Four Indian intellectuals who were murdered for their ideas (2013-2017)

Narendra Dabholkar (1945-2013)

‘Remember Gandhi. Remember what we did to him’: last threat to Narendra Dabholkar

PUNE: Well-known rationalist and anti-superstition crusader Narendra Dabholkar was on Tuesday shot dead by two unidentified assailants while on a morning walk near Omkareshwar temple here. The 67-year-old activist was shot from close range and died on the spot. Police said the assailants fired five bullets at him on Vitthal Ramji Shinde bridge around 7am at the end of his routine morning walk. Three bullets hit Dabholkar, one of them in the head. A large number of social activists, writers and actors condemned the murder and demanded immediate arrest of the assailants and the mastermind. Besides Pune, rallies were taken out in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nashik and Kolhapur in protest against the killing. Calling it a “well-planned murder”, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said: “Those forces, which could not digest Gandhiji, have killed Dabholkar. The way Gandhiji’s voice was silenced, the same has happened with Dabholkar.”

Remember Gandhi. Remember what we did to him’ was the last threat that Dabholkar received from right-wing organizations, opposed to the Maharashtra (Eradication of Black Magic) Bill for which he had been relentlessly campaigning. He had been threatened by right-wing groups on several occasions.

State home minister RR Patil said several teams had been formed to track down the killers. 
The assailants had brazenly parked their motorcycle outside the Shaniwar Peth police post, barely 30ft from the crime spot and fled towards Ramanbaug in Narayan Peth, driving through check posts near Omkareshwar temple. An eyewitness, who saw the assailants from the balcony of his flat nearby, noted down the registration number of the bike, police said. He also told police that the killers were between 25 and 30 years of age. One was wearing a white shirt and a cap while the other was wearing a grey shirt. Based on his account, police released a sketch of one of the suspects.

“There were three bullet injuries — two on the chest and one on the forehead. One of the bullets went through his chest and got lodged in the right side of the neck. Another bullet fired on the temple above the right eye was found in the skull,” said a doctor from Sassoon Hospital after the post mortem. Some devotees, who heard the gunshots from the Omkareshwar temple, and a police inspector rushed to the bridge to find Dabholkar lying in a pool of blood. Dabholkar was identified only after a senior police officer reached the spot and contacted Sadhana Media Centre.

After practising for 12 years as a doctor, Dabholkar had joined social activist Baba Adhav’s ‘One Village, One Well’ movement before founding the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti. He edited the Marathi weekly ‘Sadhana’. He was scheduled to address a press conference at 11.30am on Tuesday on eco-friendly immersion of idols during Ganeshotsav. Joint commissioner of police Sanjeev Kumar Singhal said police have started probing uploading of Dabholkar’s defaced photographs on the internet. “We were informed that some groups had uploaded these photographs on their websites. We will look into it,” Singhal said.

A prolific speaker, writer and an international kabaddi player, Dabholkar was the youngest of ten siblings with six brothers and three sisters. His was a family of progressive thinkers. His father Achyut Dabholkar was a well-known lawyer while mother Tarabai was a rationalist. His eldest brother, Dr Devdatta Dabholkar, a Gandhian and an educationist, was the former vice-chancellor of Pune University. Another brother, Professor Shripad Dabholkar, pioneered the organic farming movement in the state. “My brother had been getting threat calls for many years, but he always took them lightly. He would say his activists would be killed if he accepted security. He also said he wanted to live on like Gandhiji even after death,” said his third brother, Dr Dattaprasad Dabholkar, a scientist.

Dabholkar was cremated in Satara.

Govind Pansare (1933-February 2015)

Veteran communist leader and rationalist Govind Pansare, who succumbed to bullet injuries late on Friday, was known for his advocacy for workers’ rights  and for his book ‘Shivaji Kon Hota?’ (Who was Shivaji?). Pansare was born on November 26, 1933, at Kolhar village in the Srirampur taluka in Ahmednagar district into a farmers’ family, who lost their farmland to moneylenders. While his mother worked as a farm hand and his father did small jobs, the family lived in poverty. Patil was attracted to social movements since childhood and also headed the socialist Rashtra Seva Dal shakha in his village.

Days after being shot at, Pansare dies in Mumbai where he was flown for treatment

During his school days, Pansare came in contact with communists and has also campaigned for the then CPI leader PB Patil in assembly elections. After completing his primary education in his village and secondary education at Rahuri in Ahmednagar, he moved to Kolhapur for graduation and law.

