Bhardwaj relents on doctorate to Kannada scholar, ends row

Monday, February 7, 2011

BANGALORE - Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj Monday withdrew his opposition to Bangalore University’s decision to give an honorary doctorate to a noted Kannada scholar known for his right-wing views.

Bhardwaj’s nod to the varsity’s proposal to honour M. Chidananda Murthy, well-known in Karnataka for his research into the history of Kannada language and Karnataka, came a day after leading writers in the state slammed him for opposing it.

Bhardwaj Sunday justified his decision saying that media reports had said that Murthy had justified the series of attacks on churches in Karnataka in 2008.

He had also expressed ‘communal views’ and as the chancellor of the universities and as head of the state, the governor was “duty bound’ to verify the antecedents of people to be honoured to avoid controversies, Bhardwaj said.

His stand drew flak from not only leading writers but also from the 77th Kannada Sahitya Sammelana (Kannada literary convention) that ended here Sunday. The Sammelana adopted a resolution condemning Bhardwaj’s stand.

Leading the attack on Bhardwaj was Jnanpith award winner U.R. Ananthamurthy who told the Sammelana: “I do not agree with several views of Murthy but the governor’s action is unjust and unacceptable.”

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who is involved in a running battle with Bhardwaj over his alleged attempts to bring down the first Bharatiya Janata Party government in south India, demanded an apology from the governor for “insulting a well-known scholar”.

Apparently in a move to defuse the brewing row over his stand, Bhardwaj not only agreed to the varsity’s proposal but invited Murthy to Raj Bhavan late Monday for a talk.

“I got a call from his office that a car will be sent to pick me up for a meeting with the governor. I am happy the governor has accepted the university’s proposal,” Murthy told reporters.

Murthy had welcomed the recent report of a judicial panel absolving the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the government and Hindu groups of the 2008 church attacks.

He had been speaking against alleged conversion activities by Christian groups.

Bhardwaj said he was “disturbed” by such statements as the Christian community “felt let down” by the judicial panel headed by B.K. Somashekara, a retired judge of the Karnataka high court.

Reacting to Bhardwaj’s explanation, Murthy had said Sunday that he had never supported the attacks on churches. “But I do speak against attempts at conversion,” he said.

Bangalore Archbishop Bernard Moras had said Saturday that “the entire Christian community rejects” the Somashekara commission report and demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the attacks.

The Congress and Janata Dal-Secular have also criticised the commission’s report and urged the Bharatiya Janata Party government not to accept it.

Justice Somashekara submitted the report Jan 28.

Filed under: Politics

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