Dr. Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, a veteran Rationalist and former Vice Chancellor of Hampi University in Karnataka was shot dead yesterday by unidentified men, who barged into his house in Dharwad district of Karnataka and shot him after a heated arguments.In past, he had spoken openly against idolatry in Hinduism and was served death threats in past. He had received several awards including Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award (2006), Kendra (Central) Sahitya Akademi Award, Janapad Award, Yakshagana Award, Pampa Award, Nrupatunga Award, Ranna Award, Basava Puraskara (2013), Vachana Sahityashri Award (2013) and Nadoja Award.
He was born on 28 November 1938 in Yaragal village of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency (now in Sindgi taluk of Bijapur district, Karnataka) of British India to an farmer family of Madivalappa and Gowramma. He received primary school education from government schools in Yaragal and Sindgi, and high school education from a school in Bijapur. He received Bachelor of Arts degree from Bijapur postgraduate degree from Karnatak University, Dharwad with a gold medal. He received a PhD in Kannada for his thesis titled “Kavirajamargada Parisaradalli Kannada Sahitya” (Kannada literature in the environs of Kavirajamarga).
In his early days of career, he taught in the Kannada Department at Karnatak University where he was promoted to Professor in 1962 and was appointed Head of Department in 1982. He also served as the Vice-chancellor of the Kannada University, Hampi.
In 1989, he was caught amidst a controversy over derogatory references to Lingayat founder Basavadev, his wife and sister. Amid pressure from various religious groups,he was forced to retract.
In June 2014, addressing a seminar on Anti-superstition Bill in Bangalore, Kalburgi cited U. R. Ananthamurthy’s 1996 book Bethale Puje Yake Kudadu, (“Why nude-worship is wrong”) in which the writer narrated his childhood experience of urinating on idols as an experiment to see whether there would be divine retribution. This led to protests from the right-wing groups including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sena.
He was provided special police security initially, which was removed upon his request in August 2015. On 30 August 2015, Kalburgi was shot by 2 unidentified gunmen at his residence in the Kalyan Nagar locality of Dharwad at around 8:40 in the morning. The gunmen entered his house posing as his students. When his wife Umadevi, went inside to fetch coffee for them, one of the men fired two rounds at Kalburgi. The bullet hit his forehead and chest. An ambulance was called and he was taken to a private hospital from where he was referred to District Civil Hospital of Dharwad, where he was declared brought dead.