A feisty, independent voice in Indian journalism has been stilled
New Delhi: The well-known journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh, a household name for readers in Karnataka because of her sharp writing and bold views, was shot dead at her residence in Bengaluru late on September 5.
She was editor of the weekly Lankesh Patrike – a magazine that has been described as an “anti-establishment” publication – and had recently come under attack for her views against the communal politics of the Sangh parivar in Karnataka. The state, which is ruled by the Congress, goes to the polls later this year.
The noted Kannada writer K. Marulisidappa, who knew Lankesh from her childhood, told The Wire that the news of her murder was absolutely devastating. “She was taking a bold stand, a very bold stand against the Sangh parivar here,” he said. The fact that she had been killed makes it clear how dangerous the situation is now, he added. “The same people who killed Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi have now killed her,” he said, referring to the earlier murders of rationalists in Maharashtra and Karnataka who had also angered the Right with their writings and speeches.
In November 2016, Lankesh was held guilty of defamation for an article she ran in 2008, which Prahlad Joshi, a BJP MP from Dharwad, and Umesh Dushi, also of the BJP, had found objectionable. The article had alleged that the BJP MP was directly involved in corruption. Lankesh, who challenged her conviction and was subsequently released on bail, had at the time said that her publication had been targeted because of her politics.
A strong advocate of freedom of press, Lankesh had in June 2017 written an article for The Wire saying that legislators in Karnataka had no business to sit in judgment on journalists and that it was time they were stripped of their privileges.
“It is now becoming a method”, Ganesh Devy, the Dharwar-based scholar and activist, told The Wire. “The brazen way in which the killers came, it is just the same as what happened with Kalburgi and the others”. Devy said a protest march against her killing has been planned in the town for Wednesday morning.
The senior journalist Sugata Raju posted a screenshot of a recent WhatsApp conversation with Gauri Lankesh, who had ‘adopted’ JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani:
In Delhi, a protest meeting has been called for 3 pm on September 6 at the Press Club of India.
Karnataka’s chief minister, Siddaramaiah, condemned Lankesh’s murder as “an assassination of democracy”.
In fact, this is an assassination on democracy. In her passing, Karnataka has lost a strong progressive voice, and I have lost a friend.
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) September 5, 2017
The RSS too has condemned the murder:
RSS expresses deep condolences on the murder of Gauri Lankesh https://t.co/DPgDDvTob4
— Vishwa SamvadaKendra (@samvada) September 5, 2017
Several journalists and activists took to Twitter to express their condolences as the news of her death came to light.
— Faye DSouza (@fayedsouza) September 5, 2017
Shocked & angry – after Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, journalist @gaurilankesh bravely writing against Sangh, shot dead in Bengaluru
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) September 5, 2017
Numbed by news of Gauri Lankesh's murder. She was gutsy, level-headed, defiant—everything we need in a journalist in these troubled times.
— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) September 5, 2017
"Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
— James Wilson (@jamewils) September 5, 2017
Poisonous violence of mind being spread on social media to browbeat critics; on street, its the gun that silences dissent. #GauriLankesh
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) September 5, 2017
(With PTI inputs)