My activism has never interfered with my work, says lecturer targeted for post on Chandrayaan-3

Kannada lecturer and Dalit activist Hulikunte Murthy’s social media post allegedly mocking ‘Chandrayaan-3 Mission’ has landed him in trouble with he and his family receiving threats and personal insults on social media and politicians seeking action against him.

Murthy, who is currently teaching at Government PU College, Malleswaram, allegedly wrote in a Facebook post in Kannada that “Chandrayaan-3 will be a failure”. Using the ‘Tirupati nama’ phrase, he indicated that the moon mission will fail this time as well. He was commenting on a team of ISRO scientists offering prayers at the Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh with a miniature model of Chandrayaan-3 ahead of its launch last Friday.

The flak that Murthy is facing over his controversial post has left him “heartbroken”. Speaking to The Indian Express, the 42-year-old said, “I am really disturbed by the turn of events. My wife is also disturbed. I have taught about scientific temperament. The fact that the miniature model of Chandrayaan-3 was taken to a temple by ISRO scientists made me question the scientific temperament of the people behind the project. I metaphorically questioned, ‘what happens if the mission fails even this time, just like last year’. In hindsight, I feel I should have worded my thoughts differently.”

“I have never faced such controversies. I have also not allowed my activism to interfere with my professional work. But this controversy has disturbed me very much. I will still continue to teach, cooperate with the department and pursue my case legally,” he said.

The abuse, casteist slurs and personal attacks on Murthy and his wife, some even threatening to kill them, pushed the teacher to lodge a complaint at Kamakshipalya police station on Tuesday, following which a case was registered under SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and relevant sections of IPC against seven individuals.

Bahutva Karnataka, a civil rights group, condemned the attack on Murthy and demanded the Karnataka government to crackdown on miscreants who targeted him and his family with hateful, casteist and intimidatory speech. In a letter to School Education Minister Madhu Bangarappa, the group said, “Attacks against Murthy have caused immense mental anguish to all those who avail reservation. These posts also constitute a threat to his life. In fact, these posts are an attack on our constitutional values of liberty, dignity and fraternity. It shows that even after 75 years of Independence, caste continues to divide and cause an attack on dignity. These posts also show that there is a complete lack of scientific temper, rationality and even humanity.”

The group demanded that the government come up with a scheme to ensure the development of scientific temperament, reason, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.

The controversy over Murthy’s post escalated when BJP leader and former education minister Suresh Kumar wrote to Bangarappa, expressing concern over the lecturer’s post. Calling it unhealthy, he also warned Murthy not to repeat this “irresponsible behavior”. The government also sent a notice to Murthy on Wednesday seeking a clarification on the post.

Kumar said, “If the individual posted his views on social media in his personal capacity it would have passed. But, the user mentions that he is a government official in his account bio. Mocking the mission as a government official is not correct.”

Murthy will submit his reply to the School Education Department on Friday. The Education Minister did not respond to calls by The Indian Express.

Murthy, a poet, playwright, writer and teacher, has been working as a Kannada lecturer for the last 15 years, while dabbling with activism and literary works. Hailing from Hulikunte village in Doddaballapur, 60 km from Bengaluru, Murthy worked with Dalit poet Kotiganahalli Ramaiah and journalist Gauri Lankesh, and was a recipient of a state award — Basavaraj Kattimani Prashasthi — in 2013 for a poetry collection titled Neeligyana. He also authored a book on folk legend and saint Manteswamy and documented all his writings in a book titled Hoobitta Kannu in 2018.

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