wasn’t surprised when informed of the threat to my life. I hadn’t received any direct threat from any quarters. But apparently, my name figures prominently in the hit list found with the killers of Gauri Lankesh. No one had to tell me from where the threat originated. Though a fiction writer, I have consistently criticized the religious orthodoxy prevailing in the society that tries to pseudo-rationalise the mythical beliefs. I have voiced my agony over the lynching episodes in the name of protection to cow. I am critical of the present dispensation for their silence over the injustice meted out to the Dalits and minorities. I am a proponent of Right to Freedom to eat, dress and speak as long as you remain within the constitutional frame. I am a great admirer of India’s legacy that invented zero, that discovered the wonders of astronomy and the concept of cosmos, that taught us the way of peaceful coexistence. I have always championed the right to freedom of expression. My idea of India is what I have formulated by imbibing the values enshrined in the Constitution of India. I have no hesitation in condemning any discrimination in the name of religion, caste, community or hierarchy. I have always spoken of the current leadership that poses a threat to the nation’s plurality. I have been opposing tooth and nail the attempts by right wing outfits to promote mono-culture that defies inclusiveness. Apparently, the fundamentalists don’t like this liberal line of thinking that is toed by many writers who are vocal about their stand. This is evident by the recent statement made by the BJP MLA of Karnataka, Basangouda Patil Yatnal, who, on July 26, 2018, claimed that intellectuals should be shot because they were allegedly ‘destroying’ the country. I am yet to hear any strictures issued by the party against him.
Those killed so far, by the fundamentalists who are believed to be right wing activists, include the head of the Andhashradha Nirmulan Samiti, Dr Narendra Dabholkar, writer and activist comrade Govind Pansare, writer and thinker Prof M M Kalburgi and dare devil journalist Gauri Lankesh. All these were eminent thinkers known for their rational and liberal views. They consistently attacked the right wing extremism. They have paid the price with their life.
When Dabholkar case was investigated one Sameer Gaikwad was arrested from Sangli. According to the police reports, Gaikwad was a member of the Sanatan Sanstha since 1998. During the joint investigation following the assassinations of Pansare and Kalburgi the Maharashtra and Karnataka Police found the involvement of another man called Rudra Patil. Patil was also allegedly a member of the Sanatan Sanstha and is an accused in the 2009 Goa blast case. In all the above killings the needle of suspicion points towards the Sanatan elements. This precisely irritates me as a Goan who takes pride in the communal harmony that exists in this State. Any attempt to disgrace Goa from any quarters, whether in the name of Hindutva or Islam or Christianity or any other cult, needs to be deplored and that is precisely what I have been doing.
I am of the firm opinion that if the bomb blast incidence in Margao was properly investigated and brains were brought to books immediately, subsequent deaths could have been avoided. Due to the shoddy investigation of our agencies, they have failed in their duty and hence we find this rise to the threat to the lives of the champions of freedom of expression.
Now that I have been threatened, many in Goa want to know, what is it that has infuriated the right wing terrorists? Yes, it is difficult to pinpoint one. Take any of my stories like Monxeanchya Ganvant or Burger and the recent one Mhaka Kityak Poddlam which is on lynching. More importantly, my writings are mostly about the stifled voice of the subaltern. Like my fellow Konkani writers, I write about the sufferings of the people on the margins. A story has the capacity to reach out to the people more powerfully than speeches, I believe. I have, therefore, maintained a determined balance of the written word and the spoken one. Probably, some of my speeches have enraged the extremist elements.
I was overwhelmed by the concern and love expressed by my fellow writers and friends within Goa and also outside, in the wake of the prevailing situation. The Central Sahitya Akademi has come out with a strongly-worded statement condemning the threat to my life and in support of free speech. Yet another development is the Supreme Court judgment, that has come out a couple of days back, reiterating its commitment to freedom of expression. Nothing can be more reassuring.
Well, this is not the first threat to my life. I had my first massive heart attack in 1991. I survived it. After a gap of six years the second one caught me off guard. I survived it. I had to rush to Mumbai for a bypass surgery when angiography detected five major blocks. The next threat came my way in 2007 when cancer, the most dreaded disease, decided to strike me off. I survived the threat. And now yet another is knocking at my door. With security people around, like doctors and nurses then, I have the same feeling of hospitalisation, thus ensuring me that I shall survive this threat as well.
(Damodar Mauzo is a Konkani writer and winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award. His name figures in a hit list of writers that was uncovered during investigations into the Gauri Lankesh killing.)