By Prof. Narendra Nayak
Mangaluru, May 13, 2016: The GSBs are a hard working intelligent, enterprising community. Having been subject to innumerable migrations and displacements, the most recent one being four centuries ago from Goa they have learnt to adapt to surroundings and thrive under even hostile conditions. Though I am not a religious or even practicing GSB my parents were born in that community.
The GSB community in Mangaluru had been split upon a number of issues, disputes between the followers of seers of Kashi mutt, the controversy about the renovation of the Venakatramana temple and such. I have never bothered about those except a few times one of them being the pollution of the tank at the temple tank colony three decades back which was purely on environmental damage. I have been very critical about some of the attitudes of the community. But the recent brutal murder of Vinayak baliga on the 21st of March, 2016 brought me into the picture as there were many needles of suspicion pointing at some of the community being behind the murder and the professional killers being hired by them. This was confirmed when the prime accused one Naresh Shenoy, head of an organization called as Yuva brigade absconded. A look out notice and a non bailable warrant has been issued against him and some others. As stated by the police commissioner of Mangaluru city, he is to be interrogated along with the others to find out who are the others behind the crime.
Till recently only some of us belonging to various secular, progressive organizations and some activists including the RTI activists have been following up the issue and have had various agitations as a sign to the various political parties and vested interests that the Baliga family has support from us. No GSB organization, Hitarakshana vedike, Bhajana mandali or any GSB ‘community leaders’ came to the help of the Baliga family.
Since he was the sole bread winner, his aged parents and unmarried sisters have no one to provide for them they are neither in a position to fend for themselves or to seek justice for his murder. Perhaps that must have been realized by the masterminds behind this murder. None of you bothered to visit the commissioner of police or Baliga’s house or issue a statement to the press asking for speedy investigations into this matter and the quick arrest of the culprits. But, the moment newspapers published a report about one Vishwanath Bhat a top functionary of the Kashi mutt arrested you swung into action lodged protests, called meetings and acted as if the heavens have collapsed.
The mistake was that this person had been summoned for questioning by the police and not arrested. No one has cast aspersions on the GSB community as a whole. Just because the main accused is a GSB does not mean that the community was attacked and it is a fact that Vishwanath Bhat is an employee of the Kashi mutt and he has been questioned by the police.
An FIR has been registered at the Urwa police station no.043/2016 against one Shashank Shenoy who has made threats against me and has claimed that he is a devotee of Kashi mutt. I have not made any mention of the mutt in my complaint. You have also made a statement that the GSB community has full faith in Venkataramana and will pray for justice which he alone can deliver. If that was the case you could have done the same about the issue of news items in the media. There was no need to complain to the police and issue press notes. Perhaps that hint must be only applicable to the Baliga murder issue!
Those who went on a delegation to the police commissioner have acted as if they are the only ones bothered about the welfare of the community! They are trustees of the temple and devotees of the Kashi mutt. As every one know the GSB community has affiliations to three of them Kaivalya and Gokarn mutt being the other two. Even those who are the trustees of the Venkatarmana temple at Car street, Mangaluru are elected to be the care takers of the temple. The Bhajana mandalis and so called Hitarakshana vedikes are unregistered bodies. The trustees of the temple have even claimed that uttering a word about the temple affairs would amount to contempt of court!
Well, late Vinayaka Baliga had filed cases against the perceived irregularities in the administration and utilization of funds of the temple, he had also challenged the transfer of a large part of land belonging to the temple to Kashi mutt, he had also demanded transparency in the day to day administration and financial affairs of the temple and had also proposed a scheme for that.
One has to wonder why any mention of these would amount to contempt of court! Perhaps making such threats would shut the mouths of those who would like to question the administration. I am also told by the family members of Vinayak Baliga who were present at the meeting held on the 9th May at Konchadi that his murder was blamed to divine retribution for having committed the sin of questioning the temple administration! I was also told that a few ‘dushta shaktis’ were being blamed for bringing disrepute to the temple administration and the Kashi mutt.
Let me remind you that a murder of a GSB whose mastermind accused no.1 who is a GSB where as it appears to be revenge for questioning the affairs of a temple in a court of law is enough and more to ‘enhance’ the reputation of a community. It does not need any others to do that. As for your claims of religious sentiments being hurt- hope they were not hurt when a devotee was murdered in cold blood on the way to the temple by hired killers on the orders of the accused no 1 who is a GSB himself and is now at large evading the long arms of the law. I also fail to understand that as how investigations into a crime by the authorities in charge of law and order can amount to ‘defaming’ a community or a mutt or temple.
We are also told that one of the Tantris of the temple has given a clean chit to the accounts maintained. If that is the case we have to wonder as to why the court has appointed a chartered accountant for a re-audit of the accounts! Perhaps that statement of one who is connected to the temple which is a party to the suit could amount to contempt of court which you have been threatening people with! Let me once again remind you that India is not a theocratic or a religious state like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia where religious preachers and institutions are a law unto themselves.
In India all citizens are equal and subject to laws of the land. None can claim immunity to them. I have been already threatened with dire consequences for daring to question the self appointed leaders of the community. I will continue to do so regardless of such because Baliga deserves justice. His family has told me to inform the GSB community and its so called leaders that they are in no need of your charity and they are capable of taking care of themselves. They need justice and if you people stand for justice for the GSB community help them for that. He was murdered on the 21st March and it is nearly two months now.
I have also come to know that there have been proposals to take to the streets to protest. It would be wonderful to do that. That would bring the issue to the attention of more and more people. I do hope that you would organize a meeting or a protest or hand over some memorandum to the administration for speedy justice for Vinayak Baliga instead of trying to protest the due process of law. If you are truly interested in the welfare of the GSB community you would do that than protest imagined attacks on the community. Remember that you the so called leaders of the community are being questioned and that is not an attack on the community. Though, the huge majority of the community are silent as of now the seething resentment against the injustice done to Vinayak Baliga will erupt sooner or later. When the flood hits lots of deadwood will be swept away. All your efforts to ‘protect’ the interests of the community against the attacks are self proclaimed grievances.
I have almost never involved myself in the affairs of the community so far. But, when there is a murder and people try to support the accused than the victim it would be a crime to remain silent. In my four decades of public life I have taken up many issues and fought many battles. I should say this is the first time that I have had to take on the so called leaders of the GSB community. I would welcome any of you to a debate at a public place or a TV channel to discuss these issues. None of you were willing to participate when invited to panel discussions in which I was there. You have been on TV channels with people of your own group supporting each other and trying hard to convince the gullible viewers. Please note that these one sided so called panel discussions have been flops and people have seen through your designs.
I want justice for Vinayak Baliga and whoever that may be behind the crime face trial for the dastardly crime that has been committed.
Professor Narendra Nayak is an internationally renowned rationalist and consumer activist. He is the incumbent President of Federation of Indian Rationalists Associations (FIRA). Through his famous myth busting crusade of over three decades, he has been relentlessly fighting against the culture of superstition in society and the exploitation of the gullible in the name of religion, while at the same time advocating the nurture of scientific temper and humanism among the masses. Following the brutal murder of RTI activist Vinayak Baliga, he has launched a public campaign for gaining justice for the victim, demanding speedy investigation, exposure of the motive for the murder and arrest of the culprits by the authorities.