WHODUNIT: URA, Kambar, HSS, Mystery Woman?

Nothing reveals the minds and methods of our literary luminaries than a nice spat. And no spat in recent times has been more byzantine than the one involving Agrahara Krishnamurthy, whose appointment as the secretary of the Central Sahitya Parishat has sparked off a major controversy.

So, who is trying to spoil Krishnamurthy’s chances? Churumuri‘s latest contributor S.S. KARNADSHA zeroes in on four major suspects: U.R. Anantha Murthy, H.S. Shivaprakash, Chandrashekhar Kambar, and a mystery woman with a police spouse. Enjoy.

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So who is scuttling Agrahara Krishnamurthy‘s chances of becoming the Central Sahitya Akademi’s secretary?

There seems to be a great deal of conjecture around this question in the minds of the Kannada literary intelligentsia. It is not just casual conjecture but there is almost an obsessive occupation around it, for it is believed that one among our own writers is trying to ensure that he does not finally make it.

As a result, one is witness to a lot of chauvinistic reportage and pro-active letter-writing in the newspapers on the issue.

Krishnamurthy has been selected for the post, but he has not been served official orders by the government. Issues related to his honesty and integrity have come up and the fact that there was once a CBI enquiry against him has been widely publicized.

Let us present a list of suspects who may be trying to throw a spoke into Krishnamurthy’s appointment:

Could it be U.R. Anantha Murthy? That’s the one name that (unfortunately) always springs to mind first when one discusses literary lobbies. And in this case the name needs to be carefully considered for several reasons.

One, there are not many writers in Karnataka today who have such a finely established network in Delhi. Two, he has earlier been the president of the Akademi and knows the system pretty well. Three, when he was the president he had major problems with Krishnamurthy.

Four, Krishnamurthy positioned himself as a loyalist of P. Lankesh. Five, Anantha Murthy does not get along famously with Gopichand Narang, who is said to be the man behind Krishnamurthy’s “clandestine” selection. If you recall, Anantha Murthy had supported Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi‘s candidature, when the election took place to the literary body, but Narang won.

Six, if you see names of writers like S.L. Bhyrappa (known URA-hater) among people urging for the “immediate appointment” of Krishnamurthy, then, one gets a feeling that it could be none other than Anantha Murthy scuttling the appointment.

But to give the devil his due, let’s assume that he has learnt some lessons after his recent RS debacle and he is not the one causing the jam.

So then, who is Churumuri‘s suspect number two?

How about training our guns on H.S. Shivaprakash, Kannada poet and pot-bellied professor at JNU in Delhi. He was earlier at the Sahitya Akademi as the editor of Indian Literature and it was his life’s ambition to become the secretary of the Akademi.

To be in the good books of Satchidanandan, the outgoing secretary, he had translated his poems into Kannada and had been consistent in his sucking up. He had earlier unsuccessfully tried to become the secretary of the Central Sangeeth Natak Akademi, which is an on-par appointment.

Besides, he and Krishnamurthy were good friends once upon a time. There could be an element of envy now of a not-so-talented friend rising to a prestige-position.

But, curiously, a letter in Praja Vani used the phrase ‘kubja’ to refer to people scuttling Krishnamurthy’s appointment. Shivaprakash, in terms of literary merit or physical stature is not kubja so it may not be him after all, but you never know, since the word kubja could be a metaphorical usage referring to one’s attitude.

This leaves us with Chandrashekar Kambar as suspect number three.

He is physically kubja and was on the committee, which interviewed and selected Krishnamurthy. You may ask that if he interviewed the guy and gave an impression that he wanted him, why would he now want him out?

But that’s Kambar signature-style of operation. Every rock in Kannada University, where he was vice-chancellor, will tell you a story of Kambar’s double-games and legendary doublespeak. You should remember that his plays too have sharp turns and twists. Could he be playing his familiar game here again?

Even as I am writing this, an insider adds another name to the list of suspects: Could it be the spouse of an employee of the regional office of the Akademi, whom Krishnamurthy had problems with, who is causing all the havoc?

The spouse they say is in the police department and hence the highlighting of the CBI case, they argue.

The rogues gallery and the guessing game apart, the argument that is being carefully generated by our eminent writers that Krishnamurthy’s non-selection is an affront to Kannada pride is bunkum.

One has to be pragmatic enough to understand that is a central government appointment and therefore pulls and pressures are bound to be there. Also, since the Sahitya Akademi is a literary body that promotes interests of all constitutionally recognised languages, writers from other languages may also put forward a similar argument and there would be no end to such shrill chauvinism.

And if one takes a glance at the literary stature of those who have held the job earlier, Krishnamurthy does not look very tall. Also, anybody who has dealt with Krishnamurthy will tell you that he is a lazy bum.

I am sure all the writers who are favouring him and signing memoranda know this pretty well, but then they do not want to be in Krishnamurthy’s bad books if he does manage to become the Secretary of the Akademi.