Dharwad (Karnataka): Renowned Kannada scholar and former Hampi University vice chancellor M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead on Sunday by unidentified assailants here, sparking protests across Karnataka, police said.
Kalburgi, 77, was shot in the forehead from close range when he opened the main door of his house in Kalyan Nagar suburb, Dharwad police commissioner Ravindra Prasad told reporters here, about 430 km north of Bengaluru.
The bleeding Kalburgi was rushed to the civil hospital where doctors declared him dead.
"We have registered a murder case and formed a six-member investigation team led by a deputy police commissioner to hunt down the assailants," Prasad said.
According to a witness, two people came to Kalburgi's house on a motorbike around 9 a.m. and sped away after committing the crime.
The heinous incident sent shock waves across the state, with writers, critics and activists staging protests against the sensational turn of events in the twin cities of Hubbali-Dharwad.
"We are examining CCTV footage of Kalburgi's house, area and road on which the suspects fled in a bid to nab them," state Inspector General of Police (IGP) Umesh Kumar told reporters after visiting the victim's residence.
As news spread about the daring attack, hundreds of people including students rushed to the Karnataka University campus where his body was brought for the public to pay their last respects.
Though Kalburgi was controversial for his independent views on social and religious matters, he was a noted epigraphist and a well-known writer of old Kannada literature, especially Vachana literature.
He was born in Yaragal village in Vijayapura district of north Karnataka in 1938.
Kalburgi was a recipient of many national and state awards, including the Sahitya Akademi award, Nrupatunga award and Pampa award.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who expressed shock over Kalburgi's death, air-dashed to Dharward from Bengaluru in a chopper and paid last respects to the departed writer.
Terming Kalburgi's death a terrible loss to the literary world, noted Kannada writers Barguru Ramachandrappa, K. Marulasiddappa and Girish Karnad condemned the gruesome attack and mourned the scholar's death.
"Kalburgi was a bold writer and feared none. He was known to create controversies and make sharp observations against certain practices and beliefs which he thought were superstitious," Karnad told reporters in Bengaluru.
A close associate of Kannada's legendary critic late U.R. Ananthamurthy, Kalburgi was critical of idol worship and mocked at rituals and blind beliefs.
"Kalburgi was known to create controversies many a time and criticise certain practices and beliefs. Even if people differed with him and his ideology, killing him is not acceptable," Ramachandrappa lamented.
Former chief minister and opposition leader Jagadish Shettar of the BJP urged the state government to order a judicial probe into Kalburgi's killing.
"It's a great loss to the Kannada literary world. The guilty should be brought to book and justice rendered," Shettar told reporters here after paying homage to the departed soul.