Do you blame the present political system for the attack on writers who are expressing their views?
Arvind Malagatti: I will not blame the system, but a few elements in political parties may be fomenting trouble or instigating it. Though the BJP as a national party may want to focus on administration or governance, a few elements may be pursuing a divisive or hidden agenda resulting in conflict. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, a needless conflict was created by a few elements in the party pushing for a review of the Constitution.
Kum. Veerabhadrappa: Definitely. Under the changed political system at the State and the Centre, values in all spheres are declining, which in a way is indirectly supporting the attacks on writers and rationalists for expressing their frank opinions. This proves dangerous to democracy. Had Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, whom we expected to be a progressive thinker, taken steps to ensure that the anti-superstition Bill was passed, M.M. Kalburgi would have been alive.
Do you think the Prime Minister has not acted in time on the spate of attacks?
AM: The Prime Minister should have spoken on the issue. He airs his views on ‘Mann Ki Baat’ and it will be interesting to know his thoughts on these acts of violence. If he had spoken against it, perhaps, by now, it would have sent a strong message.
KV: Yes. The situation wouldn’t have worsened if the Prime Minister had reacted in time. The Prime Minister not reacting to the Dadri lynching incident and his inaction has encouraged Sanatan Sanstha to become powerful.
Is freedom of expression under threat in the country?
AM: Threat to freedom of expression existed earlier as well. I too have received threats over telephone or through letters but had ignored them. However, such threats have increased in society in recent times and nobody ever imagined that differences of opinion would result in the killing of a writer as in the case of Kalburgi.
KV: Definitely. There is a systematic attempt by vested interests to scuttle it. Threats are being issued to those who raise their voice against the killings/attacks, which is dangerous.
Is there a need for the Prime Minister to intervene and reassure writers?
AM: The Prime Minister should speak up not only for writers, but in the interest of the country and for social harmony.
KV: The Prime Minister should come out with suitable steps to protect writers and to curb the growth of Sanatan shaktis, which is very essential to protect the diverse culture of the country and maintain integrity and harmony. It is unfortunate that writers are given gunmen, following continued threats. This gives rise to a question whether democracy is alive in the country.
What should the Sahitya Akademi have done?
AM: The president of the Akademi has cited his inability to do anything without the directions of the executive board. But, he should have condemned the incident in his personal capacity and later placed it before the executive committee for approval when it meets… this would have added dignity to the august body.
KV: The first and foremost thing that the Akademi was expected to do was protest against the killing of writers and scholars. Kalburgi was the recipient of literary honours and was also on the Akademi’s advisory panel.
Moreover, being an independent body, the Akademi with renowned writers and scholars as its members should have guided the government about the steps to be taken to prevent such attacks. At least now it should do so, failing which one will have to construe that there are only ‘pseudo’ litterateurs in the Akademi.