Gauri Lankesh Has Taught Us Once Again How to Be Fearless

The fearful symmetry of conspiracy cannot intimidate spirited voices like hers..

Note: This article was first published on September 6, 2017 and is being republished on September 5, 2018, the one-year anniversary of Gauri Lankesh’s assassination.

On the day of Ganesh visarjan, Gauri is gone.

The last I met her was a week back.

That was at the entrance to the residence of the chief minister of Karnataka.

I had gone there with the literary critic and activist Rajendra Chenni to express our anguish over the delay in the investigation into the M.M. Kalburgi assassination case.

As I was stepping out of chief minister Siddaramaiah’s house, I ran into her. She had come there to do precisely the same.

The fearless crusader who was talking last week to the CM of Karnataka about speeding up the Kalburgi murder investigation was assassinated last evening.

Exactly as Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare and Dr. Kalburgi were assassinated in 2013 and 2016.

In her case, as in the earlier three killings, motor-cycle borne assailants were deployed, who fired at point blank distance, and then fled.

Reports say seven bullets were fired. Three weapons were used. Three persons committed the cold-blooded, carefully premeditated murder.

Three men, three weapons, seven bullets and a 55-year-old frail, tired, single woman.

Had William Blake been alive, he would have said in agony,

“What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

However, the fearful symmetry of conspiracy cannot intimidate fearless and spirited voices like Gauri’s.

Throughout her career as a journalist, she spoke out relentlessly, without a shred of fear, against oppression and injustice.

Even when she had to face imprisonment for her views, face isolation among activists due to her distinct way of thinking, face intimidation due to controversies arising out of her actions, she remained committed to her cause. And what was that cause? That of every self-respecting media person in the world – of placing reality as it is in public view.

Some minutes past 8 pm on Tuesday evening, the news of Gauri’s assassination started coming. It spread from TV channels to mobiles like a wildfire.

By 9 pm, journalists in Bangalore, Dharwad, Gulbarga, Shimoga and many other cities in Karnataka had gathered in public places. They spoke. They took out candle-lit processions.

During the night, they took buses and trains to reach Bangalore where a meeting began at 10 am at the city’s  town hall. It may continue well past the sunset.

In Dharwad, where I moved to live since Dr. Kalburgi’s assassination, media persons, writers, activists and students started assembling in the morning itself. We have issued a request for colleges and universities in Dharwad to remain closed for the day. Was it not Teacher’s Day when Gauri was shot dead?

We will then walk in a silent rally to the centre of town. Later in the day, I plan to drive to Pune, 450 kms north of Dharwad, where journalists have called for a meeting to mourn the assassination. Many of them had never met Gauri personally. But they shudder at the kind of onslaught let loose on the media. Is the media not a centrally vital organ of democracy? That is precisely why so many journalists believe that democracy today is under a siege.

Most of us have spent a sleepless night. Late in the night or early in the morning, it is difficult for me to recall exactly when, Rajmohan Gandhi sent an e-mail from across the seas. His message combined his sense of shock and outrage at the murder and the concern for personal safety of some of us who have been vocal.

Twenty months ago, when we met at Dandi – where nearly 700 writers, artists and activists had gathered to protest the third assassination, that of Kalburgi – Rajmohan Gandhi gave a very brief speech. All that he said was that Gandhi learnt how to be fearless from Kasturba. “Be fearless,” he said, ” That is the only way to fight fascism.”

Gauri has taught us once again how to be fearless. Let us have the Mahatma’s humility to learn it from her.
The times are strange, and they can get stranger still.

Ganesh Devy, the noted writer and scholar, lives in Dharwad, Karnataka.

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