Is Karnataka catching up with north India in persecuting civil society activists? is this the first of a series of actions to come? is there more to it than meets the eye? These were the first thoughts that came to my mind as I heard about the detention and subsequent arrest of Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy.
I have now known Murthy for nearly 7 years. I think we first met in one of the early meetings with political activists of Karnataka during the formative phase of the Aam Aadmi Party. I have always admired the richness and depth of movements and activists in Karnataka. I found Murthy to be one of the few whose understanding and acceptance span across the entire political and ideological spectrum of progressive movements in Karnataka, from farmers’ movement to Dalit movement, from liberal civil right groups to the left. What amazed me about him is the maturity of his political judgment without any element of personal bias. He came from the left movement background and has deep democratic convictions. So, it was little surprise that all the colleagues from Karnataka proposed his name as the general secretary of the party, despite his own reluctance due to this preoccupation with the Gauri Lankesh trust work.
Given what I know about Murthy, the charges leveled by the Karnataka police against him come as a shock. The cases they mentioned are about 25 years old, so it would be wrong on my part to claim any knowledge or to give any certificate of innocence but there are some very obvious questions that the police account does not seem to answer.
How come he was so visible and active in public life if he was absconding for two decades as the police claim? If he was wanted in a criminal case why did the police not arrest him earlier if the police suspect him to be the person they have been looking for? why did they not simply question him and complete their investigation and then arrest him? Why did the police not verify his version that he was active with his business at a time when he was allegedly involved with criminal conspiracies? why this hurry to put him behind bars when he is willing to co-operate with the investigation and is so easily and publicly accessible?
As far as I can see, there are no answers to these questions. That is why we have no option except to assume that this sudden action out of nowhere is a sign of something big that is about to come, the proverbial tip of the iceberg. It is heartening to see that the vibrant civil society of Karnataka has responded to this action with promptness and firmness that it deserves. As I wish and hope that the charges would be dropped and Murthy will soon be with us in action, something tells me that we may need to steel ourselves for a long battle.
The author is the National President of Swaraj India Party