He also worked as a newspaper vendor, a peon in the municipality, primary teacher and then served as associate professor in the Shivaji University for ten years. While he started practising labour law since 1964, he participated in the Samyukta Maharashtra and Goa freedom fights. He was arrested during the 1962 India-China war as a part of the crackdown against Communists who were seen as pro-China. He was the state secretary of CPI for ten years and a member of its national executive.

Pansare was associated with various social movements that involve the unorganized sector such as farm labourers, domestic help, auto-rickshaw unions, milk producers, hawkers, slums and others. Recently, he was leading an anti-toll agitation in Kolhapur. He also criticised certain policies of the CPI due to which the Communist movement failed to become popular among the masses in the country.

He was also a known critic of right-wing forces and had written many books on  the ills  in Indian society. While he authored many books on reservations, Marxism, Muslims, article 370, Rajarshi Shahu, labour laws and policies, globalization and agriculture, his book ‘Who Was Shivaji’ was one of his well-received books in which he portrayed Shivaji as a secular who respects all religions as against the portrayal by right wing outfits.

“Those who are using Shivaji in order to obtain people’s consent will have to answer for this historical truth. If there are any buyers for their hatred for Islam they should sell it on their own merit. They should not sell their commodity in Shivaji’s name. They should not sell that commodity under the brand of Shivaji. At the same time, the Muslims should not equate Shivaji with his image created by these so-called Shivabhaktas. They should look at history; they should appreciate his attitude to Islam religion. Then only they should make their opinion,” Pansare wrote in his book ‘Who Was Shivaji’.

The book has been translated into many languages including Kannada, Urdu, Gujarati, English and Hindi languages and over 1 lakh copies of it have been sold. His associates say Pansare had launched an aggressive campaign to expose the Modi government ever since it came to power in May last year.  “He also launched the campaign against the BJP’s strategy of using Gandhi’s name and, at the same time, glorification of Nathuram Godse for Gandhi’s killing by Hindu outfits. He was trying to expose the real face of RSS and other Hindu outfits,” said Namdev Gawade, his associate.

Recently, Pansare had faced protests at Shivaji University where he criticized the glorification of Nathuram Godse by certain groups. His friends and party activists say he had reportedly received threats for criticizing the right-wings but he ignored them. Pansare was a close associate of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, was also shot dead while he was out for a morning walk near the Omkareshwar bridge in Pune in August 2013. Pansare was also attacked in a similar fashion. Following the death Dabholkar, Pansare had stepped up pressure on the government for the passage of the Anti-Superstition Bill.

More posts on comrade Gobind Pansare

Professor M M Kalburgi (1938 – August 2015)

NB – This is the third such murder of a renowned rationalist whose ideas were disliked by the so called Parivar. The assassins obviously had little compunction in killing a venerable gentleman of letters in the evening of his life. We now hear that a Bajrang Dal leader has hailed the assassination and threatened another prominent rationalist. This body is an RSS front and the public has a right to know whether this NGO (yes, that’s what it is) approves of political assassination as a means of enforcing its ‘line’ on Indian culture and religion. We should not be surprised.

After all, Narendra Dabholkar was warned he would meet the fate of Mahatma Gandhi. How is this different from the murder of the Syrian scholar Khaled al-Assad by the Islamist fanatics of ISIS? Or the systematic murder of secular bloggers in Bangladesh? There is every likelihood that this case too, like the murders of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, will go unpunished. Unless Indians decide to protect their democratic rights, we shall all live under the threat of assassination by the hoodlums who have gained confidence under the new dispensation. Rest in peace, Kalburgi sahib. We shall remember you in our battle to uphold the freedom of thought. DS

Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi was shot dead at his home in Dharwad on Sunday morning. According to Dharwad city police, two assailants rode up to Kalburgi’s house on a motorcycle and shot the scholar at close range in his head and chest when he answered the door. The identity of the assailants & the motives behind the murder are unknown at this point.

More posts on Prof M M Kalburgi

Former vice-chacellor of the Kannada University in Hampi, Kalburgi had an illustrious and richly rewarded academic career. He won the National Sahitya Akademi award in 2006 for a collection of research articles called Marga 4. He had also been awarded the Karnataka State Sahitya Akademi Award, Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award, Janapad Award, Yakshagana Award, Pampa Award, Nrupatunga Award and Ranna Award.

The 77-year-old scholar often spoke up against blind belief and so was no stranger to controversy. In June last year, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal in Dakshin Kannada accused Kalburgi of hurting the Hindu sentiments. Kalburgi had supported the late UR Ananthamurthy by saying, at a seminar about Karnataka’s Anti-superstition Bill, that there was nothing wrong in urinating on stone idols. Ananthamurthy himself drew the ire of Hindu groups when he recounted doing this in his childhood. The VHP and Bajrang Dal burnt effigies of Kalburgi and had demanded his immediate arrest.

