DHARWAD: “You can silence me, but you cannot silence the truth.” Hundreds gathered at the residence of late scholar M.M.Kalburgi in Dharwad on his first death anniversary from where they took out a silent march. It ended in a public meeting at the RLS College grounds with the demand for the arrest of those who killed him.

The wives and family members of other slain rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare also participated in the march.

The shocking murder triggered a campaign that saw several writers returning State honours, in a move that shook the government that had its trolls attacking the literary figures on the social media. The writers then, and the marchers today, demanded arrests and a speedy trial, the right to freedom of expression and an anti-superstition bill. No headway has been made on any of the demands.

Meanwhile in a statement many members of the Indian Writers Forum including historian Romila Thapar and writers Keki Daruwala and Nayantara Sehgal issued a statement:

On August 30th, it will be a year since scholar M. M. Kalburgi was murdered. Over the year, there have been innumerable responses of outrage, as well as demands from academics, cultural practitioners, activists and citizens that

a) the Karnataka state government complete the investigation and arrest the murderers; and

b) the central government, and all state governments, take adequate steps to ensure that there are no more attacks on Indian citizens because of what they write, think, eat, their religion (or the lack of it), caste or gender.

It is a matter of grave concern to us that such attacks continue, and in newer forms every day. Discrimination against dalits and minority communities has only become more brazen and open. Freedoms – of thought and expression, of scientific enquiry and of rational dissent – continue to be stifled. More and more, it appears that only those who subscribe to the ruling ideology are safe to practise their daily lives as Indian citizens.

On this occasion of a rally and silent march on August 30th, we recall the words in one of Kalburgi’s plays: “You can silence me, but you cannot silence the truth.” We call on all citizens of conscience to join their voices to ours when we demand that never again will one of our people be attacked for their work, beliefs, lifestyles, or the community they belong to. Ensuring this is the government’s job, not policing Indians’ lives.

A Goa based Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha is said to be responsible for the assassination of the three rationalists--Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on August 2013, Govind Pansare, in Kolhapur in February 2015 and last year of M.M.Kalburgi. Reports in the media have claimed that the three murders have been linked through forensic evidence by the Criminal Investigation Department probe in the Kalburgi case. The Hindu has further reported:

“Ballistic reports by Forensic Science Laboratories, Bengaluru, showed that 7.65 mm country-made pistols were used in all three incidents. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing Dabholkar’s murder, is waiting reconfirmation of this from tests conducted by Scotland Yard, London.

The first breakthrough came when the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Maharashtra police probing Pansare’s murder arrested Sameer Gaekwad, a Sanatan member. He has now been charged, and the SIT is on the lookout for others involved.

Meanwhile, the CBI has arrested Veerendra Tawade, an ENT specialist and member of the Sanatan Sanstha, who is accused of arranging weapons and logistics.

The CID in Karnataka is still waiting to interrogate Tawade in the Kalburgi murder case. It is now confirmed that neither Tawade nor Gaekwad pulled the trigger though both are believed to be conspirators.

Investigators have identified two other Sanatan members — Vinay Pawar and Sarang Akolkar — suspected to have carried out the attacks, who are absconding. The CID is also on the look out for one Rudra Patil, another sadhak an accused in the 2010 Goa blasts. His presence at Kalburgi’s house was allegedly corroborated through a sketch by witnesses.”

After the 77 year old scholar was killed by two men claiming to be his students in his own home, several writers returned the awards in a gesture of solidarity and protest. It was a long and eminent list including Hindi writer Udai Prakash who was the first to write to the President of Sahitya Akademi, and when it did not respond he returned his Akademi award. He was followed by Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece Nayantara Sehgal at the age of 88 years, and then 40 others including, 91-year-old Krishna Sobti who also renounced her Sahitya Akademi fellowship; Gurbachan Bhullar, Surjit Patar, Waryam Sandhu, Manglesh Dabral, Rajesh Joshi, Ashok Vajpayee and Ganesh Devy. Scientists, filmmakers, artists all joined in despite the strong attack on them by the RSS, BJP and affiliates. Many received threats, and were abused on the social media by an army of trolls.