By Sachin Jose
| Updated: August 30, 2015 11:00 IST
Kannada scholar Dr Malleshappa M Kalburgi was shot dead by two unidentified men on Sunday, 30 August, at his home in Dharwad district, 430km north of Karnataka capital Bengaluru.
Kalburgi, the former Vice-Chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi, was shot at his Kalyan Nagar residence at 8:40am, police said. He was rushed to the District Civil Hospital, where he breathed his last.
The attackers knocked on the door and when opened, they shot Kalburgi on the forehead and chest at a close range while he was speaking on mobile phone, reports said.
His daughter Rupadarshi stated that when she came out hearing the gunshot, she found him lying in a pool of blood.
He had recently requested the police to withdraw armed guards deployed at his house. The police are looking into the role of Hindutva terror outfits in the incident as several local saffron fronts had reportedly threatened him over his remarks on idol worship.
The reputed scholar, who was a member of the Advisory Board to the Kannada Sahitya Academy, was conferred with the National Sahitya Akademi Award in 2006 for his collection of research articles titled “Marga 4”.
Kalburgi was a close friend of Jnanpith award-winning litterateur, the late UR Ananthamurthy, who was a staunch opposer of BJP’s right-wing politics. In August 2014, when Ananthamurthy died, alleged members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the right-wing Hindu Jagarana Vedike were booked by the police for bursting crackers to mark his death.
He was a noted Kannada epigraphist and a renowned scholar of the Vachana literature. However, his scholarship on the Vachanas has come under acute criticism in the 21st century.
A controversy broke out in the early 80s over Kalburgi’s book, Marga-One, erupted. Religious zealots belonging to the powerful Lingayat community came down heavily on Kalburgi and he was forced to recant the allegedly derogatory references to the founder of Veerashaiva-the liberal Shaivism followed by Lingayats-Basavesh-wara, his wife and sister.
The denouncements grew louder among the community and he was summoned to a math in Hubli and forced to ‘recant’ a life’s work.
Kalburgi’s writings are a product of extensive research. Marga-One is a collection of papers on Kannada folklore, religion and culture. The controversy revolves around two articles which deal with Basaveshwara’s wife and sister.
Though Kalburgi had apologised to the Lingayat seers, the controversy continued, with the fundamentalists demanding that the book be proscribed.
A frustrated Kalaburgi had declared later that he would never again pursue any research on Lingayat literature and Basava philosophy.
Last year, Kalburgi’s comments at a public programme raised nany a eyebrows. Speaking at a programme on , Kalburgi had referred to remarks made by late Jnanapith awardee U R Ananthamurthy about idol worship in a collection of essays called “Bettale Puje Yake Kudadhu” (roughly translated as “Why nude worship is not acceptable”).
Kalburgi had stated that writer U R Ananthamurthy had once urinated on the idols of Hindu gods, to prove that they are not powerful.