Renowned scholar, rationalist and academic M M Kalburgi was shot dead in his house in Dharwad city by unidentified gunmen on Sunday morning.
Dharwad City Police Commissioner Ravindra Prasad told The News Minute that two people had arrived at the 77-year-old writer’s Kalyan Nagar residence on a motorcycle in the morning. “They knocked on the door and shot him when he opened the door.” He said that special squads had been formed to catch the attackers.
Although he was rushed to the district hospital by his family members, the writer died on the way. Shots were fired at close range and hit him on the head and chest.
Kalburgi’s youngest daughter Roopadarshi told TV 9 Kannada that she was in the house when she heard two gun shots and found her father soaked in blood. She said that her mother and son were also in the house. She says there was no argument and that all she heard was someone say “sir, sir” and the firing of two gun shots.
Commissioner Ravindra Prasad said that the police were investigating all leads.
Roopadarshi told TV9 that she did not think her father faced any threats. Asked if he had any enemies, she said that her father always spoke his mind, and this may have caused offence.
“People did not understand him,” she said, adding that he always urged people to stand up for what was right. She has also urged the police go investigate the groups that had threatened her father. It was only three months ago that the Karnataka government had withdrawn the police security given to him, on the writer's request.
To a question on family disputes, Roopadarshi said “He always maintained that ambli kambli namma asti, baki-ella jaasti (food and blanket are our assets, everything else is too much).”
However, police are also investigating whether there was a property dispute that may have had a role to play in the author's murder.
IG Umesh Kumar visited the late author's house and has said that a special team headed by a DCP will investigate the murder. He also said that police will inspect CCTV footage from Kalburgi's house.
Kalburgi, the freethinker
M M Kalburgi was born in Gubbewada village in Sindgi taluk of Bijapur district in 1938. He began his career as an academic in the 1960s as a professor, and went on to become the vice chancellor of Kannada University, Hampi.
Known to be fearless in speaking his mind on range of subjects, Kalburgi often attracted the ire of various groups of people including members of the literary community in the state.
In 2007, fellow Kannada writers criticized him for his views on the state anthem (pronounced naaDa geete). Currently, the state anthem is Jai Bharata Jananiya Tanujathe, which was composed by one of the finest Kannada writers Kuvempu. Although Kalburgi had not taken any names, a debate had been generated among writers.
He had reportedly said: “We have not been able to find a good nada geethe. Some people are of the view that incorporating the names of rivers, saints, religions and writers will make a nada geethe. Is it not possible to produce a better and intense nada geethe?”
Seven years later, things took a distinctly ugly turn when Kalburgi spoke of an anecdote from the late U R Ananthamurthy’s life. In June 2014, speaking at an event, Kalburgi referred to an anecdote recounted by Jnanapith awardee Ananthamurthy in his book “Bettale Seve Yeke Kudadu”, in which Ananthamurthy says that he had urinated on a religious idol as a boy to test his own fears.
Groups such as the VHP, ABVP, Bajrang Dal had filed cases against him and also demanded his arrest for allegedly offending religious sentiments. On one occasion, groups of people belonging to these organizations even threw stones and soda bottles at him. Police provided protection to him until the Kalbaurgi himself requested them to withdraw it.
In one of his last public speeches in Raichur district, the writer had said: “I am living for two things: Kannada and Basava.” He also referred to two controversies in which he was recently involved. “In two cases I was made a targeted. But I swear in Basava’s name that I did no wrong in either case.”
One of Kalburgi’s biggest contributions to Kannada literature has been his work on the Vachanakaras of the Bhakti movement.
Writer K Neela told TV 9 Kannada that Kalburgi was the conscience of the state, a writer and scholar who stood for the values the vachanakaras (composers of the Vachanas) and made efforts to spread those ideas to the world through numerous languages. He also stood for the "Secular ethos of the state", she said.
Kalburgi helped to publish a collection of Vachanas for two Lingayat Mutts but he did not exempt them from criticism. He was also known to have criticised Lingayat Jangamas who availed of reservation benefits meant for Beda Jangama and Budga Jangama communities.
Kalburgi has won numerous awards in the state including the Rajyotsava and Sahitya Academy awards.
A protest cum tribute to the writer will be held in Town Hall in Bengaluru at 4 pm and others tributes are being organised in Dharwad district as well.
(This story was updated as developments occured.)