Assassination Of M.M. Kalburgi : The Ugly Face Of Juggernaut Jingoism
By Ghulam Mohammad Khan
01 September, 2015
Shall I call India a ravished bride of disquiet? Given the complex jingoistic political culture of the country, the idea does not seem to be somehow off base. Where pragmatism or rationalism has to be permanently subservient to a hide-bound religious chauvinism, or where disinterested intellectual adventure beyond received and unwittingly accepted and internalized structures of (irrelevant) thought or belief, or where collective cognitive behavior strangely works under an overarching state disciplinary mechanism, everything is not well there.
The murder of the renowned Kannada scholar, rationalist and epigraphist M.M. Kalburgi, yet again comes as a strong warning to all those who would rationally wish to venture beyond a hegemonic religio-political culture of the state. Kalburgi was just a rationalist; being a rationalist in a post-modern world of endless epistemological fluidity, is by no means a crime or dissent. What really does a particular dominant political faction of Indian society want its citizens to be; a ceaselessly submissive and unproductive generation or a credulous mob that we see in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, to be always spurred and driven and deceived by so called emotional political orgies? You want the youth of your country to aspire for an avant-garde model of scientific education, you want to be one among the top space exploring nations, you want to be the best in technology, infrastructure and other scientific advancements, but you won’t permit the people to think beyond the fetters of corrupting religious idiocy. This is the worst example of institutional oppression in any modern secular, democratic country.
Kalburgi’s only sin is the legitimate use of his commonsense. He spoke against, what otherwise also would be inadmissible to any pragmatic outlook, the curse of superstition and idol worship. His insightful and scholarly work and his ahead of his times imagination only earned him the bad blood of an uneducated majority. Kalburgi renounced his intellectually adventurous experimentation once the Hindu far-right groups started to denounce and threaten him. Only an intellectual, a rationalist can understand the helplessness and poignancy in these words, “I renounced it [research work] to save the lives of my family. But I also committed intellectual suicide on that day.” His house was attacked with stones several times. The Sahitya Academy award winning author was also beaten by the frenzied followers of some religious gurus. Paradoxically, the terrible religion-mongers Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrangi Dal have also filed petitions against his rationalist thinking.
The far-right groups have also attempted the annihilation of such voices earlier. Narendra Dabholkar, a prominent anti-superstition and rationalist activist from Pune also met the same fate. His was first killed for his valuable contribution and then posthumously awarded Padma Shri for the same. His only crime was that he worked for a human cause; for the empowerment of the marginalized through social justice. He worked against the caste-related violence, superstition and those self-styled Hindu ascetics and dubious tantriks, who hoodwinked and extracted money from the destitute by promising miracle cures for ailments. No right-wing extremist group had or could do such great service to the nation ever. In him they killed a living idol for a dead and insensate one. Govind Pansare, another indefatigable intellectual and rationalist from Maharashtra, fell to the saffron outfits in February 2015. He openly denounced the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang’s glorification of Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Gandhi. “RSS has hundred mouths and speaks different languages”, he once said. Pansare took a dig at the politically constructed history when he re-interpreted, courtesy to his untiring, painstaking research work, the position of Shivaji as a king during one of his lectures in Shivaji University, Kolhapur. According to the partial Hindu version of the history, Shivaji protected Hindus from forcible circumcision and conversion to Islam by Muslim rulers. Pansare deconstructed the narrative in his famous book Shivaji Kon Hota (Who Was Shivaji) and asserted that Shivaji respected Muslims, who also constituted the one-third of his army. It was out of trust that he made Ibrahim khan the chief of his army and cannon division. For this innovative research work, for which he should have won accolades from all corners, he received a bullet in his old frail body.
How could the saffron outfits match the exemplary genius and creative excellence or do a better service to the nation than the great Kannada language Jnanpith Award winning author U.R.Ananthamurthy? How could a doctorate holder from the university of Birmingham be wrong or irrelevant in his critical assessment of the Hindu nationalistic political culture and Shiv Sena or BJP or VHP (the members of these groups have comparatively lower educational qualifications) be permanently accurate in their political musings. A professor who visited and lectured in the countries as diverse as Soviet Union, Hungry, France and Germany should have had at least freedom to express in his own country. Ananthamurthy’s crime was that he criticized the RSS and BJP fundamentalist organizations which distorted Indian history to create a new version that suited to their vicious purpose. Isn’t it a shame: on 22 August 2014 when Murthy’s death was announced, several BJP and Hindu Jagarana Vedike celebrated his death by dancing and bursting crackers in Mangalore and Chikmangalur?
These are some of the recent harrowing episodes in the vulnerable political system of the country; the term ‘political system’ reminds me of a recent neologism ‘theatrics of combat’, which have qualified the country to be a worthy partner of Pakistan and Bangladesh in such dealings. The Sunni extremism against Shia and Christian minorities in Pakistan and the terrible onfall of hacking the atheistic bloggers by fundamentalists in Bangladesh are almost the same stories. Comparatively, In Indian the situation could even get worse because of the conspicuous yet ominous silence by the government over these tragedies. It is time for India to consider the enormity of loss by losing these luminaries and plan to reconstruct where the state is crumbling.
Ghulam Mohammad Khan is a PhD Research Scholar at Central University of Haryana
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