One of the biggest controversies Kalburgi found himself in was back in 1989 over his first Marga treatise, a collection of papers on Kannada folklore and religion that included articles about Veerashiva saint Basava, his wife and sister. Kalburgi received death threats and had to recant references to the Veerashaiva founder Basava, his wife and his sister. At the time Kalburgi said in an interview that he recanted many years’ work to save the lives of his family members. But, he said, he also committed intellectual suicide on that day. Kalburgi was a champion of the Kannada language and was highly critical of the Karnataka government’s plans to shut down Kannada-medium schools. Kalburgi’s murder is a reminiscent of the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013 and social activist Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in February. Both men were shot at close range while on their morning walks.

Gauri Lankesh (1962-2017)

At the core of Gauri Lankesh’s fearless journalism and spirited activism lay a profound humanity, a rare ability to nurture and to give. In the outpouring of grief and anger, in the millions of words written and spoken after she was gunned down at the entrance of her Bangalore home last Tuesday night, two narratives have emerged. One focuses on Gauri the activist, the relentless critic of the sangh parivar, the doughty crusader against the politics of hate and bigotry, the champion of the rights of the poor and the vulnerable – who used her pen and her voice to call out against all forms of injustice, who provided succour and support to many a cause that seemed lost to others. The second talks of Gauri the person – warm, generous, fun loving, witty with an infectious sense of humour and an insatiable zest for life. The most moving tribute to the person that was Gauri came from her ex-husband and lifelong friend, Chidanand (Chidu) Rajghatta. The tribute went viral and touched countless people with its portrait of a unique friendship and of a woman who was – in his matchless words – the “epitome of Amazing Grace.”

For those of us who knew Gauri, Chidu’s post brought back a flood of memories. Back in the Delhi of the late1980s, we were all part of a loose, shambolic circle of friends – our days spent chasing stories or subbing copy (Chidu was in The Telegraph bureau; Gauri at the Times of India desk), our evenings meeting deadlines in rooms clouded with cigarette smoke, deafened by the now forgotten clickety-clack of furious typewriters; and every now and then meeting at one home or the other for a round of beers and endless banter. Although Gauri was the daughter of the well-known Kannada writer and iconoclast, P. Lankesh, she wore her legacy lightly. She did not talk much politics in those days but she exuded a certain spunk – her small, slight frame brimming with energy; her hazel eyes always sparkling with intelligence, and sometimes mischief. But her stand-out qualities even as a 25-year-old was a generosity of spirit and a nurturing instinct. She had no children of her own, then or later, but had a maternal side to her that came alive whenever she visited a friend who had a baby: she could spend hours holding and playing with the baby, even changing his nappies, that his own mother was loath to do.

As for her generosity, she always had time for friends, and even friends of friends – the Lankesh-Rajghatta home turning quickly into a shelter and a refuge for a host of young journalists cutting their teeth in a profession that was still more a calling than a career back then. Those who never knew Gauri personally, and even many of those who knew her in her earlier avatar before she took over the editorship of her father’s famous Kannada paper – Lankesh Patrike – after his death in early 2000, may find a contradiction between the two competing narratives about her, a disjunct between the happy-go-lucky journalist she once was and the crusading activist she was to become.

But the magic of Gauri Lankesh, the meaning of her remarkable life – no less significant than the chilling message of her horrific death – lies in the seamless fusion between the personal and the political; the inextricable entwining of a love of life with a deeply honed social conscience that was so atypical of our class, of our times. It was not always like this. The middle class in India – for all its vacillations and inconsistencies – was at the forefront of the freedom struggle… read more:

More posts on Gauri Lankesh

Gauri Lankesh: ‘Abnormality is becoming the new normal in Karnataka’ // ‘Murder of democracy, climate of hate, intolerance complicit’

A K Ramanujan works dropped from new DU syllabus

Over 10,000 at protest rally in Bengaluru, declare: I am Gauri // BJP Sends Legal Notice To Ramachandra Guha

“How dare they celebrate, this is our India, we will not allow this to happen.” People of Bengaluru defend Indian democracy

Anna Politkovskaya Award shared by Pakistani Activist and Gauri Lankesh

RAGHU KARNAD: Indian Liberals Must Die. Gauri Lankesh and the vernacular Indian left

The eloquence of silence – The choice is between speaking up and keeping quiet. By Samantak Das