Karnataka wants CBI to probe rationalist M.M. Kalburgi's murder

Bengaluru: Karnataka on Monday decided to ask the CBI to investigate the heinous murder of renowned Kannada rationalist-scholar M.M. Kalburgi at Dharwad on Sunday and expose elements behind the attack.

"We have decided to refer the case to the CBI as the heinous act seems to be a handiwork of fringe elements with inter-state ramifications," Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told reporters here after the cabinet recommended handing over the probe to the premier investigation agency.

The 77-year-old former Hampi University vice chancellor was shot dead by two unidentified people at his residence in Dharwad, about 430 km from Bengaluru in the state's northern region. "If the CBI agrees to investigate this crucial case, we will hand it over to it and extend cooperation for justice to Kalburgi.

Whoever is behind this, we will catch them and punish according to law," Siddaramaiah asserted. Till the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) responds, the state's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) will take over the case from the special probe team the Dharwad district police had set up on Sunday evening to hunt down the assailants.

Working on leads, police have stepped up their hunt for Kalburgi's killers. "We are hoping for a breakthrough as our probe team is working on leads and clues from the crime scene with the help of CCTV footage obtained from the vicinity," Dharwad Police Commissioner Ravindra Prasad told IANS earlier in the day.

A six-member special team was set up under Deputy Commissioner of Police A.S. Ghori to investigate the fatal shooting of the septuagenarian at his residence on Sunday morning. "Footage from a closed circuit television (CCTV) of a bank branch in the residential area is being scrutinised, in which two youths were seen moving on a motorbike in a suspicious way in Kalburgi's residential area before and soon after the crime," Prasad said.

The attack shocked the people, sparking protests across the state and condemnation from fellow Kannada litterateurs, artistes and film personalities. Even as Kalburgi was controversial for his independent views on social and religious matters, he was a noted epigraphist and well-known writer of old Kannada literature.

In view of the threat perception from fringe elements and right-wing Hindu activists over his derogatory remarks and profane views on religious beliefs and idol worship, police had provided security to him over the last four-five years. "His security cover was withdrawn last year on Kalburgi's insistence, as he wanted to be accessible to all as a public figure in literary and social milieu," Additional Director General of Police Alok Mohan told IANS.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people bid a tearful adieu to Kalburgi as his body was laid to rest with full state honours at the Karnataka University's burial ground after it was brought in a procession from the KCD College where it was kept since Sunday night to allow the public to pay their last respects. Kalburgi's widow Umadevi, son Shrivijaya and three daughters -- Poornima, Pratima and Roopadarshi -- were present at the funeral.

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