Kannada scholar and writer M M Kalburgi was killed on August 30, 2015, by a radical right-wing group over a speech he made in June 2014 in which he referenced an essay by Jnanpith award winner U R Ananthamurthy, a Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka Police has stated.
The SIT, which filed a chargesheet in a Dharwad court on Saturday against six persons linked to the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha group for the killing of the scholar, said in a statement that Prof Kalburgi, 77, was targetted by the group over a June 9, 2014, speech made in Bengaluru at a conference to debate a law on banning superstitious practices in Karnataka.
“In his keynote speech, he (Kalburgi) had referenced a passage from a book written by Dr U R Ananthamurthy and had made certain observations,” the SIT said.
“On the basis of this speech, the accused persons identified Dr M M Kalburgi as a “durjan” (evil person) as preached in the Kshatra Dharma Sadhana (a book published by the Sanatan Sanstha). They all jointly hatched a conspiracy to murder Dr M M Kalburgi in furtherance of the achievement of their goals and executed it,’’ the SIT said in an official statement placed in the chargesheet filed Saturday.
In June 2014, participating in a discussion on the topic ‘Towards a superstition-free society’, as part of a debate on ‘Enactment of Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Bill, 2013’ held at Vigyan Bhavan, Bengaluru, Kalburgi had started by quoting U R Ananthamurthy that urinating on idols of Gods would not attract retribution.
Kalburgi was shot dead at his house in Dharwad on the morning of August 30, 2015, by a person who knocked on the door and asked for him. The shooter escaped with a motorcycle rider who was waiting at the gate while the murder was carried out.
The SIT has identified Ganesh Miskin, 27, a resident of the neighboring Hubli town, as the shooter of the scholar and Praveen Prakash Chatur, 26, a resident of Belagavi city, located around 150 km away, as the rider of the motorcycle.
The others named for the murder in the SIT chargesheet are Amol Kale, 37, a former convenor of the Sanatan Sanstha’s Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and key leader of the extremist group; Vasudev Suryavanshi, 29, a motorcycle mechanic who stole a bike used for the murder; Sharad Kalaskar, 27, the alleged shooter in the Dabholkar murder who dumped the guns used for the murder; and Amit Baddi, 27, a close Hubli associate of the alleged shooter Miskin who provided logistics for the murder.
Kalburgi’s identification as a `durjan’ or evil person by the radical group follows on the lines of police findings in the murders of the Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 67, and Karnataka journalist Gauri Lankesh, 55, who were also allegedly identified as `durjan’ by the extremist group for speeches and statements deemed to be inimical to their belief system.
The probe in Karnataka and Maharashtra of the murders of Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Lankesh and the leftist thinker from Maharashtra, Govind Pansare, 81, between 2013 and 2017, were first linked together by ballistic evidence which revealed that Lankesh, Kalburgi and Pansare were fired at with one 7.65 mm country gun while a second gun used in the Pansare murder was used to shoot the rationalist Dabholkar in Pune.
Other than the motorcycle rider Praveen Chatur, the five others named in the Kalburgi chargesheet are among 18 charged in the September 5, 2017, murder of Lankesh. Miskin, the alleged shooter in the Kalburgi case, was earlier identified as the rider of the motorcycle used in the Gauri Lankesh shooting.