“The silencing of a journalist in this manner has dangerous portents for democracy.”
New Delhi: A day after senior Kannada journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, known for her forthright views against Hindutva politics, was shot dead by unidentified assailants at her residence, organisations like the Indian Writers Forum (IWF) and the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) have condemned her murder.
Gauri, 55, was shot by assailants on a motorcycle outside her home in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar area, being hit with two bullets in the chest and one on her forehead, police officials said.
“I do not know how to react. The assailants should be brought to the book. The case should be handed over to CBI,” Gauri’s brother Indrajit Lankesh said.
‘Once more, a voice of dissent, a voice of reason, has been silenced with guns’
Poet and author Keki Daruwalla wrote a ‘Poem to Rightwingers of the Pistol-toting Kind’, published by the Indian Cultural Forum:
I noticed things about you, sometime back,
and mistakenly thought you were changing track.
You had left off murdering in and out of season
people who were rational, those who spoke of reason,
and turned to bashing up the beef-eating kind
on highways with a hurrah for cattle and their kind.
Or so I thought, how wrongly, but sense dawns late
as we ruminate on this mob psychology of hate.
So far you guys were murdering dalits and hide-flayers
Or Muslims who kept meat in their frigidaires.
Now you are back to square one; wrong again,
(thinking about you guys is a real pain,
Thought itself goes askew thinking of you,
It’s like a five-set match at Flushing Meadows, phew!).
Now you’re going for editors and the press
Those who oppose your fiats and meat-avenging zest,
Those who speak for Rohingyas driven into the sand,
roaming river to river, rift to rift, land to land.
Tolerance is a sin in your lexicon,
You think, my darlings, you can plough on and on
through mayhem and political porn
Ever occurred to you, you could be wrong?
And that black bands and scars could discolour your saffron dawn?
The IWPC issued a statement expressing outrage over Gauri’s murder.
“Gauri was a trenchant critic of obscurantism and conservative values. The silencing of a journalist in this manner has dangerous portents for democracy.”
“We demand that the government apprehend the perpetrators at the earliest and expose those behind this planned murder of a senior woman journalist,” IWPC said in a statement co-signed by association president Shobhna Jain and general secretary Aditi Tandon.
In a statement, the IWF said it condemned the “continued unmaking of India in which writers, artists, scholars, rationalists – and indeed any citizen who exercises her right to speak freely – is no longer safe.”
“Once more, a voice of dissent, a voice of reason, has been silenced with guns. This is a chilling continuation of the series of murders of rationalists, writers, scholars and activists, from Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare to MM Kalburgi. None of the murderers has been punished, though much points to the extended right wing family. Instead, the punishment of critical voices continues, as do attacks against Muslims, dalits, Adivasis and women – Indian citizens all,” read the IWF statement singed by Githa Hariharan, K. Satchidanandan, Ashok Vajpeyi, Nayantara Sahgal, Shashi Deshpande, Romila Thapar, Indira Jaising and others.
“We pledge to continue Gauri’s fight against the haters of free speech and a plural India. We will continue to speak on her behalf and ours. They cannot silence us all.”
A statement by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP), of which Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is president and Manoj Mitta is director, said Gauri’s death signaled “the growing intolerance to dissidents, whether in the media or otherwise”.
Although investigations into her killing continue, with the police yet to establish the identity of the assailants, the FMP said the assailants were “likely to have been emboldened by the dog whistle politics of the Central Government and the pusillanimity of the Karnataka Govemment”.
Gauri’s “courage and tenacity in the face of threats to her life, should inspire journalists across the country to stand up to the forces undermining the constitutional values of pluralism and social justice”.
The Network of Women in Media, India, vowed to “uphold the values of journalism” to in solidarity with Gauri.
“We must simply power on in the face of the greatest adversity, threats and political opposition to do what our job mandates. To be free and fair and stand together solidly behind each other to be able to rise against the tidal wave of intolerance and often criminal intimidation that surrounds us and tries to prevent us everywhere. We want to declare to ourselves and to everyone that is watching with and without malice – we will not be prevented, silenced, outdone or shut down.”
The Delhi Union of Journalists also issued a statement, condemning “the dastardly murder of journalist Gaouri Lankesh and demands immediate identification and arrest of the culprits”.
The Editors Guild of India said “Her killing is an ominous portent for dissent in democracy and a brutal assault on the freedom of the press” and demanded that “the Karnataka Government acts with alacrity to bring the culprits to justice apart from instituting a judicial probe into the killing.”
The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) also said it condemns the “heinous and cold blooded murder of senior journalist and activist, Gauri Lankesh”.
AIDWA said the Gauri’s killing in Bengaluru outside her home “underscores the complete lack of safety in homes and on the streets of a city which boasts of a significant presence of women professionals”.
“The targeted killing of Gauri Lankesh is not incidental. It is a grim indicator of the intolerance and violence that have been let loose by the increasing influence of right wing forces in the country. She has been killed precisely because she was an outspoken and fearless critic of the RSS, and other components of the hindutva brigade… She had been subjected to repeated taunts and threats on the social media for her views, but this could not muffle her voice. She continued with her activism on many issues, and publicly expounded an uncompromising Left and progressive stance in a growingly hostile atmosphere. She openly questioned the policies and politics of the BJP Government, despite intimidation. The motives behind the killing are a wake up call to the democratic minded sections at large- can this intimidation and annihilation of voices be allowed to succeed?,” AIDWA said.
“Gauri Lankesh may have been physically silenced by the forces of reaction, but her voice lives on, her work inspires. The battle for democratic rights, and space for dissent will continue in her name, and in the name of others who have been targeted for upholding these constitutional rights.”
Also read: Karnataka Has a Long History of Attacks on the Freedom of Press
by Gauri Lankesh
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah was quick to react, terming her death shocking.
“It’s shocking news for me. No one who has faith in humanity will ever kill anyone. Gauri Lankesh was secular and helped government bring the Naxals back to the mainstream,” said Siddaramaiah.
State home minister Ramalinga Reddy drew parallels between Gauri’s killing and that of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi. Dabholkar was shot dead in August 2013, while Kalburgi was gunned down in August 2015.
“Who is behind the incident, is it the Naxals or any other ideological fringe parties were behind the incident will be known only after investigation. It is very premature to hold anybody responsible for the incident,” Reddy said.
In a statement, RSS state unit expressed deep sorrow over the “heinous” murder of Gauri. “RSS appeals to the state government to act soon on the criminals responsible and bring them to the book,” it said.
Meanwhile, BJP leader K.S. Eshwarappa blamed the Siddaramaiah government for “failing” to protect the lives of people, including Kalburgi and Gauri.
Read: Gauri Lankesh’s last article for The Wire
Making Sense of the Lingayat vs Veerashaiva Debate
Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury attributed Gauri’s murder to “climate of bigotry, hate, intolerance and violence in India”.
Minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore took to Twitter to denounce the incident.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said “truth cannot be silenced” and demanded that the culprits be tracked down and punished.
BJP national general secretary P. Muralidhar Rao said the Karnataka government was responsible for conducting a probe in her death.
(With PTI inputs)