In the days since Kannada writer and scholar MM Kalburgi was murdered, suspicion that there are similarities with the murders of Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar in Maharashtra has only grown stronger. Just two days ago, CID chief Kishore Chandra said that they had ruled out any family matter or dispute as motive and added that it was likely that his murder was linked to his views.
Kalburgi believed in 12th century Bhakti saint Basavannaâ€™s philosophy of a caste-less order that was free from religious ritual mediated by a priest. He did not believe in conducting religious rituals. Given Kalburgiâ€™s rationalist views, it is perhaps only natural that his friends, intellectuals, long-time associates and other writers have rallied around the demand for an anti-superstition law as a tribute to him.
At a meeting of â€ślike-minded peopleâ€ť on Tuesday, Kalburgiâ€™s son Shrivijaya Kalburgi, Govind Pansareâ€™s daughter-in-law Megha Pansare and Narendra Dabholkarâ€™s daughter Mukta Dabholkar possibly met each other for the first time. It was heartening to see speaker after speaker condemn intolerance and demand justice for the writer. One of the demands put before the chief minister when the trio met him, was that the state pass the anti-superstition bill.
But the loud demands to enact the anti-superstition law, which has been hanging fire for over a year, should have come five months ago. In fact, the whole country should have gone all Delhi-gang-rape-protest-like â€“ in the days after March 19, 2015, when two men in Santhemarahalli village in Chamrajnagar district were beheaded in a case of suspected human sacrifice.
Initially the Kannada media merely reported that a man named Mahadeva had allegedly beheaded two agricultural labourers Krishnaiah (47) and Nanjaiah (60) in a fit of anger after they refused to do something that he had asked them to do.
However, Nanjaiahâ€™s wife Mahadevamma told The News Minute that her husband had never worked for Mahadeva in 15 years and did not know him either. She said that he had worked for a Congress leader, who had called him early that morning to ask him to come to work. The bodies of Nanjaiah and Krishnaiah were found not on their regular employersâ€™ land, but on Mahadevaâ€™s land.
Chamrajnagar is infamous for the practice of witchcraft. So much so, that a superstition has grown around the district since the 1980s: any chief minister who visites the district loses his position.
According to a fact-finding team that visited the spot on the day of the incident, several aspects of the murders suggested that it could have been a human sacrifice. Police however, have dismissed these claims. The case is now being investigated by the CID.
Activist Sanghasena says that a human body would have around four to five litres of blood, while there was none at the spot where two people were allegedly beheaded. He also says that the two men were permanently and separately employed by two Lingayat men, whereas their bodies were found in another personâ€™s land. The two men did not even know each other, according to their families.
There is one factor in all this. Krishnaiah and Nanjaiah were Dalits, a fact that skeptics say invalidates claims that the two men were victims of a black magic ritual.
A member of the committee which drafted the anti-superstition bill and an expert on black magic Arvind Malagatti however, told Hindustan Times that Dalits were actually preferred, in such rituals, even though they are otherwise considered untouchable by upper caste people.
In a conversation in March, another member of the drafting committee Vasundhara Bhupati had told The News Minute that the instances of suspected black magic rituals had caused much harm to its victims and that a strict law was needed to tackle it.
If there is any truth to the claims of the activists who say that the two beheadings were murders for a human sacrifice, then demands for an anti-superstition law should have been as loud, as frequent, and as insistent, as the coverage on Indrani Mukerjea.
But what we heard was a deafening silence that was made audible by the loudness of the demand in the aftermath of MM Kalburgiâ€™s murder. It isnâ€™t that one is less deserving than the other, but that both equally deserved our attention.