BELAGAVI:Rationalist and scholar M M Kalburgi, who was shot dead by miscreants in Dharwad on Sunday, was a born rebel.
His radical thoughts, views, articles and speeches on religion had invited the wrath of the orthodox and also stoked controversies in the academic and cultural worlds.
Not the first time
This is not the first time that Kalburgi was attacked. In 1984, an article by him on the birth of Channabasavanna, the nephew of saint-philosopher Basavanna, had created much furore. People belonging to the Lingayat community had protested in front of his house at Dharwad and allegedly tried to attack him.
Several Veerashaiva leaders had proclaimed that they will boycott Kalburgi and his family from the community. However, following pressure from the community, he withdrew his statement and the row came to an end.
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His views on ‘Veerashaiva’ and ‘Lingayat’ also created a lot of controversies. He was critisised by the Panchapeethadhipathis (heads of the five major peethas). According to Kalburgi, Lingayats are not Veerashaivas and they are also not part of Hindu religion. Kalburgi’s views were not accepted by the Panchapeethadhipathis and their followers and he became the target of their criticisms.
Five years ago, Kalburgi’s statement on the admission to ‘vatus’ (bachelor students) to Shivayoga Mandir which trains ‘Jangama vatus’ as the future Mathadhipathis of Veerashaiva Mutts also created problems. His view was that admission to Shivayoga Mandir should be given to vatus belonging to all the Lingayat sub-castes. This led to miscreants manhandling him in Gadag. Kalburgi had once opined that all the Veerashaiva mutts should be acquired by the government.
He had said that the mutt swamijis should be transferred from one mutt to another every two years as practised in Christian churches. He believed that if a swamiji remains in a particular place for more than two years he will develop unnecessary interest in that particular place.
Last year, while speaking out against superstition, Kalburgi said that litterateur Dr U R Ananthamurthy had written that he had urinated on idols (it was a misquote: Ananthamurthy had actually talked about urinating on Ghost Stones as a child). This invited the wrath of traditionalists and some Hindu outfits who even threatened to ‘finish him off.’ Kalburgi even refused police protection saying that he feared none as he was clear in his ideology.
This is not the first case in Karnataka where miscreants have tried to silence the voice of an intellectual. On July 25, 2012, Linganna Satyampete, a firebrand writer and editor of a weekly ‘Agni Ankur’ from Shahabad in Bidar district, was found dead in a drain in front of the Sharana Basaveshwara Mutt at Kalaburagi. Linganna was critical of the Veerashaiva swamijis. Though the case was handed over to CID, till today, the assailants are at large. An intelligence officer told Express that they suspect that the assailants may be from Mangaluru. He said the killers are professionals and must be supari killers.
Kalburgi was born on November 28, 1938, at Yaragall, Sindagi, in Vijayapura district. He finished his primary education in Yargal, degree in Vijayapura and post-graduation in Karnatak University, Dharwad. He started his career as a lecturer in Karnatak College. Later, he became the head of Kannada Study Centre in Karnatak University. He rose to become the V-C of Kannada University, Hampi. He visited London, Cambridge and Oxford universities for research in manuscripts. A renowned scholar of the Vachana literature, Kalburgi was honoured with the Sahitya Akademi, Karnataka State Sahitya Academy, Nrupatunga Award and the Pampa awards.