Thursday, September 03, 2015

Rationalists, secularists' lives under threat in India: Writers, journalists who resist get killed

Rationalists and secularists' lives are clearly under threat.

People who speak up against fundamentalism are being targeted.

The trend is clear and it is frightening. Still, it wasn't realised and there was not much outrage until the latest killing in Karnataka.

The murder of Prof MM Kalburgi, that people realised how systematically 'rationalists' are being eliminated in India.

This is just like the secular bloggers have been attacked and killed in our neighbouring country.

The suspicion is that the right-wing extremists are behind these attacks and murders

In Bangladesh, several bloggers were targeted or killed. When there was threat, the police seemed indifferent initially. In some of the cases, the killers were arrested in Bangladesh. However, in India, in none of the cases, the killers have been identified or arrested.

This is a major difference in handling of the cases. It shows that our investigative agencies are either incompetent or not interested much in hunting down the killers. Isn't this worrying for us, who live in the world's biggest democracy?


Dr Narendra Dabholkar was a leading rationalist who was killed in Maharashtra. He was shot dead on August 20, 2013.

Dr Dabholkar, 67, was a campaigner against superstitions and spoke against ills plaguing the society. As a result, he often found himself against the fundamentalists. He was a founder president of the Maharashstra Andhashradhha Nirmoolan Samiti, and attacked the conservative forces.

Besides, he was involved in movement for justice for Dalits and the poor. He was killed in Pune. Almost two years have passed but despite initial 'leads', the police have failed to arrest the killers.


Govind Pansare, 82, an author, who wrote 21 books, was a trade union leader. He had participated in Samyukta Maharashtra movement as well as Goa liberation movement.

Pansare and his wife were shot in Kolhapur in Maharashtra on February 16 this year, when he was on morning walk. The modus operandi was similar as in Dr Dhabolkar's case. He too was shot.

The elderly communist leader succumbed to the injuries though his wife recovered later. Pansare was well-known for his best-seller on Shivaji. The book showed how Shivaji was being portrayed wrongly as a Hindu king who 'saved' Hindus from 'Muslim atrocities'. The Marathi book 'Shivaji Kon Hota' challenged the popular narrative about the king.

This biography tells reader that 1/3rd of Shivaji's army comprised of Muslims, and many of his commanders were Muslims. Comrade Pansare had opposed the right-wing attempts to glorify Nathuram Godse, who killed Mahatam Gandhi.


Prof. MM Kalburgi, a scholar, was known for his rational views in Karnataka. He was shot dead in his house in Dharwad  on August 30, 2015.

Kalburgi, a former vice-chancellor, had several run-ins with Hindu religious groups. He was an academician and rationalist who had written 103 books. Earlier also he had got threats because of his outspoken nature and his secular views.

However, when two persons knocked at his door on August 30, there was no cop at his door. They shot him dead and managed to escape. The police have no idea as to who was involved in the murder.

A Bajrang Dal leader who tweeted later to express happiness and even suggested who was next, was arrested but later released. He wasn't questioned either, as it was apparently assumed to be not linked to the conspiracy.

Dr Bharat Patankar

Activist-writer Dr Bharat Patankar has also received threat to his life. The president of Shramik Mukti Dal, Dr Patankar, received the threat after Govind Pansare's death.

He had received a letter in which he was accused of being conciliatory towards Muslims. He was told that after the two killings (Dabholkar and Pansare), he was next. The copy of a right-wing group's mouthpiece was sent with the letter. The police failed to trace those who sent the letter.

Prof. KS Bhagwan

Prof. KS Bhagwan, 70, is a rationalist, and a writer. He is a friend of MM Kalburgi. After Prof Kalburgi was murdered, Bajrang Dal leader Bhuvith Shetty tweeted that now it was the turn of Bhagwan.

The tweet said that anyone mocking Hindus would die a dog's death. Prof Bhagwan had earlier spoken about anti-Shudra references in Gita. Now, the security of Prof Bhagwan has been increased.

In neighbouring country, bloggers have been killed. Bloggers who speak against fundamentalism, have been targeted. Niloy Neel was hacked to death in Dhaka recently. Ananta Bijoy Das was attacked in Sylet. Also, Avijit Roya, Ahmed Rajib Hyder and Wasiqur Rahman have been murdered. The killings led to nationwide outrage. However, in some cases, the killers have been arrested. 

[Note: This photograph used in this post was updated later. Gauri Lankesh was killed in September 2017.]