Saturday, June 11, 2016

Rationalists, intellectuals killed: Right-wing extremist group's member arrested for murder, outfit was under scanner for terror links in past

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
Rationalists, writers who have been speaking against communalism and bigotry have been facing threats and got killed. 
The list has grown over the years. Intellectuals who spoke against fundamentalism and who were either creating awareness in the society through their writings or taking a strong stand have been 'systematically silenced'.
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.
Finally, the central bureau of investigation (CBI) has made an arrest in the case of Dr Narendra Dabholkar's murder.
Virendra Tawade, a member of the Hindu Jagran Samiti (HJS), which is an off-shoot of right-wing radical group Sanatan Sanstha, has been arrested. Tawade was arrested by the CBI sleuths from Panvel, reports Indian Express.

"Tawade was also in contact through emails with Sarang Akolkar...absconding in the Goa blast case of 2009", report says. Akolkar has a red corner notice issued against him by the Interpol in connection with the terror case. Though Sanatan Sanstha members have been arrested for their role in bomb blasts in the past, it hasn't been banned as yet. 
The State police had suspected its role in the murders of rationalists and secularists.
But they made no arrest. Congress was in power in Maharashtra then and also UPA was at the helm in the Centre. But the group was not banned. In fact, state Congress leaders claimed that they sent report but Union home minister said that he didn't get it.
The High Court had asked the CBI to conduct probe. Now the CBI has made its first arrest in this case. Rationalists and secularists like Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi [Karnataka] were murdered while Prof KS Bhagwan and Dr Bharat Patankar were threatened.
[Note: A part of this post was updated later. Gauri Lankesh was killed in September 2017.]