Bangalore, Sept. 22: Rationalist writer K.S. Bhagawan, who angered the BJP and Sangh parivar affiliates by criticising the Gita and Hindu beliefs, has alleged phone threats a day after a government academy in Congress-run Karnataka decided to honour him.
Bhagawan, under security for the past few weeks since close associate and fellow rationalist M.M. Kalburgi's killing in the state, received 20 abusive and threat calls yesterday, according to his police complaint in hometown Mysore. Two of the calls came from the same number. The police have asked the telecom service provider to furnish call details.
The Karnataka Sahithya Academy, which on Sunday picked Bhagawan as one of the five litterateurs for its honorary lifetime achievement awards, also received 20 threat calls yesterday.
"One caller threatened me with dire consequences if the award is not withdrawn immediately," academy registrar C.H Bhagya said in his complaint with Bangalore police.
The caller identified himself as one Raghupathy from Hubli in northern Karnataka. "He lampooned us for choosing Bhagawan for the award and said he (the writer) was anti-Hindu," Bhagya said.
Bhagawan could not be reached for comment as his phone was switched off. One call from The Telegraph went through, but was quickly disconnected. The writer had earlier said he couldn't keep his cellphone on after having received a few such calls.
"This is totally unacceptable in a country like India which is supposed to be secular. It is an unprecedented attack on free thinkers, writers and rationalists," said Kannada author Chandrashekhar Patil.
But Bhagawan's adversaries continued to issue threats. Siddalinga Swamy, state convener of Sree Rama Sene - the outfit behind the 2009 pub attacks in Mangalore - has said he will "cut off their tongues if they don't stop insulting Hindu gods". He accused the Congress government of creating a "vicious atmosphere" by choosing Bhagawan for the award.
Pramod Muthalik, the group's president, threatened to sue all writers who blamed his organisation for the killing of Kalburgi, a former vice-chancellor of Hampi Kannada University.
State BJP president Prahlad Joshi and senior party legislator Suresh Kumar also slammed the academy's decision to honour Bhagawan.
In February this year, Bhagawan had described the Gita as "unholy", saying some of its verses describe women and Dalits as sinners. Bhagawan had justified his conclusions as based on research.
Mysore assistant commissioner of police C. Mallik cited Bhagawan's complaint to say the writer and his family had been going through a "trauma" because of the repeated threat calls.
After Kalburgi's August 30 killing, a Bajrang Dal activist had warned that Bhagawan would be the next target, prompting the police to provide him the cover. The activist, Bhuvith Shetty, was arrested but later released on bail.
One of the most respected Kannada writers, Bhagawan's translations of Julius Caesar and Hamlet among other works of William Shakespeare are regarded as his biggest contribution to local literature.