Culture of killing comes home

Last Updated : 01 September 2015, 14:05 IST

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The killing of litterateur, scholar, educationist and rationalist M M Kalburgi at his home in Dharwad on Sunday was an attack on free thought and expression. Kalburgi did not have personal enemies, and his literary work cannot be considered to have
created the kind of hostility that led to the killing. It could have been his social ideas, views on religion, criticism of irrational practices and questioning of many established beliefs that led to the fatal attack. This seems to be the view of his friends and admirers. There was a threat to his life and he had been provided
police security, which was withdrawn a few weeks ago on his own request. The need for writers and thinkers to live under security cover is repugnant to the idea of a free society. Provision of security to some other writers in the wake of the killing of Kalburgi shows the extent of threat to intellectual freedom. 

Kalburgi was outspoken in his criticism of superstitions and rituals. He questioned religious orthodoxy on several occasions and in fact, had to recant some of his views in the face of opposition. But he never gave up the spirit of independent enquiry and continued to take public positions challenging many dominant views. Only recently, he attracted controversy over his remarks about idol worship. Right-wing and fundamentalist groups had targeted him and a case was registered against him for hurting Hindu sentiments. His killing was even justified in some social media comments. Even though only an investigation would identify which groups or persons were actually behind the killing, it is clear that it was his ideas that invited the attack. The killing is a reminder of the gunning down of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune two years ago and of CPI leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur earlier this year. Their killers have not been identified till date.

The society is becoming more and more intolerant and undemocratic and the space for dissent and criticism is shrinking. Books are banned, writers are
being forced into silence and releases of films are stopped for hurting the sentiments of one or the other section of society. Other works of art have also not been spared. No society can remain healthy and dynamic if it does not allow criticism and open debate. Ideas are not to be countered with threats, intimidations and bullets but with other ideas. Kalburgi is the first Kannada writer to pay with his life for his views. The culture of killing has come home, and it is death for the disagreeable word. It is a dangerous trend.

Published 31 August 2015, 18:16 IST

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