​Assassination of Activist Journalist Gauri Lankesh

Featured​Assassination of Activist Journalist Gauri Lankesh

Kaushal Kishore

The activist journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in Bengaluru last night at around 8 o’clock. She was fired seven times at a close range outside her home. It is believed that as soon as she stepped out of the car and opened the gates the attackers fired at her. Three bullets hit her, in the forehead, neck and chest. The neighbours found the 55-year-old editor lying on her porch. This assassination appears to be an organised crime. The police suspects the role of hired killers.

State administration has deputed three teams to investigate into this cold blooded murder. Siddaramaiah, the chief minister of Karnataka, reacts on this issue: (I’m) absolutely shocked to learn about the murder of renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh. I have no words to condemn this heinous crime. In fact, this is an assassination on democracy. In her passing, Karnataka has lost a strong progressive voice, and I have lost a friend. Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra finds similarities with the murder of the Sahitya Academy Award recipient scholar M.M. Kalburgi. In September 2015, he was shot dead by a couple of bikers at his doorstep in Dharwad, 400 km away from the state capital. The men knocked on his door and when the 77-year-old scholar opened it, shot him at point blank range. The mystery of that murder is yet to be solved. The similarity of these heinous crimes also refer to its fate.

Gauri Lankesh was the daughter of P. Lankesh, who brought in a new brand of Kannada journalism with his tabloid i.e. Lankesh Patrike. She has followed his footsteps, and started Gauri Lankesh Patrike (GLP) 2005. The GLP stood for its straightforward attitude and questioning the system that compromises, while constantly exposing the stories of politicians’ scandals. She was well known for speaking her mind, and involved with a group that worked for communal harmony. In fact her views were considered Leftist and anti-Hindutva ideology. At the same time she has also raised the cases of corruption of leaders of other parties, including the Congress.

Gauri Lankesh has woken up a lot more minds in her death than she did during her lifetime, however, doing excellent as an activist and a journalist. In a decade her publication grown to employ 50 people with a substantial subscription devoid of advertisement from government or corporate. The tabloid is financially supported by her other publication, in fact Lankesh Prakashana is known for publishing literature and self help study material for competitive examinations. She is the first journalist whose martyrdom is celebrated with the state honour.

Recently one of her stories not only earned notoriety, but also a jail term, in which she was enlarged on bail. In 2008 her tabloid published certain story mentioning names of three right wing workers claimed to have duped a jeweller a hundred thousand bucks, however, this act was published in many local dailies without mentioning the names. At least three defamation cases are being reported to be pending against her. Meanwhile Gauri had sensed the days that we live in are not conducive enough to voice dissent, as she had stated that the “Right regime would want me silenced” a statement that seems to suggest her expected end.

The law and order is an issue of the state. As such this is the failure of Karnataka govt. headed by Congress Party. Journalists and social activists gathered today at the headquarter of  Press Club of India in a protest against such a heinous act. Several protests are being reported from different corners of the nation. I am sure all participants of these events are not from left wing. The excitement of right wing leaders and workers is on its peak, some of them celebrate her death. It seems that left and right wings are fighting with each other as if they surely know who were the killers. The condition of ruling parties in the state and the centre are also similar. And social media is flooded with muddy remarks. All those vomiting venom are trying to get attention from his or her own community. At least they are focused on political mileage, and hatred seems to br in its centre. Unfortunately this is the actual condition of Indian democracy of the day. The fate of these hue and cry after most of such deaths are confined merely to take benefits in elections. A collective effort towards how to improve the sate of administration is nowhere in the picture. So that such cases will continue in future. Sadly, none among the leaders are focused on it.

This is the latest death being counted in a string of murders of rationalist writers or journalists or activists. Siwan (Bihar) bureau chief of Hindi daily Hindustan, Ranjan Rajdeo was shot from a close range by assailants on a motorcycle in May 2015. Before death, he had written extensively on the cases involving murder of Shrikant Bharti in 2014. Bharti was an aide of BJP MP Om Prakash Yadav. The burning of Jagendra Singh, a freelance journalist, in June 2015 at Shahjahanpur (Uttar Pradesh) is still fresh in my memory. Deshbandhu reporter Sai Reddy was killed in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh in December 2013. He died while being transported to the hospital and police suspected Maoists’ hand behind his killing. Govind Pansare, prominent activist and rationalist, was shot dead in February 2014 by unidentified persons, when he was returning home after morning walk in Kolhapur. On August 20, 2013, Narendra Dabholkar, a prominent anti-superstition crusader, was allegedly gunned down by a couple of bikers during his morning walk in Pune. A couple of days after Gauri’s murder another journalist, Pankaj Mishra received fatal bullet injuries in Bihar. These are a few cases of recent years that suggest how freedom of expression is being infringed in India.

In addition to these intellectuals there are numerous cases of murder of political workers from different parties in recent times. The story of Gangaputra Nigamananda, who has fasted till death for the Ganga, is also available in public domain. There were people who were not agree with these crusaders. But everyone knows they were the fighters, who gave up their life for a noble cause. I do in fact salute such brave hearts, even if I don’t agree with them.

Right to dissent is the beauty of democracy. We need to preserve it in 21st century India as well. This assassination raised several questions, including whether the gun is mightier or the pen? I saw certain teachers afraid of guns, but still they were preaching the power of pen is more than that of a bullet. This is the time to save democracy that can sustain only when right to dissent is ensured with dignity.

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