A young Dalit writer of a book critiquing the Hindu caste system was abducted and assaulted by goons on Wednesday night in Karnataka, where Left-leaning ideologues and rationalists have become constant targets of right-wing groups.
Writer Huchangi Prasad told Hindustan Times on Friday that his assaulters kept calling him a traitor for writing against the Hindu faith despite being a Hindu. “When I told them that I am a Dalit and not a Hindu, they smeared vermilion powder on my face.”
The attack at Davangere in south Karnataka came barely two months after Left ideologue and Kannada author Prof MM Kalburgi was shot dead by an unidentified gunman at the doorstep of his home. Like Maharashtra-based rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, who was murdered in August 2013, 77-year-old Kalburgi too had run-ins with right-wing Hindu groups for his strong independent views on social and religious matters.
“The assault on Prasad reconfirms our fears that anything can happen any time to one of us,” said Mysore-based writer and Kalburgi’s friend KS Bhagwan, who is under police protection following threats to his life.
Also, it came at a time of heightened tension in the country over an arson attack on a Dalit family that killed two children in Haryana’s Faridabad.
Prasad’s attackers were angry over his book, Vadalu Kicchu (The Pain Inside), which was released by Bhagwan at its April launch.
Prasad said a man approached him on Wednesday evening at the SC/ST hostel on the Davangere university campus where he studies and told him told him that his mother was very ill.
The writer said he agreed when the man offered to take him to her, but instead he stopped at an isolated spot where others were waiting for them. They allegedly took turns to punch and kick and one of the assailants was about to stab him with a knife when he somehow managed to flee.
“I hid in a shrubbery for hours before finding help. I want to again tell my attackers that my name may sound Hindu but I am not a Hindu. I am Dalit and we are not like other Hindus. Like Babasaheb (Ambedkar) I might have been born a Hindu but I will not die a Hindu,” the shaken but furious writer said.
A case has been filed against unidentified attackers but no arrests were made yet.
Prasad said the attack strengthened his resolve to write against the caste system. “For the first few hours I was scared. But then I thought that what I suffered is nothing compared with what Dalits face every day. Unlike millions of Dalits in this country, I am university educated. I have a responsibility,” said the writer whose parents are day labourers in a small Davangere village.