Girish Karnad: An activist who fought for liberal values
As a public intellectual, Girish Karnad was known for his trenchant criticism of right-wing politics, and those opposed to rational ideas.
Despite his declining health, Karnad led a protest march after Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh was murdered in 2017. His name was on the hit list of a right-wing group which allegedly shot Lankesh, the Special Investigation Team that probed her murder, had revealed. At an event marking her first death anniversary last year, Karnad, who attended wearing a nasal tube, had a placard around his neck that read ‘Me too Urban Naxal’, a reference to the tag that came into circulation after it was used to describe the activists and intellectuals like Sudha Bhardwaj and Varavara Rao, who were arrested in connection with their alleged involvement with the violence at Bhima Koregaon, Maharashtra in January 2018.
In April, shortly before the Lok Sabha polls began, Karnad was one of the 600 theatre personalities to sign a public statement, urging people to not vote for the BJP or its allies. The statement argued that the idea of India and its Constitution were under threat. When a controversy raged over the Karnataka government’s decision to celebrate the birth anniversary of Tipu Sultan, the 18th century ruler of Mysore, Karnad claimed he was the greatest Kannadiga in the past 500 years. This statement had earned him the ire of right wingers.
“He was a humanist most of all and never backed down from speaking his mind if he saw any injustice. He was a very secular person and was very concerned about the situation of the minority communities,” KS Nissar Ahmed, a Padma Shri award winning Kannada poet, said.