The Mandya police have summoned and questioned writer Hampa Nagarajaiah, 86, popularly known as Hampana, over the critical remarks he made about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the farmers’ protests. The police were acting on a complaint lodged by an RSS activist.
A group of writers and retired judges have issued a statement calling this ‘an attack on freedom of expression’, even as the Congress has demanded that Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa apologise to the scholar. Dr. Nagarajaiah, inaugurating the Taluk Sahitya Sammelana in Mandya on January 17, had criticised the PM on the handling of the farmers’ protest at the Delhi border.
RSS activist Ravi lodged a complaint against the writer at Mandya West Police Station, prompting the police to summon Dr. Nagarajaiah to Mandya. “In no way was my statement derogatory. As a citizen of this country, I do have a right to be critical of the government and that is no crime. At this age, the police insisted I go to Mandya and face the inquiry over frivolous charges and that has pained me. This is an attack on freedom of expression,” Dr. Nagarajaiah said. His daughter H.N. Arati said the family had also received a few uncivil calls objecting her father’s statement.
Venkatesh, sub-inspector, Mandya West Police, refused to divulge details. “Whenever there is a petition against someone, it is our duty to seek their explanation, which we have done. We have booked no case against the writer,” he told The Hindu.
A group of citizens – writers including Baragur Ramachandrappa, G. Ramakirshna, Raghunandana and retired jurists V. Gopala Gowda, Nagamohan Das and A. J. Sadashiva – have written an open letter criticising the police move.
KPCC president D.K. Shivakumar said it was shameful that the BJP had tried to stifle the voice of a reputed scholar and thinker, just because he was critical of the Centre. “This is not just about Hampa Nagarajaiah, it is an insult to Kannada literature and writers,” he said.
T.A. Narayana Gowda, president, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, said in a statement, “Karnataka boasts of a glorious tradition of writers as public intellectuals, who have spoken on behalf of the people whichever be the government. Any attack on this tradition is an attack on the constitution and democracy.”
Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar and Parashurama K., Superintendent of Police, Mandya, are learnt to have called the scholar and regretted the police action.
“The Minister and the SP said police at the lower rung had acted in haste and they regretted it,” Dr. Nagarajaiah said.