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Kannada writer Bhagwan booked for allegedly ‘outraging’ religious feelings

Mangaluru: An FIR has been registered against rationalist free-thinker and Kannada writer KS Bhagwan, who is facing the wrath of fringe rightwing outfits and threats to his life, for allegedly ‘outraging’ religious feelings.

Police said the FIR was filed at a police station in Dakshina Kannada district based on a complaint against the writer whose utterances on Hinduism and Hindu Gods have come under vicious attacks from fringe rightwing outfits, prompting police to provide security to the Mysuru-based writer.

Sections 295 (A) and 153 (B) of IPC have been invoked against Bhagwan, they said. While 295A relates to deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs, section 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration).

“Wonderful....I'm ready to face, let the law take its own course,” Bhagwan told PTI reacting to the FIR. He said that “in the name of religion, the reactionary elements have wounded our feelings; they feel the suppressed sections of the society don't have feelings because they are mostly mute.”

In his complaint, Shyama Sudarshan Bhat, a resident of Hosamoole in Belthangady in the district, alleged Bhagwan as also some other writers had made derogatory references to Hinduism and Hindu Gods at a function held in Bengaluru on September 19, hurting the religious sentiments of the people.

He alleged they had spoken ill against the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and also Hindu Gods and made disparaging remarks about Lord Rama and even said those who read the Bhagavad Gita will become terrorists. The remarks had hurt Hindu sentiments and were against the law and a punishable offence, the complainant said.

Home Minister KJ George, during a visit to the city on September 8, had said it had not come to his notice that Bhagwan had made any derogatory statement against Hinduism. If a complaint came up, police would register an FIR, he had said.

Several hate messages had appeared in the social media against Bhagwan of late for his controversial remarks. Seventy-year old Bhagwan, a retired English professor in Mysuru, is a recipient of many awards including the Karnataka Rajyotsava award.

Meanwhile, a man working as a hostel warden and priest has been arrested at Hubballi in north Karnataka for allegedly making threat calls to Karnatka Sahitya Academy for choosing Bhagwan for annual honorary Awards for Lifetime Achievement for 2013.

The arrested person was tracked down yesterday through the mobile phone used by him, police said on Wednesday. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Bengaluru Central) Sandeep Patil said the man was produced before a court and remanded to judicial custody.

Following the announcement of the award, to be presented to Bhagwan and others on November 7 in Dharwad, Sahitya Academy had complained about receiving the threat call.

Academy officials had also said they had received several abusive calls for choosing Bhagwan for the award, following which police had provided security to the literary body.

Recently, a letter threatening Bhagwan was delivered to his residence at Mysuru, which came close on the heels of the murder of another noted Kannada progressive thinker and scholar MM Kalburgi in Dharwad.

Bhagwan had earlier incurred the wrath of right-wing activists for allegedly disparaging the Bhagavad Gita while speaking at a programme in Mysuru in February this year.

Earlier, a Bajrang Dal local activist was arrested in Dakshina Kannada district, a day after Kalburgi was gunned down on August 30, for allegedly posting remarks on Twitter threatening Bhagwan for his derogatory remarks on Gita.

Meanwhile, an online petition addressed to the President of Karnataka Sahitya Academy, the Chief Minister and the Governor of Karnataka seeking reconsideration of the awardees list for changes and rectification has got over 9,100 supporters.

The petition under the heading 'Karnataka Sahitya Academy awardees list must be reconsidered for changes and rectification' was signed by an individual named Rohith Chakrathirtha three days ago.

"It is our rightful demand and appeal with the Academy to strike off Bhagavan's name from the published list. It is clear that not because of intellectual and academic excellence and dexterity he is enlisted, but because of hurting the faith of majority Hindus by his maligning and thoughtless statements," the petition states. (With inputs from agencies)