(SabrangIndia website)


Is Criticizing Prime Minister Modi Now A Crime?


B.P. Mahesh Chandra Guru walked out of the jail late on the evening of June 24 after getting bail only to receive a suspension order from the Mysore University administration that cities his ‘criticism of Prime Minister of India, HRD Minister and Vice Chancellor in foul and derogatory language” as the reasons for the action against him.  Inquiries made by SabrangIndia reveal that this is the matter before a judicial enquiry that is pending.


Here is a timeline of several campaigns, critical to the evolving Dalitbahujan discourse, that clearly appear to have irked organisations committed to a upper caste Hindu theocracy:


On June 17, a Mysore court had remanded Prof Guru in judicial custody in a one-and-a-half-year-old case. A Hindutva organization had lodged a complaint against Professor Guru on  January 3, 2015 saying that he had “insulted Lord Ram”. Taking note of another old case, the court had turned down his bail application on June 20. That brought into limelight the earlier complaint against him by C.H. Ramu, vice-president of the SC Morcha of Karnataka BJP. He was accused of abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani. According to media reports, it was a meeting of the university syndicate on June 21 that took a decision to suspend professor Guru.


The issue that is critical to the debate is whether, a professor and an academic who was present in court needed to be sent to jail. It is clear that a hegemonic and authoritarian regime at the centre is not able to tolerate the growing dissent from those sections of the Dalit Bahujan intellengentsia who stand clearly against the RSS’ aim of a Hindu thoercratic state. This is even as RSS makes all out attempts to co-opt both Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and his followers, Dalits.


In the budget session of parliament, a big row kicked up by the Union Human Resources Development Minister over the so-called “insult of Goddess Durga” in Parliament.In Hyderabad, Prof Kancha Ilaiah was booked for “hurting the feelings of Hindus” and an attempt was made to arrest him. In Manpur town of Chhattisgarh, Vivek Kumar, central convener of All India Mulnivasi Central Sangh, was arrested after he posted a comment on Devi Durga on his Facebook wall. Hinduvadi miscreants had indulged in vandalism on the issue and called for a bandh. The police picked up Vivek Kumar saying it feared an eruption of violence. He was released on bail recently after a 70-day incarceration. And now has come the harassment of Prof Guru.


What are the cases against professor Guru? 


A professor of media studies, professor Mahesh Guru has been part of many academic institutions and commissions in Karnataka besides being a well-known rationalist and social activist. He has been active on many fronts against both religious hypocrisy and what he has analysed as Brahmanical mythology. This has led to the registration of the three cases against him.


Recently, professor Guru, who describes himself as a protagonist of Bhim Raj, had criticised Ram (the Indian mythological character and God for many caste Hindus) while speaking on “Media and Human Rights” at a UGC-sponsored workshop for teachers in Mysore University on January 3, 2015. He had said, “The Ram of Ramayana had violated human rights. He suspected the fidelity of Sita, who was pregnant, and harassed her. I consider this a violation of human rights.” He had added, “The media was presenting Ram as an ideal character, which was not right for the people.” It was after this speech that Karnadu Sarvodaya Sena lodged an FIR against professor Guru. Incidentally, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s famed work, Riddles in Hinduism  makes the same trenchant critique of Hindu mythology and beliefs.


Opposing the Gita


In February 2015, Professor Guru had participated in a programme organised by some social activists in which the Bhagwad Gita was to be burnt. On this occasion, he had said that the Gita sanctified the Varna (caste) system and was a “treatise of exploitation”.  He had qualified this by saying that simply ignoring the scripture and not attaching any importance to it would be better than burning it, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had a case of “hurting religious sentiments” registered against him and three other professors.The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) also held a protest demonstration against Prof Guru, Prof Bhagwan, Prof Arvindamgatti and Prof Bangere Mahesh. It was when this case was brought to the court’s notice that it had refused bail to Prof Guru on July 20.


Statement against Modi and Smriti Irani?


In January 2016, at a meeting organized to protest against those responsible for the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, professor Guru described Narendra Modi and Smriti Irani as anti-Dalit and called upon the Dalit students to struggle for justice. He had also criticised India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. This had led to C.N. Ramu, a Dalit BJP leader, and then general secretary and the present vice-president of the BJP State SC Morcha, lodging a a complaint against him with Benguluru Police. Later Ramu claimed that that he had merely sent a written complaint against professor  Guru to the police commissioner of Bengaluru and governor of the state and that he didn’t have a case filed against him. When asked why, despite being a Dalit, he was opposing the anti-Brahmanism campaigns of Guru and the professor’s efforts to secure justice for Dalit students, Ramu said, “Dalit intellectuals should not issue statements which spread animosity in society.”


Mahishasur Martyrdom Day celebrations


In 2015, Professor Guru organized the celebration of Mahishasur Martyrdom Day in Mysore. Describing Mahishasur as a Buddhist ruler, Guru told the gathering that Mysore was called Mahisha Mandala in the past and that he considered Mahishasur his ancestor. This had also antagonised organisations who are strong votaries of Hindutva. According to Prof Guru, “Mysore has also been referred to as Mahisha Mandala, Mahishuranadu, Mahishanadu and Mahishapura. A predominantly agrarian state, Mahisha Mandala had a large number of buffalos that were used for cultivation, dairy and other purposes. Hence, Mysore was also called Erumaiyuran, which means a land of buffalos. The Buddhist and Hoysala literatures contain a lot of information about Mahisha Mandala.”


It was this advocacy of Dalitbahujan traditions that has turned Hindutva organisations against professor Guru. After his release from jail, Dalitbahujan thinkers of Mysore held a big reception for him.


Published on: June 27, 2016

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