Age of Intolerance

September 1, 2015 at 9:15 AMSep (Activism, Literature, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Anatomy of Murder by Anna Wojtczak

Anatomy of Murder by Anna Wojtczak

At the early hours of 30 Aug 2015, in the city of Dharwad the former Vice-Chancellor of Hampi Kannada University, a renowned academician, researcher and writer M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead at his residence by unidentified miscreants.

The exact reason for the murder of M.M. Kalburgi is yet to be known but an attempt to understand our time through the prism of Kalburgi’s murder gives us a dark and disturbing picture.

The murder of an academician, researcher and writer in Dharwad is alarming because Dharwad happens to be a place which has churned out words and ideas like no other place in Karnataka. A place with such a heritage and legacy becoming the spot of murder that too of a writer, academician and researcher speaks of the shift in the history of the society in total.

While most of the radical and liberal intellectuals of Karnataka are suspecting the hands of the right wing Hindutva forces behind the murder of M.M. Kalburgi, the Hindutva fringe celebrating the murder of M.M. Kalburgi substantiates and strengthens the certainty of the radicals and liberals.

What irked the right-wing Hindutva people was the strong opposition M.M. Kalburgi posed to superstition, idol worship and importantly his stance on Hinduism not being a religion at all.

Amidst all the fingers pointing at Hindutva politics, thinker Prof. Marulasiddappa is of the opinion that Lingayat caste politics, more than Hindutva politics, could be the reason behind the murder of M.M. Kalburgi. This is something that cannot be ruled out.

The community of Lingayats have had disagreements with M.M. Kalburgi since late 1980’s. His research on Basavanna, his wife Neelambika and his nephew Channa Basavanna angered the Lingayat community and he received death threats which forced him to make a few changes in his published work. This editing, he said with great pain, was an “intellectual suicide.” He faced the wrath of the Lingayat community in the following years for his claim that Lingayats are not a part of Hindu religion. He also would point out at the differences between Lingayats and Veershaivas which again pricked the people of the community.

The views of Prof. Marulasiddappa are similar to that of Prof. H.S.Shivaprakash who rightly points out that M.M. Kalburgi’s brush with Hindutva politics is recent in comparison to his friction with the Lingayats.

But what cannot be ignored is also the nexus between Lingayats and the Bharateeya Janata Party in Karnataka. The role of Lingayats in forming the first ever BJP government in Karnataka nearly a decade ago was immense. What needs to seen is also the politics of Hindutva to bring all communities under the Hindutva fold and its attempts to have “Hindu” as a single unit without giving any scope for multiplicity and diversity within. The position of M.M. Kalburgi about Hindu not being a religion and Lingayats (a huge vote bank for BJP) not being Hindus, without doubt, caused trouble and posed threat to the politics of Hindutva. We must also see the socio-political developments in the last two decades where every community has become communalized and has started to perform to this single definition of Hinduism as defined by Hindutva.

Freedom of Speech by Aolpho Mexiac

Freedom of Speech by Aolpho Mexiac

One of the areas of expertise of M.M. Kalburgi was the world of Vachana literature which was produced as a part of the social movement of 12th century in Karnataka with Basavanna as its key figure. What we need to also look at is the attempt being made in the realm of Kannada literature and academia, in the recent times, to spiritualize Vachanas and de-contextualizing it from its social-political history. The reason this politics around Vachanas needs to be remembered and invoked at this point is because the ‘spirtualizing’ (in a very religious sense) of Vachanas and de-contextualizing them from their socio-political history is also an attempt of colonizing the voices (of dissent) of communities and thus bringing communities under the single banner of one religion for political reasons.

It is also an attempt to iron out the sub-cultures, syncretic cultures and counter-cultures to homogenize cultures for the benefit of a fundamentalist and fascist politics which does not encourage or appreciate multiplicity and diversity, leave alone harmony among diversified communities and cultures, and is extremely intolerant of them.

Had the historian Eric Hobsbawm been alive and was writing about this phase of history he probably would have called this the AGE OF INTOLERANCE.

Since the actual reason for the murder of M.M. Kalburgi is not known yet and since the chances of the reason being personal cannot be ignored yet, nothing can be said specifically. But amidst all the voices coming in – of celebration, of accusation, of assumption- what one understand of our the times is that we are living in extreme intolerant times and the not just voice of dissent but any voice that does pose challenge to the homogenized ideas of fundamentalists and fascists is never tolerated. And in the celebration of M.M. Kalburgi’s murder we also see, again in history, that the genocide quotient of the right-wing Hindutva politics is high.

Post-Script: May be, the real threat to fascism, fundamentalism (and also capitalism) is the celebration of sub-cultures, syncretic cultures and counter-cultures which will refuse to come under the hegemony of any homogenization. M.M. Kalburgi did celebrate them and his research unearthed many facts and truths about the non-mainstream cultures and their contribution to society and life.

[An edited version of the same was published in The News Minute]

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