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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2347

Why was Gauri Lankesh Killed?

By Tukoji R Pandit - Syndicate Features

It is, of course, important to know the identity of the person/persons who pumped bullets into Gauri Laneksh at her doorsteps in her Bengaluru home on September 5 evening. That is from the legal point of view which will lead to punishment of the guilty of a heinous crime. But the more important thing is to know why was the 55-year-old Left-leaning activist who was a severe critic of the present regime so brutally murdered.

Her assassination sparked off nation-wide protests by journalists and civil society against what has been described as yet another attempt to silence the voices of dissent. We may not be living in an Emergency but increasing number of people in the field of academia, arts and journalism have been facing the heat of disapproval for expressing views unpalatable to the regime. The warning is being issued by ‘non-state’ actors and in subtle ways to avoid the approbation that will come if it is done in a straight manner by the ruling party.

The rise of vigilantism is leading the country into an era darker than the 19 months of Emergency in the 1970s.

It was not a surprise to see that following the public outcry of the Lankesh assassination, elements supporting the ruling dispensation went on an overdrive to suggest that she alone was responsible for her tragic end because of her alleged Naxal sympathies. To this was added the accusation that the Karnataka government was implicit in her murder.

The facts will be known only after a proper investigation although many will doubt, based on some similar experiences in recent years, if the ‘mystery’ of her death will be solved. But those who were decrying Lankesh even after her untimely death and imputing motives to others did not realise that by doing so the needle of suspicion moves further towards them. It cannot be their case that the far right had nothing against Gauri Lankesh and nobody had threatened her. How can they be sure that the culprits came from the ranks of her supporters and sympathisers?

Some of the comments on the social media after her death were in extreme poor taste—but not surprising. They were couched in a language that is frequently used by the army, paid or otherwise, of ruling party supporters and some leading lights whenever they want to run down dissenters.

Many of these men and women, who take delight in sending out filthy, uncivilised messages to the dissenters, are followed on Twitter by the prime minister. That encourages them to continue with their reprehensible ways. It is truism to say that it does not matter who the prime minister follows on Twitter.

Much was made of a statement by the brother of Gauri Lankesh that suggested that the Naxals may be behind her death. He is reported to have said that his sister had received many ‘threats’ from Naxals. In the same breath he had denied that he was aware of her sister receiving any threat to her life.

It was conveniently overlooked that Indrajeet Lankesh had fallen out with his sister more than a decade ago because of ‘ideological’ differences—he was opposed to her alleged pro-Naxal views. Indrajeet took over full control of the journal, Lankesh Patrike that their poet-turned-journalist had started in the 1980s and Gauri started her own venture, Gauri Lankesh Patrike with the help of a group of about 50.

Her weekly journal carried no advertisement. It started a new trend in Kannada journalism where politicians could be ridiculed and questioned for their follies. She wrote extensively on the state of affairs in the country which worried her because she felt the freedom of expression and thought was under stress, as was the secular fabric of India. The prime minister did not escape her critical appraisal, nor did the rise of Hindutva forces in her state, Karnataka.

All this made her highly unpopular among the supporters of the ruling dispensation and the far right. Her sister, Kavita, was quoted in the media as saying that she was often threatened by the far right and bigoted elements. Some journalist friends of Gauri Lankesh endorsed that charge. But nobody, except the ruling party supporters speaking as an after-thought, said that she faced threat to her life from Naxals.

Considering that there are at least three well-known cases of murder of independent, ‘Left’ thinkers—Dhabolkar, Pansare and Kalburgi—that have remained unsolved it does not look that those responsible for the murder of Gauri Lankesh will be brought to justice soon.

That will be another misfortune because the longer it takes to solve the ‘mystery’ greater the chances that forces that are trying to stifle dissent by resorting to extreme form of violence will become bolder and bolder.

The government of India does not seem to worry that India figures among the countries considered unsafe for journalists. The World Press Freedom Index has placed India at number 136 (out of 180 nations), a downward slide of three points.

In the last three years, the overwhelming majority of the media in the country has abandoned its primary task of acting as the watchdog. It is a ‘mystery’ bigger than any murder mystery. That actually leads to another disturbing thought. Was all the public display of anger over the murder of Gauri Lankesh by journalists just an eyewash and hypocritical? How many of journalists in the country actually feel that ‘freedom of expression’ is in danger?

In the mainstream media, the spotlight is on the opposition but the ruling party generally escapes hard scrutiny. It has become a common practice to let, rather encourage, the government and its sympathisers to blame the previous governments for all the troubles but little effort is made to recall that people had changed the regime on the assurance that the new dispensation will quickly move to set things right.

One need not dwell on the grandiose promises made to the people during the parliamentary poll campaign, but what are the reasons for under-performance and failures noticed in the last three years.

- Asian Tribune –

The noted environmentalist Saalumarada Thimmakka with a poster during a protest against the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead by motorcycle-borne assailants outside her residence last night, during a protest in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
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