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The Four Thorns in Sanatan Sanstha’s Flesh

Yogesh S |
As per the SIT, the group headed by Amol Kale had plans to assassinate playwright Girish Karnad, Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami of Nidumamidi Mutt, and rationalists K.S. Bhagavan and Narendra Nayak.
Rationalists under threat

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Wednesday, which also happened to be the first death anniversary of activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh, revealed that a group headed by Amol Kale, arrested in connection with Lankesh’s murder, also had plans to assassinate Girish Karnad and Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami of Nidumamidi Mutt from Bengaluru, and rationalists K.S. Bhagavan in Mysuru and Narendra Nayak in Mangaluru, immediately after Gauri Lankesh. The investigation of Amol Kale, a former convener of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) by the SIT of Karnataka, has established the fact that the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh were ideologically motivated; and have brought to light a larger conspiracy to silence the voices against Hindutva politics.

The investigations have shown that the Sanatan Sanstha and its volunteers had a full-fledged plan to kill all those who opposed their idea of a Hindu Rashtra. During the course of its investigation, the SIT recovered two lists from Kale containing names of 34 targeted individuals who had publicly condemned Hindutva politics. One of the lists named Karnad, a well-known playwright and activist from Karnataka, followed by Lankesh. The second list had 26 other names. KS Bhagwan, BT Lalita Naik, Veerabhadra Channa Mallikarjuna Swamy of Nidumamidi Mutt, C S Dwarakanath, Yogesh Master, Chandrashekhar Patil, Banjagere Jayaprakash, Patil Puttappa, Nataraj Huliyar, Baraguru Ramachandrappa, Chennaveera Kanavi, Narendra Nayak, and S M Jamadar.

The four names that the SIT revealed on Wednesday, have been attacked in the past by Hindutva outfits in the state...

Read More: Assassin’s Creed: Hindutva-supporters’ Network Planned Several More Killings

Why Were These Four Targeted?

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Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad a Jnanpith, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awardee had on several occasions attacked Hindutva forces. One such occasion was a public gathering in Mysuru in 2004. He noted that none of the scriptures mentioned words like Hinduism and Hindutva, and also pointed out that these words were RSS ideologue Veer Savarkar’s contribution to carry out their regressive politics. On another occasion in 2015, Karnad had said that had Tipu Sultan been a Hindu, he would have enjoyed the status that Shivaji enjoys today in the pages of history. These instances had enraged the extremist Hindutva groups and resulted in him being attacked.

The playwright has been a staunch critic of Hindutva forces.

Read More: The Systematic Persecution of Rationalists

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Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami

Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami is the pontiff of the Nidumamidi math, a Veerashaiva Lingayat seminary in Gulur of Kolar district. The pontiff and the math follow the philosophy of 12th century philosopher Basavanna. M M Kalburgi, who researched the philosophy, argued that Lingayats, the followers of Basavanna, were not Hindus. Lankesh, a Lingayat, also advocated this. Both Kalburgi and Lankesh were assassinated for their support to the LIngayat movement that demanded independent religion status for Lingayats.

Saffron-clad Chennamalla Swami does not represent anything that the saffron robes in today’s India have come to embody. On the other side,  he and Nidumamidi Math have had a strange relationship with the rising saffron-clad advocates of Hindutva ideology. On July 25, 2015, Swami in Davangere had said,

“Children or young people are often ordained as swamis. At their age they have no idea of what ascetic demands are or what renunciation is all about. It has not been possible even for people meditating in the Himalayas to achieve complete celibacy. They have strayed at times. They are riddled with questions and have had to battle paradoxes. When such is the case, how can we expect our swamis, who live a life of luxury in maths, which have come to resemble palaces, to practice celibacy? Including the Nidumamidi math, there is no 'satvik' environment left in any of our seminaries to practice celibacy...”

The SS  and its affiliates aim to establish a HIndu Rashtra by building armies and killing their enemies. For them and Hindutva forces in general, a saffron-clad swami critiquing Hindutva outfits is the real threat.

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K S Bhagavan

“It’s (Hinduism) a religion that has flourished disintegrating people based on the four-fold caste system,” was what K S Bhagavan, Kannada writer, had said in response to threats by Bajrang Dal and other Hindutva forces. Bhagavan had in 2015 had said that the Bhagavad Gita was a sectarian text which legitimises discrimination. Enraged by this, the Hindutva forces had threatened him but he refused to apologise. Speaking to The Hindu newspaper about these developments, Bhagavan had said,

“After attaining Independence, they did not try to educate the masses on the drawbacks of religion. There was this euphoria of freedom. Only the communists attempted to do this in a small way. The ignorance of religion by the masses is now being exploited by fundamentalists.”

A staunch critique of the exclusionary politics and ideology of Hindutva, he has on several occasion been attacked by the likes of Bajrang Dal.

Read More: Rationalist Narendra Nayak Under Threat

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Dr. Narendra Nayak

The president of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations and a godman debunker, Nayak has earned enemies from among the superstitious and religious fanatics. There have been reports of various attempts made in the past to eliminate Professor Narendra Nayak, a notable rationalist, based in Mangalore.

Professor Nayak’s name was seventh in the hit list that was released on the internet following the murders of Pansare and Kalburgi. He has been facing death threats and has been attacked in the past – the reason why he has also been given protection. Speaking to Newsclick, Nayak recollected talking to Lankesh about her safety. He says, “Gauri had laughed it off by saying, nothing like that would happen. I do not know if she was remarking on the threat to her life or denying the protection.”

Nayak says the first time he received a threat was nearly three decades ago. He, along with several others, had moved the High Court of Karnataka challenging the grant to the land to a mosque at Mangalore Harbour. Such a grant, Nayak had argued, would open the floodgates for a number of such demands. He had obtained a stay order from the court, following which, he had received death threats and was also attacked on number of occasions. He has been provided a gunman by the police since July 2016.

Questioning the existence of god, ghosts and other supernatural powers is seen as a threat to the religious belief system. Rationalists, who invoke science to explain and debunk superstitions, are the enemies of SS which is a factory of superstitions. SS, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), hundreds of gau raksha samitis, and networks of named and unnamed Hindutva organisations, that pledge for Hindu Rashtra, are functioning fearlessly in the country now. With the patronage of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government, these organisations continue to carry on with their terror activities in broad daylight.

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