Questions surround the arrest of Gauri Media Trust secretary Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy

Questions surround the arrest of Gauri Media Trust secretary Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy

He was arrested from a seminar on alternative media organised by the Gauri Lankesh Fraternity in Raichur, Karnataka.

By M Raghuram

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“Is it the beginning? Or is it a passing phase? Voices are being stifled for raising anti-establishment cries.” These are some of the messages doing the rounds on social media after the arrest of Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy, an activist-journalist, for alleged Naxalite connections. 

Murthy had come to Raichur in Karnataka to attend a seminar on alternative media organised by Gauri Lankesh Balaga (Gauri Lankesh Fraternity). He was arrested at the venue of the event on October 24. Apart from social media posts, activists have also held protests in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Shivamogga, Hubballi and Dharwad. Over 40 different organisations have joined hands to protest against the arrest and also lend support to Narasimha Murthy. 

Muneer Katipalla, state president of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, said, “Murthy is an activist and has written many articles on various issues and wrong decisions of the government. This had rattled the establishment in both political and bureaucratic diaspora. His arrest was highly politically motivated. We, at the DYFI, will fight it to the hilt.” 

Who is Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy?

Murthy had been associated with HS Doreswamy, a freedom fighter and anti-corruption activist. Formerly a resident of Kengeri, he moved to Bengaluru 25 years ago and lived with his wife, two children and mother in a house next to his brother’s. 

“He had his own small scale unit of processing silkworms which went into losses due to his numerous engagements in various social movements. He had closed that unit down and came to live in Bengaluru and opened a small footwear shop. However, even that venture had run into rough weather soon. He was trying hard. Still, whatever little money he was getting from writing, it was used for running the household,” stated Kumar Buradikatti, his close associate, in a post on Facebook. 

People close to Murthy mentioned that most of his time and energy would be spent on social movements and often, he didn’t have enough money to support his family. Murthy is currently the state secretary of the Swaraj India party and he writes for different platforms. He had been a vocal fighter against privatisation by the government. He had played a decisive role in the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor, as he organised farmer meetings and led strikes in many places along the corridor. He also protested against the privatisation of Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant and Bhadravati paper mills in Shivamogga district of Karnataka in the 1990s along with Doreswamy. 

Murthy is secretary of Gauri Media Trust, which is an offshoot of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike that was founded after the assassination of Gauri Lankesh in 2017.

Davanuru Mahadeva, a noted novelist and public intellectual, questioned the police action in his article on Namma Banavasi, a blog/website dedicated to Davanuru Mahadeva’s thoughts, on October 28. “The primary charges of Narasimha Murthy absconding does not carry any weight. He was writing for many papers, besides participating in many programmes organised by various organisations that he took an interest in, for the last three decades, how the police concluded that he was Vinod reeks of an inherent fault. But we cannot question the police action as Dr Vedamurthy, Superintendent of Police of Raichur, has clarified that there was a court warrant against ‘Vinod’ and he had carried out the court orders which was his duty also. However, if there is an incoherent court order indicting an innocent person citing another person in a remote possibility, it should be questioned in the right place and manner,” his piece read.

Janashakti, one of the organisations that supports the movement against Murthy’s arrests, is of the view that the police have acted very hastily in this matter. Vasu HV, a state executive committee member of Janashakti, said, “As an associate of Murthy for the last two decades, I had known him and his family and the struggle of his life. He is not a person who would have gone underground as all his livelihood means were legal and he had borrowed heavily from the bank and had also repaid it. He and his brother have maintained a record of their business and had been paying the salaries, taxes, cess and other bills in time. The police should have ascertained all that and asked him to produce these documents to prove that he was not underground or had any connections with the Naxalites and was a normal social activist.” 

Vinod, Basavaraju and Murthy?

Raichur SP CB Vedamurthy said that the police had arrested Narasimha Murthy, who they claim is also known as Vinod and Basavaraju. He has been charged under various sections of the Indian Arms Act, Indian Penal Code and Indian Explosives Act for allegedly carrying weapons that reportedly have been committed by ‘Vinod’ 25 years ago, he added.

There is, however, no clear indication as to how the police concluded that Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy has another identity of Vinod.  

On October 30, Kumar Buradikatti and Murthy’s close relative Nemiraj met him in Raichur district jail where he is lodged. “We are satisfied that the police have been treating him well. He appeared to be in good spirits and was hopeful of tiding over the present impasse in his life. Though he was traumatised during the initial set of inquiry by the police, after coming to know about his literary and social work, the police have started treating him properly.” 

His advocate Padmavardhan said that there has been no first information report or chargesheet till now and which is why they are moving bail application based on the court order.

He was produced before the court on October 25 and sent to judicial custody. The next hearing is on November 6.

M Raghuram is a freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.