New Delhi – Was M. M. Kalburgi the first rationalist in India to be killed? The Kannada scholar was a wellknown fighter against superstitions, prevailing mostly in Hinduism. He was an opponent of the idol-worships, something that made him enemy of many Hindu extremists. He was unfortunately gunned down this August. But then he was not the first such rationalist to die in India. Two years ago , in 2013, a Maratha rationalist , Narendra Dabholkar, the founder-president of Maharashtra-based Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti — an organisation set up to eradicate superstition, was also killed, but his killers remain at large.
The notable aspect in these two condemnable murders is that they took place in two states under the rule of the Congress party. The Congress is in power in Karnataka and the Congress was in power in Maharashtra in 2013. The only difference now is that while the Congress ruled the central government in 2013, now it is under the so-called rightist( which is actually not the case as the Bharatiya Janata Party too swears by one variety of socialism) BJP and led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But then the fact that is to be remembered is that under India’s federal distribution of power, law and order, that is, Police, are under the control of the state government, not the central government.
These basic facts are important to understand the sheer hypocrisy, dishonesty and double standards involved in the massive hue and cry among a section of India’s literary personalities and performing artists in the wake of the tragic killing of Kalburgi. At the time of writing this, 23 Indian writers who had received awards at various points of time from the Sahitya Akademi, India’s highest literary body, which is supposed to be autonomous but funded by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Their ostensible reason is that the Akademi remained silent on the killing of Kalburgi at a time when there is a growing “atmosphere of intolerance” of independent views in India under Modi.
What I am going to do is to tell you about these ladies and gentlemen and their ideologies. But before that, let me point out how selective they have been in their protests. None of them returned their awards when Dabholkar was killed. None of them uttered a word of condemnation when noted Islamic scholar Maulana Masoodi (a great proponent of liberal Islam) and Sarvananand Kaul Premi were brutally gunned down by the fundamentalists in Kashmir. None of them ever dared to protest against the then Congress government in Delhi and the Communist government in West Bengal for hounding the asylum-seeker Bangladeshi novelist Taslima Nasreen. None of them shed tears over the ethnic cleansing of the Hindus in Kashmir. And none of them hesitated to accept the government-honours under the Congress regimes, even though the Congress government witnessed arguably the most horrendous communal riots in the form of anti-Sikh pogrom all over the country in 1984.
Now let us begin with Hindi writer Uday Prakash, who was the first to return the award last month over the “silence” of the Akademi. Uday Prakash claims to be a “secular, liberal and pro Dalit and minorities” in his outlook. He studied at and taught for some time in India’s Left-dominated Jawaharlal Nehru University. When the Congress ran the central government in 1990s, the Ministry of Agriculture had commissioned him to research, write, and direct the 15-episode television documentary Krishi Katha on Indian agricultural history, broadcast in 1997. Prakash won the 2010 (India was under the Congress rule) Sahitya Akademi Award in Hindi for his collection of short stories, Mohan Das.
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