Denying people a voice is violence, and it was this violence that Gauri Lankesh stood against. In return, she was given a violent death.
Another of our best and bravest has been cut down. She lay there lifeless. A frail frame grounded. So utterly defenceless. Covered with her own blood. I look at the thickening red, which is silent.
Silence is what she fought against. And for this foolhardiness, she was silenced.
‘Hindutva baiter shot dead,’ is how a sympathetic newspaper reports the murder. Hindutva baiter?
Choose your words with care. This is not how you measure Gauri Lankesh, who used each minute of her life to speak for those who are denied a voice.
Denying a voice is violence. And it was this violence she stood against. And in return, she was given a violent death.
There is something suicidal about non-violence. It is seductive. It invites violence on itself.
Those who preach violence and practice it live gaily. Presiding over murders, more murders, winning new admirers along the line. People are in awe of these artists.
When people fall in love with murderers and choose them as their guardians, they also turn into the patrons of the murdered.
Then the murderers are asked to condole the deaths that are actually murders. And they suggest to their countrymen that this is not the way to deal with lives. That living people should be allowed to live.
The murderers have long lives, filling non-violence with an inferiority complex.
Three bullets out of seven were enough to make her slump and touch the Earth. She, who always walked erect and could not be bent by any amount of threat, could not stand those three bullets.
There is something eerie about this number of three. Seventy years before Lankesh, who was 55, an old man of 79 faced them. But they are only part of a tradition. The distance of 70 years is not an empty road. You have milestones along the path.
The most recent ones and slightly closer to each other are those of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi.
And a new stone is added now to indicate to us the nature of the road this nation is moving on.
It was only word that Lankseh used, even when she was not writing. Holding seminars and protests, words were all she was organising. Speak and listen is what she was urging her people.
She spoke relentlessly, and irreverently. Not that she was not cautioned. Not that she was such a fool or ignorant that she could not fathom the anger that was rising with each word from her.
Lankesh worried about Kanhaiya Kumar. About the threat that lurks behind him. But she, who treated him as her son, did not want him to stop, hide or not speak.
Lankesh did not see anything extraordinarily brave about her business of words.
Lankesh was advised to go slow.
“If we do not speak, who will?” is what she told a friend. For words were all she had acquired, learnt. For she knew the tradition of Basavanna and she saw herself as an inheritor of Ananthamurthy. Her father was also a wordsmith.
Lankesh had to return those words to the world.
Lankesh had to keep the words alive. She knew as a fellow poet has said, words do not die from cold, it is fear that kills them.
Lankesh did not use words strategically. Her words pointed out what was significant about the moment she was in.
Lankesh did not tire of repeating herself, of keeping to talk about injustices because it was the injustice that was being repeated.
Lankesh, one must also remember, chose to speak in the language of her people. It was Kannada, an Indian language.
Those who kill in the name of Indianness and those who support them must see who was practising this Indianness.
Dabholkar spoke in Marathi. Pansare spent his life in Marathi. Kalburgi knew the play of Kannada.
Lankesh was a writer of Kannada.
Writing in an Indian language is a dangerous business, if it is writing at all, not what our mainstream language newspapers print.
Is it surprising to see why the mainstream language media has turned into an apologist of hate mongers and murderers?
Lankesh, like these predecessors, had to pay for practicing truth in an Indian language.
Let us keep doing in our languages what Lankesh was doing. As a daily, hourly business, as routine. For death, even when it is murder, is also routine.
Apoorvanand teaches in Delhi University.