Assassinating Gauri Lankesh, vocal Hindutva critic, proves again India is no country for journalists
According to reports, the fearless editor was shot multiple times by 3-4 people.
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Once again, it’s a black day for journalists fighting for justice, pursuing intrepid journalism of courage in India. Senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was fighting defamation cases on the one hand and trying to keep her publication, Gauri Lankesh Patrike, afloat, has been shot dead outside her home in Bangalore earlier this evening.
Lankesh was a vocal critic of Hindutva and was entangled in defamation cases filed against her by BJP MP Prahlad Joshi for a story she published in 2008. On November 28, 2016, Lankesh was convicted of defamation by a judicial magistrate in Habbali, Karnataka, for the 2008 piece in her paper for which two BJP members, Dharwad MP Prahlad Joshi and Umesh Dushi, cited character assassination and defamation. Lankesh intended to appeal in a higher court against the conviction.
It must be noted that Amit Malviya, the BJP IT cell head, had sent out this tweet after the news of Lankesh’s conviction in the defamation case broke.
Prahlad Joshi, BJP MP from Dharwad, gets Gouri Lankesh convicted in a defamation case. https://t.co/6DQTYDY1rO Hope other journos take note.— Amit Malviya (@malviyamit) November 29, 2016
Lankesh had then said, “The idea that the IT cell of the BJP is using this episode as a tool to threaten other journalists is what is shocking.”
In an interview to Newslaundry, Lankesh had said “Modi bhakts and the Hindutva brigade want me in jail”. She told Manisha Pande of the portal, “Unfortunately, today anybody talking in support of human rights and against fake encounters is branded a Maoist supporter."
"Along with that, my criticism of Hindutva politics and the caste system, which is part and parcel of what is considered ‘Hindu dharma’, makes my critics brand me as a ‘Hindu hater’. But I consider it my constitutional duty to continue - in my own little way - the struggle of Basavanna and Dr Ambedkar towards establishing an egalitarian society.”
Lankesh is the latest journalist victim to be murdered in India as a volatile climate makes it extremely unsafe for scribes, reporters and independent editors to do their job well. While Scroll’s contributor Malini Subramaniam faced threats, intimidation while she tried reporting on the human rights violations in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, Jagendra Singh was burnt alive in Shahjahanpur, UP. Rajdev Ranjan of Hindustan Times was shot dead in Siwan, Bihar last year.
Lankesh was also mindful of the hazards of doing fearless journalism in India, particularly after the murders of MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dhabolkar and Govind Pansare for speaking out against Hindutva extremist politics. While Sanatan Sanstha has been alleged to have had a hand in the murder of Dhabolkar, the other murders have remained a mystery pegged on “unidentified assailants”.
She had told Pande of Newslaundry:
“In Karnataka today, we are living in such times that Modi Bhakts and the Hindutva brigade welcome the killings (as in the case of Dr M M Kalburgi) and celebrate the deaths (as in the case of Dr U R Ananathamurthy) of those who oppose their ideology, their political party and their supreme leader Narendra Modi. I was referring to such people because, let me assure you, they are keen to somehow shut me up too. A jail stint for me would have warmed the cockles of their hearts!”
Lankesh indicated a pattern in the deaths of the atheists and writers like Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi. She said after Kalburgi's murder, a Bajrang Dal activist, Bhuvith Shetty had tweeted justifying Kalburgi’s murder, saying “Mock Hinduism and die a dog’s death”. It's important to note that Shetty was held for murder of a person called Harish Poojary, whom Shetty "mistook for a Muslim".
Lankesh was also frank about the “rabid hate” of the Hindutva brigade: She said:
“When I looked at the tweets and the kind of comments that were made about me, I was alarmed. One, because the tweets showed the rabid hate the Hindutva brigade and Modi Bhakts have for its critics and naysayers. Two, most of the tweets were targeted against liberal/Left journalists/journalism. Both those factors made me fear for the freedom of expression of the fourth estate in our country today in a larger context and not just in the personal sense.”
She was of the opinion that “criminal defamation laws should be scrapped”. She told The Wire that the “right to dissent was being threatened”, underlining the dire atmosphere of criminal intimidation and threatening of journalists as well as organisations for questioning the ruling dispensation.
Criminal defamation is a stain on any democracy. Violence through law. Despite this it seems Gauri Lankesh kept fighting, kept publishing.— Apar (@aparatbar) September 5, 2017
Twitter and India media sphere has erupted in pain and anger at Lankesh’s brutal murder.
Breaking news: Gauri Lankesh, journalist and a critic of Hindutva politics, has been shot dead in Bengaluru. Very disturbing.— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) September 5, 2017
Pansare, Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Lankesh, who is next? What is going on? Why haven't the guilty been caught in previous cases? #GauriLankesh— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) September 5, 2017
Poisonous violence of mind being spread on social media to browbeat critics; on street, its the gun that silences dissent. #GauriLankesh— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) September 5, 2017
Numbed by news of Gauri Lankesh's murder. She was gutsy, level-headed, defiant—everything we need in a journalist in these troubled times.— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) September 5, 2017
The message and not to independent journalists but to all dissenters is loud and clear. We are watching you and one day we will get you— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) September 5, 2017
Killing of #GauriLankesh is not only tragic but terribly scary as well. Mere dissent or disagreement as a brave journalist cost her life.— S lrfan Habib (@irfhabib) September 5, 2017
V clear that the murder of #GauriLankesh was a planned attack, just like the killing of rationalist Kalburgi. Clear attempt to silence her— T S Sudhir (@Iamtssudhir) September 5, 2017
Gauri Lankesh’s brother, Inderjit Lankesh, has demanded that the investigation should be handed over to a central investigation team.
It's another matter what a "central investigation" would do to the probe itself, given CBI has been shooting off letters to global publiations like the New York Times taking umbrage at the international depiction of "India's battered press".
Gauri Lankesh, rest in resistance. May your death not go in vain.