Controversy followed U.R. Ananthamurthy like a shadow from the beginning of his writing career till the very end. The charismatic writer, who passed away on Friday evening, had a large fan following and equally large army of detractors, who watched his every word. But nothing ever deterred him from openly and boldly expressing his views, especially against communal politics.
His very first novel Samskara faced opposition for its critique of Brahmin orthodoxy. Earlier this year, Dr. Ananthamurthy sparked off a controversy when he declared that “he would not want to live in an India with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister”. He made the comment in the midst of the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections. After Mr. Modi became Prime Minister, fringe groups in Mangalore sent the writer a ticket to Karachi.
The years in between have seen Dr. Ananthamurthy engaging in a series of public debates, often leading to acrimonious exchanges, be it the position he took on the practice of nude worship at Chandragutti or his position on the language of instruction. He was involved in many environmental issues as well, including the agitation for protection of the Tunga or against Chamalapura thermal power plant. His personal life too was not far from scrutiny, following his decision to accept a residential site in Dollar’s Colony, which led to people questioning his personal morality.
In fact, it has become hard to imagine a discourse on a social or a cultural issue in Karnataka without Dr. Ananthamurthy making a statement on it.Politics and URA
Dr. Ananthamurthy was also one of the rare firebrand academics who did not shy away from electoral politics. He contested for the Rajya Sabha elections in 2006 as a mark of protest, when the BJP-JDS ruling coalition in Karnataka offered support to Rajeev Chandrashekhar, a businessman, for nomination to the Upper House.
He surprised all when he extended “moral support” to the then Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa to curb the Bellary mining owners’ growth in politics. In July 2011, when H.D. Kumaraswamy started a fast unto death against charges of corruption levelled by the B.S. Yeddyurappa government, Dr. Ananthamurthy intervened saying his life is precious and he should end the fast. Mr. Kumaraswamy, as Chief Minister, had famously asked who Dr. Ananthamurthy was and what secularism meant.The writer-academic’s ability to take a strong position on a variety of issues made him a legend who took centre stage in social, cultural, literary and political discourse in Karnataka over the years.