Cowards killed a brave, independent and a liberal woman. This is a disturbing trend which can turn the country into a cesspool of hatred and intolerance. If we remain passive, our country would be another failed state just like the neighbouring nation. Hopefully, civil society will not allow these addicts of hate to stifle questioning minds and our freedom of speech. Lankesh’s death is being regarded as the latest in a string of murders of ‘rationalist’ writers, including MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar. Lankesh, a vocal opponent of right-wing excess was also present at the vanguard of most such protests in the state.
The 55-year-old was known for her pro-minority and pro-Dalit stand and was one of the few women editors in Kannada journalism who sympathised leftwing ideologies. She edited a tabloid newspaper and was an outspoken critic of right-wing Hindutva politics. Lankesh was the daughter of renowned journalist and founding editor of Kannada weekly tabloid ‘Lankesh Patrike’. She was part of the Chief Minister’s panel that brought some leaders of Karnataka’s Naxal movement above ground.
Her brutal murder is painful and it is a loss for the society at large. She was a sane and firm voice against the social evils of all kinds. Gauri was a rationalist and dared to speak her mind. Even though two years have passed ever since Kalburgi was murdered but the case remains unresolved. A neighbour who heard the gunshots said that there were multiple firings. Gauri was shot at as she got down from her car and opened the gate. These rationalists were closely under observation by their killers, be it Dabholkar, Kalburgi or Pansare, they were chased and killed.
Lankesh has been known for her strident stands against communalism in Karnataka. In 2016, she was convicted in a defamation case filed by MP Prahlad Joshi, who had objected to a report published in Lankesh’s tabloid against BJP leaders. She was hassled and warned by many, but no one ever imagined that she would be killed like this. Her death is a great loss to the community of independent journalism. We have lost a voice, an accomplished journalist and a wonderful human being. The elimination of voices of reason by silencing them through murder was the hallmark of those cowardly dunces who have no arguments to counter those put forward by such writers. She was one of those who was not afraid to speak her mind on any issue which she felt was important.
More than a journalist she was a social activist raising her voice for the oppressed and exploited of the society. It is a shame to all the citizens of our country that we have tolerated such a sorry state of affairs that even voices cannot be raised against the forces of irrationalism. Let those forces clearly understand that such acts by them are not going to silence the basic ideology.
Gauri started her career as a journalist with The Times of India in Bangalore. Later, she moved to Delhi with her husband Chidanand Rajghatta. Shortly after, she returned to Bangalore, where she worked as a correspondent for the Sunday magazine for nine years. At the time of her father’s death in 2000, she was working for the Eenadu’s Telugu television channel in Delhi. She had spent 16 years as a journalist by this time. When their father P. Lankesh died, Gauri and her brother Indrajit visited Mani, the publisher of Lankesh Patrike, and told him that they wanted to cease the publication. Mani convinced them against the idea. Gauri then became the editor of the Lankesh Patrike, while her brother Indrajit handled the publication’s business affairs. Beginning in 2001, differences developed between Gauri and Indrajit over the paper’s ideology. These differences became public in February 2005, when a report about a Naxalite attack on policemen, approved by Gauri, was published in the magazine. On February 13, Indrajit (who was the paper’s proprietor and publisher) withdrew the report, alleging that it favoured the Naxals.
On February 14, Indrajit filed a police complaint against Gauri, accusing her of stealing a computer, printer and scanner from the publication’s office. Gauri filed a counter complaint, accusing Indrajit of threatening her with a revolver. On February 15, Indraji held a press conference, where he accused her of promoting Naxalism through the paper. Gauri held a separate press conference, where she denied the accusation, and stated that her brother was opposed to her social activism. Gauri subsequently started her own Kannada weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. Gauri has been a staunch critic of the right-wing Hindutva politics. She was known for advocating freedom of the press. She had written about the wrongdoings of the Indian National Congress leader D. K. Shivakumar, a close associate of the former Chief Minister S. M. Krishna. She was opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and broke her 35-year old friendship with Prakash Belawadi, when the latter became a media advisor to BJP during the Indian general election, 2014. In November 2014, the Congress-led Karnataka government appointed Gauri as a member of a committee aimed at convincing the Naxalites to give up violence and surrender. A delegation of BJP leaders accused her of being a Naxalite sympathiser, and demanded her removal from the committee. However, the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah rejected the demand. Gauri alleged that she was being targeted for her left-leaning political views.
On September 5, 2017, three unidentified men on motorbikes shot her to death at her house. Three of the bullets pierced her head, neck and chest, resulting in her death at the scene. In today’s India, revolution is a historical necessity, but any extreme, like predetermined violence or parliament path is doomed to fail.
We need mass movement on political line through class struggle to replace capitalism, based on exploitation, which breeds all evils, by socialism, to have a society based on equality, brotherhood and freedom. We need strong protests and voices to say “Enough is Enough” or else tomorrow it could be you…
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