On Sunday, August 30, 2015, Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, an Indian literary scholar who taught Kannada language classes at Kannada University, and had previously served as the school’s vice chancellor, was shot and killed at his home in Dharwad, in southern India, by unidentified gunmen.
Professor Kalburgi had been an outspoken critic of certain religious groups, and of practices including idol worship and Brahmanical rituals. In response to his work, he has received repeated threats, including an incident in 1989, in which he published and was then forced to retract a scholarly article on a religious sect’s founder, after the article reportedly led to threats against him and his family. In 2014, Professor Kalburgi had openly criticized idol worship and superstition at a public event, apparently leading to continued threats, as well as attacks – specifically, rocks and bottles were reportedly thrown at his home. As a result, in late 2014 or early 2015, Professor Kalburgi was placed under police protection. In August 2015, he reportedly requested that this protection be withdrawn, and on the morning of Sunday, August 30, two armed men reportedly entered Professor Kalburgi’s home, shot him at point blank range, and left the scene on motorcycles. Police have reportedly not yet identified any suspects in the attack.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted killing of a professor. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and institutional autonomy. State officials have a responsibility to ensure the security of higher education communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators accountable.