The forces that killed Narendra Dabholkar, the founder of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (Committee for Eradication of Superstition) in 2013, the atheist and Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and CPI leader Govind Pansare in 2015 and rationalist and journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 have put Damodar Mauzo, well-known liberal Konkani writer, also in the list of their targets. Mauzo has been an ardent champion of rational values and social harmony. It is believed that Mauzo’s criticism of extremist Hindu organizations at a seminar at Dandi, Gujarat in January 2016 angered them. Mauzo said he was proud that he was from Goa, which stood for social harmony, but also ashamed that his state was the headquarters of an extremist organization whose adherents were suspected to be behind the murders of rationalists. The threat to Mauzo’s life came to be known during the interrogation of some suspects arrested by the special investigating team of Karnataka police probing Gauri Lankesh’s murder. The information was passed on by the Karnataka SIT to the National Investigation Agency, which in turn informed the Union Home Ministry that alerted the Goa government.
It is a pity that in a Goa where the worst of all battles is verbal, a free-thinking writer and Sahitya Academy award winner has to live under police protection. Goa had witnessed extremist violence in 2009 when Margao was rocked by an explosion on the eve of Diwali. Though attempts were made by the perpetrators of crime to foist the blame on a community, the death of one of those involved in terror attack in the blast exposed the nefarious game played by them. The investigation into the conspiracy was handed over to the National Investigation Agency, which despite having the expertise and resources failed to make a foolproof case against the perpetrators of crime and all the six accused in the blasts were acquitted for lack of evidence. Though no major incident has taken place in the state following the Margao conspiracy, the sudden revelation that one of the most popular Goan writers was the target of extremists has rung alarm bells. Goa’s DGP, IGP and SPs of North Goa and South Goa must keep their noses to the ground to smell anything that seeks to carry out the wicked design of harming Mauzo or anyone. After all, suspects interrogated by police do not always tell the truth or the whole truth. There may be others in Goa on target.
The threat to Mauzo has triggered strong reactions from politicians and writers in Goa. They have demanded a ban on the Sanathan Saunstha, a radical Hindu organization with whom some of the accused in the murders of Dabholkar, Kalburgi, Pansare and Lankesh were said to be associated. There have been similar demands made by various organizations that have been raising serious concerns about the toxic and lethal intolerance being spread by certain Hindu extremist forces in the country. Goa has banned the entry of radical Hindu group Sri Ram Sene leader Pramod Muthalik. However, it is not within its powers to ban an organization. That is entirely the jurisdiction of the Union Home Ministry. The call for a ban on Sanathan Saunstha or any other radical Hindu organization (such as the one whose members were alleged to have been involved in Gauri Lankesh’s murder) has to be taken by the Union Home Ministry. However, what the Goa government can and must do is prevent any act from being carried out that is a kick and insult to the Goan psyche, which places tolerance above all values. No group should be allowed to kill one campaigning rationalist, one vocal liberal, one ardent multiculturalist with the intention of filling the hearts of a thousand rationalists, liberals and multiculturalists with terror.
Mauzo has spoken out; he is far from cowed down. History has shown that violent protagonists of monoculturalism have always lost. Hitler killed millions of Jews, but who ultimately lost? – the Nazis. Hitler had to commit suicide in his bunker. All countries have seen organisations and secret societies partisan to a religion, a religious sect, a race, and an ethnic group rise and fall. They cannot last, because they are against the fundamental reality of human beings: no religious or ethnic group can survive in isolation. Co-existence has to be the universal norm. Such extremist groups as the ones that kill people for their views have to be fought at two levels. One, the police must remain alert and alive to protect the values cherished by our Constitution. Two, those who have an abiding faith in co-existence, tolerance, multiculturalism and scientific approach to things should come out and fight the forces of violent irrationalism.