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Murder of Rationalist Kalburgi and Lingayat Caste Politics

pansare_dabholkar_kalburgi_fanaticsGuest Post – Samvartha Sahil


The exact reason for the murder of M.M. Kalburgi is yet to be known but an attempt to understand our times through the prism of Kalburgi’s murder leaves my heart numbed, jaws dropped and blood boiling.

While most of the radical and liberal intellectuals of Karnataka are suspecting the hands of the right wing Hindutva forces the Hindutva fringe celebrating the murder of M.M. Kalburgi substantiates and strengthens the belief of the radicals and liberals.
What irked the right-wing Hindutva people was the strong opposition M.M. Kalburgi posed to superstition, idol worship and also his stance on Hinduism not being a religion at all.
Amidst all the fingers pointing at Hindutwa politics, thinker Prof. Marulasiddappa is of the opinion that Lingayat caste politics, more than Hindutva politics, could be the reason behind the murder of M.M. Kalburgi, which is something that cannot be ruled out.
The community of Lingayats have had disagreements with M.M. Kalburgi since late 1980’s. His research on Basavanna, his wife Neelambika and his nephew Channa Basavanna angered the Lingayat community and he received death threats which forced him to make a few changes in his published works which he called, with great pain, an “intellectual suicide.” He faced the wrath of the Lingayat community in the later years also with his claim that Lingayats are not a part of Hindu religion. He also would point out at the differences between Lingayats and Veershaivas which again pricked the people of the community.
The views of Prof. Marulasiddappa are similar to that of Prof. H.S.Shivaprakash who points out that M.M. Kalburgi’s brush with Hindutva politics is recent in comparison to his friction with the Lingayats.
But what cannot be ignored is also the role of Lingayats in forming the first ever BJP government in Karnataka nearly a decade ago. And the politics of Hindutva to bring all communities under the Hindutva fold and its attempts to have “Hindu” as a single unit without giving any scope for multiplicity and diversity within. The position of M.M. Kalburgi about Hindu not being a religion and Lingayats (a huge vote bank for BJP) not being Hindus, without doubt, caused trouble and posed threat to the politics of Hindutva. We must also see the socio-political developments in the last two decades where every community has become communalized and has started to perform to this single definition of Hinduism as defined by Hindutva.
One of the areas of expertise of M.M. Kalburgi was the world of Vachana literature which was produced as a part of the social movement of 12th century in Karnataka with Basavanna as its key figure. What we need to also look at is the attempt being made in the realm of Kannada literature and academia, in the recent times, to spiritualize Vachanas and de-contextualizing it from its social-political history.
The reason this politics around Vachanas needs to be remembered and invoked at this point because the ‘spirtualizing’ of Vachanas and de-contextualizing them from their socio-political history is also an attempt of colonizing the voices (of dissent) of communities and thus bringing communities under the single banner of one religion for political reasons. It is also an attempt to iron out the sub-cultures and counter-cultures and bring everything under the fold of a main-stream culture for the benefit of a fundamentalist and fascist politics which does not encourage or appreciate different view points different positions than that which it stands for and is extremely intolerant of them.
Had the historian Hobsbawm been alive and was writing about this phase of history he probably would have called it the AGE OF INTOLERANCE.
Since the actual reason for the murder of M.M. Kalburgi is not known yet and since the chances of the reason being personal cannot be ignored yet, nothing can be said specifically. But amidst all the voices coming in – of celebration, of accusation, of assumption- what I understand of our the times we are living in, I repeat, leaves my jaws dropped, my heart numbed and my blood boiling.
Last words: May be, the real threat to fascism, fundamentalism (and also capitalism) is the celebration of sub-cultures and counter-cultures which will refuse to come under the hegemony of homogenization.
author can be contacted [email protected]

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