Hindu radicals in the Indian state of Karnataka, such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, recently demanded the arrest of rationalist writer KS Bhagwan for his derogatory comments on Hindu texts and gods. Addressing the press last week, VHP leader MB Puranik said that the state government and the police were supporting Bhagwan despite his audacious remarks and even after a Hindu radical had lodged a complaint against the writer at the local police station.
In his complaint, Shayama Sudarshan Bhat, alleged that the rationalist, along with other writers, had made insulting remarks about Hinduism at a function on September 19 and in turn, hurt the religious sentiments of those present. He said that the writers were on a mission to attack the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvad Gita and an entire list of Hindu gods. Warning that such comments break the law and qualify as a punishable offences, Bhat went on to lodge a complaint against Bhagwan. Soon, rightwing outfits were further accusing Bhawan of having outraged religious sentiments.
Sections 153 B and 295 A of the Indian Penal Code have been registered against the writer, confirmed police officials. While the first section relates to assertions and imputations that are prejudiced towards national integration, the second relates to deliberate and vindictive acts that are intended to hurt religious sentiments.
“Wonderful... I'm ready to face, let the law take its own course,” Bhagwan told the media, while reacting to the complaint.
On September 8, during his visit to the state’s capital (Mysore), Home Minister K J George said he disbelieved the notion that Bhagwan had made any derogatory comments, especially with regards to religion. Yet, 71-year-old Bhagwan has been receiving a lot of flak from Hindu organizations for his rationalist remarks about Hinduism, with some radicals sending him hate messages and even making threatening calls. He is currently under police protection at his residence in Mysuru.
Recently, a threatening letter was delivered to Bhagwan’s residence, warning him to stop commenting on religious topics. Earlier, a Bajrang Dal activist was arrested for threatening the writer on his Twitter profile. In the meantime, the warden of a local hostel –who also happens to be a Hindu priest– was arrested for making threatening calls to Karnataka Sahitya Academy, which had nominated Bhagwan in 2013 for its annual honorary award in the Lifetime Achievement category. Sandeep Patil, deputy commissioner of police, confirmed that the accused had been produced in court and remanded in judicial custody.
Also, a petition, seeking the revision of a new awardees list that includes Bhagwan’s name, has been launched. The petition, addressed to the president of Karnataka Sahitya Academy, the Chief Minister of Karnataka as well as the Governor of the state, managed to acquire more than 9,000 signatures within a few days.
“It is our rightful demand and appeal with the Academy to strike off Bhagavan's name from the published list. It is clear that not because of intellectual and academic excellence and dexterity he is enlisted, but because of hurting the faith of majority Hindus by his maligning and thoughtless statements,” the petition states.
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