The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar, believes that the murder of MM Kaburgi, ex-vice chancellor, Hampi University, signifies rise of religious fundamentalism, which is dangerous for the country’s democracy. Text of the NAPM statement:
Prof MM Kalburgi hailing from Dharwad, Karnataka, a renowned rationalist scholar and former Vice-Chancellor of Hampi University, Karnataka, was shot dead on 30th August 2015 by unidentified gunmen at his residence, at point blank range. The murderers escaped on a motorcycle. The National Alliance of People’s Movements strongly condemns the murder, which is suspected to be yet another attempt of right wing extremists to kill persons with rationalist views.
Earlier, leading rationalist and anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in Pune on 20th August 2013, and left leader and outspoken critic of Hindutva, Shri Govind Pansare was murdered in Kolhapur on 20th February 2015. This latest foul murder of Prof. M. M. Kalburgi, along with the earlier two murders, is suspected to have been committed by right wing religious extremists.
With a BJP government at the Centre providing tacit support, right wing Hindutva elements are emboldened and are increasingly coming out openly against persons who are merely critical of Hinduism. They are intolerant of persons who differ from them, and deliberately get “hurt feelings” or “hurt sentiments” at the slightest excuse. They choose to interpret even mere discussions, debates and statements about Hindu practices and rituals as an insult to Hinduism, and resort to threatening and attacking speakers and writers. They have also been indulging in “moral policing” accompanied by violence. If this trend is not immediately checked and turned back, the people of India will lose their freedom of speech and association, and India’s secular democracy will turn into fascism.
So far, despite considerable popular uproar regarding the premeditated killings, the police has been unwilling or unable to make arrests in both Dabholkar and Pansare murder cases, which took place in broad daylight, just like the murder of Kalburgi. What is common to all three premeditated murders is that the victims had all been repeatedly threatened by right wing extremists due to their rationalist views and opposition to obscurantist beliefs.
Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shri Ram Sene have staged statewide protests against their views and are suspected to be responsible for the killings. Co-convenor of the Bajrang Dal’s Bantwal (Karnataka) cell, Bhuvith Shetty, showing his extremism towards religious freedom and independent views, is openly celebrating the murder with a tweet, which states: “Then it was UR Ananthamurthy and now M.M.Kalburgi. Mock Hinduism and die dogs (sic) death. And dear KS Bhagwan you are next”. This is naked terrorism by a religious extremist, which government must urgently deal with in accordance with the law.
The Constitution of India guarantees liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship to all citizens, and prescribes development of scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform as every citizen’s fundamental duty. The words and actions of these fundamentalist terror groups goes directly against the spirit of the Constitution. But governments have been lackadaisical, perhaps even deliberately so, in investigating these crimes and reining in the groups which have been issuing veiled as well as naked threats (like the tweet above) to persons who are rationalist in thought and belief.
The rise of religious fundamentalism is bringing the democracy and secularism of India into serious question, and may permanently and irreversibly destabilize the Republic. It is high time for government to declare these religious outfits as terror groups and take necessary actions against them. Without such stern and rapid action, we may soon witness situations like those happening in Bangladesh, where Islamic fundamentalists are killing rationalist bloggers.
The National Alliance of People’s Movements, therefore demands that
1) CBI must thoroughly investigate the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M.Kalburgi with a sense of urgency, arrest the suspected murderers and the guiding forces behind them, and ensure that sufficient hard evidence is made available to the public prosecutor to secure conviction.
2) Prime Minister Narendra Modi must unequivocally declare his stand as well as the union government’s stand regarding all the three premeditated murders, and institute procedures to deal with such acts of terrorism.
3) Terrorist outfits regardless of the religion to which they belong or claim to support, must be declared as “terror groups” since, in direct contravention of the country’s democracy and secularism, they openly violate the freedom of speech by threatening and even eliminating persons who express different views.