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The Murder of Gauri Lankesh

Translated Monday 18 September 2017, by G. Asha

On the evening of September 5th, 2017 , Indian TV broke the news around 9 pm. Prominent journalist, right-wing critic and editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike was shot dead outside her house in a central area of Bengaluru. The assailants were following her on a motorbike and as she stopped her car to open the gates of her house, a man who had covered his face with a helmet approached her and fired seven bullets into her body at point blank. Though she ran to escape, three of these bullets went through her chest, forehead and she fell down dead. Such was the reach of Gauri Lankesh’s left-wing activism, the power of her writing and her closeness with people in many walks of life, that by 10 pm thousands gathered to mourn, condemn and protest her death in Bengaluru. The following days have seen protests all around India by the Press Community as well as civil society. As of this writing, no one has been arrested for the crime although the police has been scanning many hours of CC TV footage both from her house and in the neighbourhood of her house and office.

So who could have killed Gauri Lankesh ? In the past few years – three other prominent secularists, rationalists have been killed in Karnataka and the neighbouring state of Maharashtra. These are Dr. Narendra Dabholkar who was shot dead by motorbike borne assailants at close range while he was on his morning walk in Pune in August 2013, Comrade Govind Pansare who was shot in a similar way while on his morning walk in Kolhapur, Maharashtra in February 2015 to be followed by the murder of Dr. M.M Kalburgi, an academic who was shot down when he opened his front door in Dharwad, Karnataka in August 2015. What is that linked all these people ? Dr. Dabholkar had given up a thriving medical practice to take up the cause of rationality among the masses. He was spearheading the movement to pass a bill in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly against superstitions. Comrade Pansare who was an active member of the Communist Party of India ( CPI) had written a controversial book on the Maratha icon, Shivaji and also supported the anti superstition movement. Dr. Kalburgi was a Kannada scholar whose views against idol- worship, irrationality and superstitions cost him his life. All three of them used the local language- Marathi and Kannada thus reaching many people.

Gauri Lankesh was much younger than the other three. She was 55 when she died. She grew up as a typical Bengaluru girl but in a family soaked in the history, literature and politics of her home state Karnataka. Her father was the famous writer and journalist P. Lankesh. Gauri trained to be a journalist and worked for many English language magazines and newspapers both in Bengaluru and Delhi till she returned to edit her father’s newspaper Lankesh Patrike after his death in 2000. However, she soon left to start her own weekly tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike on a shoe-string budget without any Corporate sponsors. Here she routinely attacked the right- wing Hindutva groups including the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak ( RSS). She took up issues on behalf of Dalits, tribals, women and other dis-enfranchised groups and wrote in the local language Kannada. She had many defamation cases filed against her by people and groups she offended but she did not care. Hate mail was sent to her and she was trolled by the extreme right- wing. In fact soon after her death one such person tweeted, “ The bitch is dead and the puppies are mourning”. This fellow’s tweets are followed by the Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi, himself a product of the RSS. In an interview to Narada News last December Gauri said, “My Constitution teaches me to be a secular citizen, not communal. It is my right to fight against these communal elements. I come from the state of Karnataka, which has produced Basava, who opposed caste inequality and injustices in the society, and am a citizen of India whose Constitution was written by Dr BR Ambedkar. He fought against communalism. I am just taking forth this fight against injustice in my own capacity. I believe in democracy and freedom of expression, and hence, am open to criticism too. People are welcome to call me anti-BJP or anti-Modi, if they want to. They are free to have their own opinion, just as I am free to have my opinion,”.

Tragically, that was not to be. The trigger of a gun ended her right to her opinion.

As I write this, the case is unfolding and public pressure is mounting to bring the culprits to book and to the PM to make a statement about this case. It is frightening that the India of science, technology, tolerance and diversity is giving way very rapidly to one moving back centuries into the dark ages. It is also shocking that in a democracy, instead of public debate on ideas, the rule of the gun has come to stay.

Below are links to some of Gauri Lankesh’s articles in English:

http://thewire.in/151640/karnataka-attack-freedom-of-press/

http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/views//articleshow/53916096.cms?

http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/views//articleshow/50999722.cms?

http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/views//articleshow/52945016.cms?

http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/views//articleshow/51883026.cms?

http://bangaloremirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/views//articleshow/51687422.cms?

https://scroll.in/article/825910/how-did-bengaluru-become-unsafe-for-women-and-what-can-we-do-to-reclaim-our-streets


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