MYSURU/NEW DELHI: The next bullet after journalist Gauri Lankesh was for Professor K.S.Bhagawan as the Karnataka police interrogation of Hindutva gunrunner KT Naveen Kumar has now revealed. A fact confirmed by Bhagawan, 74, to The Citizen with the startling revelation that he was on their target, according to all reports, “and am still alive only because the Karnataka government provided me with security cover. Otherwise I would have been gone six months ago, it would have been all over.”

“ I have survived because of the love and affection and support I have got from all over,” he said.

The Professor, well known for his works questioning blind religiosity and superstition, said that Gauri Lankesh was killed as the conspirators could not get to him. He said that he had been at the receiving end of threats and abuse ever since he wrote a book on the first Shankarcharya. “I have some knowledge of Sanskrit and when I examined his works I found he was a hater of mankind,” Bhagawan said, clearly undeterred by the threats that make life uncertain and vulnerable for him and his 70 year old wife. Clearly the book has many readers, and as he pointed out it is running in its 19th edition and has been translated in a number of languages.

Asked if he was worried or afraid, he dismissed the idea. “Not at all, a while ago my wife told reporters asking her if she was fearful that life is uncertain for everyone, one can die today or tomorrow, and it is better to have died for a cause,” he said. And then laughed with, “when I heard her say that since then I have been very courageous and have lost all fear.”

Bhagawan was categorical about his complete dislike for religion that he felt divided human beings, and came in the way of rationality, peace and harmony. He said he was completely opposed to hatred, superstition, discrimination.

The Professor was categorical that he was working along the lines of the Constitution of India that directed citizens to promote rationality, scientific temperament and reforms. “I am not against any community or any one religion, I am opposed as religion has bifurcated humankind and needs to go,” he said.

The first accused nabbed in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, Naveen Kumar, according to the Karnataka Police, has revealed a plot to kill Professor Bhagawan. A team had been dedicated for the purpose, he was under ‘surveillance’ of the assailants, and a weapon was being identified for the ‘job’. But as Bhagawan said, these people have been trying to “get rid of me for a long while, and when they could dispose me off, they targeted and killed Gauri Lankesh.”

Others who have been killed before Gauri Lankesh, with the assailants still at large include rationalists Narendra Dabholkar on August 20, 2013 in Pune, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Govind Pansare on February 16, 2015 in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, and M.M. Kalburgi on August 30, 2015 in Dharwad, Karnataka. The Karnataka police claim that the gun used in some of these cases and in Lankesh’s brutal murder was the same.

Intelligence fingers point directly at the Sanatan Sanstha, a radical Hindu group, that was set up by one Jayant Balaji Athavale in 1999. It has been particularly active in the Karnataka-Maharashtra belt and virulently opposed to rationality and atheism. The group has been reported to be inv0lved in at least four bombing cases in Vashi, Thane, Pavel and Goa (between 2007-2009) and subsequently in targeted assassinations for which it has felt the heat. However, in 2015 the BJP government at the centre informed the Rajya Sabha that there was no move to ban the Sanstha, as there were no links between the above murders and the organisation.

This is the first time that the investigation seems to be moving forward, with Naveen Kumar still in custody. The Karnataka government has claimed that it has solved the Lankesh murder case, and will be revealing the linkages and the facts “soon.” Interestingly a group of lawyers have come together under the Hindu Vidhidyna Parishad (HVP) to fight for “Hindus framed in false cases” and were present in the court, according to media reports, when KT Naveen Kumar was produced. This group has defended the Sanatan Sanstha in the past.