There is growing suspicion of the hand of Hindutva forces behind the murder of M.M. Kalburgi among radical and liberal intellectuals

Kalburgi was more of an anathema to Lingayats than to Hindutva proponents
Blog Tuesday, September 01, 2015 - 15:04

By Samvartha 

In the early hours of August 30, 2015 renowned academician, researcher and Kannada writer MM Kalburgi was shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his residence in Dharwad city.

The reason for the murder of Kalburgi, a former Vice-Chancellor of Hampi’s Kannada University, is yet to be ascertained but an attempt to understand our time through the prism of Kalburgi’s murder gives us a dark and disturbing picture.

There is growing suspicion of the hand of Hindutva forces behind the murder of M.M. Kalburgi among radical and liberal intellectuals of Karnataka even though the police have not made a statement in this regard.

What is certain though, is that Kalburgi has, for a large part of his life, has ruffled many feathers.

What irked Hindutva supporters was Kalburgi’s strong opposition to superstition, idol worship and importantly his stance that Hinduism was not a religion at all. 

But writer and professor Marulasiddappa has reminded us that it is not just the proponents of Hindutva, but those playing Lingayat caste politics who also loathed Kalburgi. 

The Lingayat community has had disagreements with Kalburgi since late 1980s. His research on 12th century Bhakti saint Basavanna and his wife Neelambika and nephew Channa Basavanna angered the Lingayat community and he received death threats which forced him to make a few changes in his published work.

This editing, he said with great pain, was “intellectual suicide”. He faced the wrath of the Lingayat community in the following years for his claim that Lingayats are not a part of Hindu religion. He also would point out differences between Lingayats and Veershaivas which again pricked the people of the community.

The views of professor Marulasiddappa are similar to that of professor H.S.Shivaprakash who rightly points out that Kalburgi's brush with Hindutva politics is recent in comparison to his friction with the Lingayats.

The last few years have seen the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Lingayat community coming together, with Lingayat leaders like BS Yeddyurappa leading the union. 

The BJP’s politics of bringing all Hindu communities under the Hindutva fold and its attempts to have “Hindu” as a single unit without giving any scope for internal multiplicity and diversity has also intensified in the last decade.  

Kalburgi’s position that Hinduism was not a religion and that Lingayats (a huge vote bank for BJP) were not Hindus, without doubt, caused trouble and posed threat to the politics of Hindutva.

Socio-political developments in the last two decades have caused a consolidation of identities around religion, where Hindutva is increasingly being seen as Hinduism.

One of Kalburgi’s areas of expertise was the world of Vachana literature produced during 12th century Bhakti movement in Karnataka, with Basavanna as its key figure.

In recent times, attempts are being by made in the realm of Kannada literature and academia to spiritualize Vachanas and de-contextualize them from their social-political history.

Such attempts result in the colonizing of voices (of dissent) of communities and thus bringing communities under the single banner of one religion for political reasons. This is also an attempt to iron out sub-cultures, syncretic cultures and counter-cultures to homogenize cultures for the benefit of a fundamentalist and fascist politics which does not encourage or appreciate multiplicity and diversity, leave alone harmony among diversified communities and cultures, and is extremely intolerant of them.

Had the late British historian Eric Hobsbawm been writing about this phase of history, he probably would have called this the Age of Intolerance.

May be, the real threat to fascism, fundamentalism (and also capitalism) is the celebration of sub-cultures, syncretic cultures and counter-cultures which will refuse to come under the hegemony of any homogenization. M.M. Kalburgi did celebrate them and his research unearthed many facts and truths about the non-mainstream cultures and their contribution to society and life.

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