After nine months of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh’s murder, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) gets a breakthrough in the murder case by arresting four more accused, who are associated with Sanatan Sanstha and its sister outfit Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) supporting ‘Hindutva’. The accused are said to be linked with K.T. Naveen Kumar, an activist of the Hindu Yuva Sena, who attended several meetings of the HJS and Sanatan Sanstha in 2017, and was arrested in March 2018 in the Gauri Lankesh murder case. Here a question arises, don’t journalists have the freedom to express their views and raise a voice against those oppressing and exploiting the society? Why are the critics of the extremist Hindutva politics being killed brutally?
Activist and Lawyer Abha Singh stated, “Gauri Lankesh was a vocal and liberal person like Dabholkar who spoke against the right-wing politics. All those who speak against their ideology and the violation of rights get killed, which is against the law and democracy. All this is happening because of the religious intolerance, although Karnataka police is more efficient than Maharashtra in arresting the accused. Their murderers should be taught a strong lesson.”
The SIT formed by the Karnataka police filed a charge sheet on Wednesday naming people involved in the planning of the attack. The four accused who were arrested on Wednesday are — Amol Kale alias Bhaisab (39), an activist of the HJS from Maharashtra, Amit Degwekar alias Pradeep (39), a Sanatan Sanstha activist and resident of Goa, Manohar Edave (28), a resident of Vijayapura in Karnataka, Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen (37), a HJS and Sanatan Sanstha activist from Mangalore.
Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson Chetan Rajhans announced to clarify their organisation’s stand soon with a press conference. He further said, “Not only a specific ideology is being targeted but also more than 250 right-wing activist were killed — more than 52 in Karnataka, 82 in West Bengal and more than 100 in Kerala. Only promoting Gauri Lankesh’s murder and neglecting the murders of Hindutva activist is a political hypocrisy. Communism ideology does not think about our nation. We always think about Hindutva, Hindurashtra and the nation.”
Earlier this year, the SIT arrested K.T. Naveen Kumar, a resident from Kadalur village (Maddur Taluka) in Mandya over his alleged role in finding the plot to kill rationalist thinker K.S.Bhagwan after helping to execute the Lankesh’s killing. Naveen Kumar reportedly received instructions to kill Lankesh and Bhagwan from a Mangalore-based man, who he recognised as Praveen. The investigation agencies have now identified HJS activist Sujeet Kumar as Praveen.
There are a few similar cases such as the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, where they were killed for speaking out against the entrenched religious practices and tried bring a change in the society.
Activist Narendra Dabholkar, who was at the forefront of a campaign to persuade the Maharashtra government to pass an anti-superstition and black magic bill, was shot dead by unknown assailants in August 2013. Senior Communist leader Govind Pansare was shot and killed in February 2015. Following Dabholkar’s death, Pansare had stepped up pressure on the government for the passage of the Anti-Superstition Bill which was finally passed in December 2015. MM Kalburgi was a renowned Kannada rationalist writer who was shot dead at his residence by unidentified gunmen in August 2015. Until Feb 2018, the High Court had identified criminals involved in the killing of rationalist Govind Pansare and Dabholkar, but was unable to arrest any. Similarly, in the case of Kalburgi’s investigation, even after almost three years, his killers remain unidentified — no arrest has been made in any of the cases.
Journalist Kanchan Srivastava expressed, “There are many cases in West Bengal and Kerala as well where journalists are being killed because of the same ideological differences. But, no one has the right to kill any person just because their ideologies don’t match. This brings concerns amongst the journalists but it shouldn’t stop them from addressing the truth. Despite BJP being in power in the states where the Sanstha is situated, the accused are arrested which shows that police is doing their work. The government is bound to act on all the accused.”
Not only these prominent ones, but there is a list of cases where journalists are murdered or shot to death for standing against the social evils of all kinds and dare to speak their minds out. Is this an attempt to thrash the independent journalism in the nation? Is it an attempt to shut the effort of rationalist writers, activists or journalists who intend to outrightly address the wrongs taking place in the society?
In the light of these facts, it is impossible to ignore the possibility that these murders are related. The link between the murders of rationalists has not gone unnoticed. Dabholkar and Pansare’s murders have been linked to the right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha as investigators in the murder cases have looked into their call record details, locations etc. Despite all evidence and facts, the case remains unsolved till date. Likewise, in the Lankesh’s case, the accused are connected to the same group.
Sanatan Sanstha Advocate Sanjeev Punalekar commented, “Not just as Sanatan Sanstha supporter but also as a lawyer, I can say, we neither have any kind of relevance to these incidents nor we have any kind of enmity against Gauri Lankesh. We had put allegations of corruption on Dabholkar and had differences which don’t mean we conspired against him. But some pseudo- secular are being deliberately targeting to Sanatan Sanstha for their benefits.”
Amidst the delay in solving Lankesh’s murder case, Karnataka witnesses a protest demanding justice for the slain activist. Though, the SIT seems to be nowhere near to solving the case.