Act against right-wing groups

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:25 pm IST

Published - September 01, 2015 12:06 am IST

Sunday’s murder in Dharwad of the outspoken Kannada scholar, M.M. Kalburgi, is tragic and alarming. It is the first such instance in Karnataka, which has a tradition of free speech and a record of outspoken scholars and writers. >Kalburgi, a Sahitya Akademi award winner and an authority on Vachana literature , was known for his >sharp criticism and questioning of superstitious beliefs , and received a death threat from the leader of a fringe right-wing group last year. Since June 2014 he was given police protection but some months ago he requested that it be withdrawn. While the identity of the two assailants, and their motive, >are yet to be conclusively established , the nature of the threats against him has led investigators and the intelligentsia to suspect the role of fringe groups. This, especially given the backdrop of the murder of rationalist writer Narendra Dabholkar in 2013, and of CPI activist Govind Pansare in 2015, both in Maharashtra. In all the three cases the assailants were motorcycle-borne, and shot from point-blank range.

While hasty conclusions on the latest murder would be imprudent, there is no denying that fringe right-wing groups have created an atmosphere of intolerance to outspoken writers and academics who question religious practices and myths, thereby putting pressure on freedom of speech and expression. Soon after Kalburgi’s murder, a case was filed by the police in Mangaluru against a Bajrang Dal activist who tweeted that >the “next” victim would be the Kannada writer K.S. Bhagwan , and the activist was arrested. The social media have amplified such threats, which are acerbic and abusive in nature and typically target writers or academics who question ideologies and religious beliefs. There is enough evidence of the use of brute force by these fringe groups to enforce their points of view. There is a need to crack down on these groups which profess violence. It is important to use for some of these outfits the same yardstick as is used for other religion- and ideology-based extremist groups. Unfortunately, a majority of the cases filed against them or their leaders for inflammatory and abusive remarks and even violent acts do not result in convictions, and that emboldens them further. It is also crucial to monitor and promptly curb threats made through social media. These actions are needed to ensure that daring, fierce and tempered academic and literary opinion continues to be freely expressed without fear of any retribution. Whether or not fringe groups were involved in Kalburgi’s murder is immaterial here.

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