nest with his remarks on various issues including opposing idol worship and suggesting the need for a better state anthem.
Part of his works on "Vachana"(verses) "literature had also come under criticism of the state's majority "veerashaiva" (Lingayat) community, a liberal Shaivism founded by 12th century philosopher, poet and social reformer Basaveshwara.
Kalburgi had raised the hackles of some right-wing outfits like VHP and Bajrang Dal when he had made certain remarks about idol worship by Hindus that were considered "derogatory" and "blasphemous" by them.
He was also a noted epigraphist and won several awards at the state level.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah expressed shock and anguish at the killing of Kalburgi at Dharwad, considered the state's cultural capital.
He said Kalburgi was known for his outspoken views and was a progressive thinker. The government has treated the incident "very seriously" and culprits would be traced soon and meted out "strictest punishment" according to law, he said.
Karnataka BJP leaders Jagadish Shettar and Prahlad Joshi also condemned the killing of Kalburgi and said the culprits should be brought to justice at the earliest.