One year since he was shot dead, Kalburgi’s murder remains a mystery


Exactly a year ago, on August 30, 2015, rationalist and Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi was shot dead at his house in Kalyan Nagar in Dharwad. Even now, the assailants remain unknown and the investigation seems to have hit a dead-end. The 77-year-old scholar was the third rationalist to be murdered in two years.

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At 8:40 am two unidentified persons who came on a motorcycle knocked on the door of the Dharwad home of Kannada scholar, rationalist and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, the 77-year-old M M Kalburgi. Shortly after Kalburgi’s wife Umadevi opened the door, one of the two men who was at the doorstep fired two bullets from a 7.65 mm country made pistol at the scholar. Kalburgi, regarded highly for his progressive views, was dead before he could be rushed to hospital.

One year after the murder of Kalburgi, there is no sign yet of investigating agencies finding his assailants despite a general direction being achieved in investigations due to some outstanding work by scientists at the Karnataka Forensic Science laboratory.

The biggest finding in the Kalburgi murder case, being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Karnataka police, so far is the fact that the 7.65 mm pistol used for the killing is the same gun that was used for the murder of 81-year-old Maharashtra rationalist and leftist thinker Govind Pansare in Kohlapur on February 16, 2015 by two unidentified men. The forensic analysis has also revealed that one of two guns used to shoot down Pansare was also used to kill another Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on August 20, 2013 by a pair of unidentified men.

The finding was given by experts at the Karnataka Forensic Science Laboratory after the CID through court orders obtained bullets and cartridges gathered as evidence for th e murders of Pansare and Dabholkar for forensic comparison.

What the forensic analysis of the bullets and cartridges from the three murders revealed to the CID was that the murders of the three rationalists are inter linked – giving credence to the theory that the three progressive thinkers were targetted by a common set of assailants who could not tolerate their rational world views.

With the three cases tied together by the forensic evidence – albeit a final confirmation from Scotland Yard – it was assumed that investigations in the Kalburgi case would progress fast. What has happened in reality is that the Karnataka CID since finding that the three cases are linked have begun to rely heavily on the CBI finding the killers in the Dabholkar case and the Maharashtra SIT finding the killers in the Pansare case in order to take the Kalburgi case forward.

The CBI probe in the Dabholkar case and the SIT probe in the Pansare case has so far pointed to the involvement of members of the extreme right wing Hindutva outfit – the Sanatan Sanstha. The CBI recently arrested a key Sanatan Sanstha activist Dr Virendrasingh Tawade as a key conspirator in the Dabholkar murder and identified a Sanstha member Sarang Akolkar as a key missing element in the murder. The CID has acknowledged Tawade as a key element in the assassination plots but have not sought his custody for lack of sufficient evidence to link him to the Kalburgi murder.

Finding the killers in the Kalburgi murder case seems to be now dependent mainly on chance factors and the CBI’s efforts to track down several missing Sanatan Sanstha members like Sarang Akolkar known to be involved in criminal activities like the Margao blast of October 19, 2009.