The Importance of Being Gauri Lankesh: Sister Kavitha Lankesh Speaks

'Killing Gauri was to set an example. It was a warning,' sister Kavitha Lankesh said in an interview with The Quint.

3 min read

(Reporter/Producer: Nikhila Henry

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman)


Activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead near her home in Bengaluru on 5 September 2017. Hindu right-wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha is accused of having orchestrated the murder.

While the killing triggered a nationwide protest against right-wing sponsored violence, with #IamGauri becoming the campaign line, remembering Gauri is important as her life and legacy can still inspire many to stand up for justice and equality, Kavitha Lankesh told The Quint in an interview.

“By killing her, they wanted to set an example. If you were going to be against Hindutva or be pro-minorities, you need to be taught a lesson. She became a prime example. Otherwise, who will plan for one year to kill a five-foot, scrawny little woman?” Kavitha Lankesh asked.

'I am Gauri' Set a Trend

Kavitha said, "After killing (Govind) Pansare, protests did happen, but not widely. The same thing happened with (Narendra) Dabholkar and (MM) Kalburgi. With Gauri’s killing they thought, protests would be a whimper and go away. They never knew that by killing her, there would be a roar. ‘I am Gauri’ reached all over the country, all over the world.”

Kavitha Lankesh spoke further of the Gauri she knew and the importance of being her.


The Making of Gauri Lankesh, a Tough Childhood

Kavitha Lankesh spoke of growing up in a progressive and secular home, with a playwright father and a intuitive mother, "At this point we were very lower middle class financially. We had to struggle to pay our school fees, though it was a small school. We had to struggle for every month’s ration. My mother contributed a lot. While seeing all the penury and poverty at home, she made sure to teach us that we should stand on our own feet, as women. Especially, be economically independent. My father was… he didn’t even know which standard we were studying in. But when things started improving, and money started coming in, he used to give us blank cheques saying, ‘Go and buy any books you want’. That kind of helped us read books from all over the world.”

Gauri then went on to become a journalist, even as her mother wanted her to take up either engineering or medicine.

“My mother, like in all Indian typical families, wanted her to be either a doctor or engineer. Gauri did not want anything to do with science and said, “I am going to do journalism”. With reluctance, they agreed.”
Kavitha Lankesh

Who was the Gauri Lankesh that Kavitha Knew?

Gauri was "invested in whatever she did," Kavitha said, as she added, "That is probably why her passion and fervour were visible."

"She was not a fake person. Even on social media, whatever she felt at the spur of the moment – be it anger or love – she would talk about it. As I wrote in The Quint, when some people said things she did not agree with, she would say, 'You have lost your way, son. Come let's have coffee'.
Kavitha Lankesh

Was She Scared for Gauri Lankesh When She was Alive?

Kavitha Lankesh said, “I knew there were a lot of cases slapped on her. I knew people were trolling her. At one point she had told me, very jokingly and proudly, ‘I am on a hit list’. I had no clue what she was talking about. I said, ‘What do you mean ‘hit list’. You must be crazy’. I didn’t think she was making that much of a noise. I didn’t think she had an effect on so many people – for or against.”

“About two days before she went home, on Sunday –she was assassinated on Tuesday – she told my mom that someone was lurking around her house. She just dismissed it. We also did not think of it till after a few days after she was assassinated, because we were also numb, in the first few days. Then my mother remembered and told the investigating officer.”
Kavitha Lankesh

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Quint Insider

or more


3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Insider Benefits
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!