By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
As Karnataka polls were declared last week, the police administration in Mangalore was quick to withdraw the security provided to eminent rationalist and President of, Federation of Indian Rationalist Association ( FIRA) Dr Narendra Nayak since 2016. Dr Nayak has been not merely active promoting rationalism and scientific thinking all over the country but he has also been associated with the consumer movement for the last five decades.
The decision of the Mangalore police came a rude shock to Dr Nayak, who has been under constant threat like many other rationalists such as Narendra Dabholkar, Gauri Lankesh, Govind Pansare and Dr Kalburgi.
If our memories have not faded, then we can understand how the humanist-rationalists became a ‘threat’ to the very idea of hatred and superstition. They became a target of hatred who felt most of their work is against Hindutva while the fact was that all of them were devoted to reasoning and rationality. The first to have been assassinated was Dr Narendra Dabholkar who had been working against superstition and wanted an anti-superstition law in Maharashtra. He was assassinated on August 20, 2013, in Pune.
The next person in line was Comrade Govind Pansare who was murdered on February 20, 2015. M M Kalburgi was the next one to get assassinated at Dharwad, Karnataka on August 30, 2015. Gauri Lankesh was killed on September 5, 2017 in Bangalore. The investigations to all these have rarely seen the light of the day. Yes, we will know some day people get released in the absence of any ‘proof’.
There has been threat to others and as Karnataka is the laboratory of South, we saw threat by the same group to noted Kannada writer K S Bhagwan. Dr Narendra Nayak says he has been the target of hatred and intimidation and that is why he had been provided police security since 2016.
He says, ‘the gunman provided to me by the police from June,2016 has been removed with effect from today. I had not asked for this security at any time but it was said to have been provided following threats to the lives of us prominent rationalists. Narendra Dhabolkar was murdered in 2013 and after that Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. About a month ago, I had a letter from the DCP of Mangalore police that henceforth I should pay for the security provided. While I had not asked for it and I am not a wealthy person to pay for my own protection as mentioned in that letter. I had replied in writing to the same stating all the facts after meeting the concerned person.’
In March first week, he got a letter from the DCP, Mangalore, Shri Anshu Kumar, informing him about the withdrawal of security and asking for advance payment if that is needed. It seems that the police administration wants him to pay for his security which is difficult for a person who is a pensioner. He has not been informed whether the threat perception has diluted or does not exist. Anyway, it is the duty of the administration to convince him about this but asking for advance payment for security only prove that the issue is not any dilution of threat perception but related to the payment of the security.
Threats to activists exposing murder case of RTI activist Vinayak Baliga
The fact is that the threat perception on Dr Narendra Nayak continue not merely for his work against superstition and rationalism but due to his active involvement in exposing the forces behind the murder case of RTI activist Vinayak Baliga. He says, “There are a number of extremist elements out to get me for my work as a rationalist and to uphold principles of secularism human and democratic rights. Right now, the trial of the RTI activist Vinayak Baliga is going on and witnesses have complained to the court that they are being threatened.”
He contnued, “This is the case in which I had played a major role in getting the proper investigation done and real culprits prosecuted. The people behind this are very politically powerful individuals and are supposedly threatening the witnesses. Dr Nayak played an important role to get the culprit exposed. Vinayak Baliga was murdered in March 2016. As the trial began in June 2016, says Nayak, ‘I was called by Sri Chandrashekar, the Commissioner of Police for
Mangalore and he informed me that police protection would be provided for me. I did ask the reason and he said nothing specific. However, keeping in mind the state of affairs and the murder of Pansare and Kalburgi I accepted the same.
Because of my involvement in the exposure of the Vinayak Baliga case, I have also received threatening messages from devotees of Kashi mutt one of whom threatened to eliminate me. A FIR was filed at Urwa Police station but was later transferred to Juvenile court because the first part of it was made a few days before the accused attained the adult age. Later on, in March,2017, when I was going to the swimming pool early in the morning, an attempt was made on my life and I escaped because I was quick and did not stop. After that, the security was enhanced to 24 hours with two gunmen on duty and it has continued ever since.
Again, during investigation of the Gauri Lankesh murder by the SIT, newspapers have carried a write up about how a
chit with four names with the person assigned to carry out the task of eliminating each was discovered. My name was among the four and the same one who had shot Gauri had been assigned to end my life too.”
Dr Nayak have mentioned all these things in his letter to the Shri Anshu Kumar, DCP police who had asked him to make payment for his security. He is not in a position to make any payment for his security but the fact is he need protection as has been provided by the police. National Human Rights Commission need to look into the issue and ask for an explanation from the Mangalore police.
It is deeply distressing that, despite knowing the threat perception, he is being asked to pay for his security or withdraw. Dr Nayak is an asset for any society that believe in humanism and based on scientific temper. He has been consistently carrying out training programmes, lectures, workshops, seminars on exposing the myths and irrational practices which endangers lives of millions of people. We have seen how people love to see his miracle
exposure programmes in the villages.
Free thinkers, humanists and rationalists are not a threat to society but provide vibrancy to democratic values and civilised behaviour. They bring reasoning and rationality in any discussions and are not merely religious hater as being projected. Most of the humanists have always spoken against discrimination based on religion and caste discrimination and untouchability. In today’s world when religion is being used to punish people and create
majoritarian discriminatory view points, it is humanism and rationality that will save the world.
One is hopeful that Mangalore police as well as Karnataka government would provide ample security to Dr Narendra Nayak so that he can move around without any fear and continue to do what he has been doing over the years. If the police feel that the threat perception does not exist, then it must explain to him and must take responsibility of anything happening to Dr Nayak but the administration cannot and should not ask him to pay for his security. Hope good sense will prevail and the administration will review its decision and will reinstate the security provided to him earlier.
(Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a political analyst and human rights activist. He is based in Delhi. He tweets @freetohumanity)