Gauri Lankesh Was Killed by an Ideology, Not Bullets: Ashutosh
Gauri Lankesh was killed outside her home in Bengaluru on 5 September.
Gauri Lankesh was killed outside her home in Bengaluru on 5 September.(Photo: The Quint)

Gauri Lankesh Was Killed by an Ideology, Not Bullets: Ashutosh

The news of Gauri Lankesh’s death shocked me. But I was not surprised. It might surprise you, but in the midst of the prevailing atmosphere of hate, one can come across an obituary of anyone. Lankesh is not the first one. Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Pansare also became the victims of bullets, with many more succumbing to this violenc e.

Some are being killed because their food habit is disliked by others, while a few others were killed for practising a religion disliked by others. Hatred against a particular caste, and even clothes that don’t fall within the ambit of their definition of ‘Indian culture’, has become an excuse to kill people these days.

Also Read: Gauri Lankesh’s Postmortem Report Finds 3 Bullets Hurt Lung, Heart

Atmosphere Vitiated by Hatred

Authors are attacked with ink because they dare to write books which favour a rational solution to the Pakistan problem. In another instance, a politician mercilessly beats an activist after labelling him as ‘anti-national’. A brilliant student gets beaten up within the premises of the court just because he is studying at JNU, and his opinions on Kashmir issue differs from that of the ‘nationalists’.

Even a social media post can draw ire, resulting in abuses of the worst kind. Women are threatened with rape and others receive death threats.

This atmosphere of hatred has become the “new normal” in recent times, and is gaining pace with each passing day. Rationality as a means of communication has lost relevance, with threats and violence emerging as the new form of communication.

Lankesh fell victim to this hatred. The assailants who came on a bike to shoot her may or may not be caught by the police. Even if the culprits are nabbed, one must not take it as a sign that journalists won’t be murdered anymore because the criminals are in jail, or that freedom of expression won’t be under threat again.

If you think there would be a clash of opinions without any killing – then you’re wrong.

Lankesh was not murdered by a bullet, but by an ideology, which believes that such acts are the responsibility of a person who calls himself a nationalist. This mindset is proliferating across the world at a fast pace. It has different names and different religions, but has only one objective. Such an ideology is averse to contrarian viewpoint, and if need be, its practitioners can even eliminate those with a differing opinion.

Also Read: ‘Gauri Lankesh Didn’t Kill You For Your Opinion, Why Did You?’

Godse Was a Proponent of This Ideology

The bullet that killed Mahatma Gandhi came from the gun of Godse, who was an ardent follower of such an ideology. Gandhiji’s idea of inclusiveness was opposed to the ideology practiced by Godse.

What was Gandhiji’s crime? He just wanted truth and peace to prevail. He never differentiated between Hindus and Muslims. He always used to chant the words ‘Ishwar Allah Tero Naam’. He was a devout Hindu who followed every ritual prescribed in the religion. But he had a soft corner for Muslims, something that didn’t go down well with his killers.

Those were the days marked by animosity due to partition – on one hand was a group that stood for “Muslims”, and the pro-“Hindu” group stood on the other end of spectrum.

Gandhiji stood like a rock between those opposing forces who couldn’t attain their objective as long as Bapu was alive. That’s why he was shot.

Sardar Patel was then the home minister of India, who is considered a hero by the followers of Hindutva today. On 11 September 1948, he wrote a letter to MS Gowalkar in relation to Gandhi’s assassination, and the restrictions imposed on the RSS.

We must admit that the RSS has contributed a lot to Hindu society in many fields, and delivered to the best of their ability. I don’t think there is any problem in acknowledging this fact. The problem begins only when they take steps towards revenge from the Muslims or attack them. Even the way in which the ruling party Congress is targeted, seems to suggest there is no regard for decorum. There is a deliberate attempt to create an atmosphere of instability in the country. Speeches given by the members of RSS are replete with the venom of communalism. They should not spread hatred in order to save Hindus. It is this wave of hatred that resulted in India losing its father figure with Bapu getting killed.
Letter by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel 

Also Read: Gauri Lankesh and MM Kalburgi Bound by Common Thread of Lingayat

Godse’s Idea of an Anti-National

Godse was arrested after the death of Gandhiji, and was awarded death sentence. The Hindutva leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was jailed too, though the charges couldn’t be proved. The Sangh was banned with its head, Golwalkar, being arrested.

It was only after the Sangh agreed to abide by conditions put forth by Patel that the ban on the Sangh was lifted. Though critics of the RSS have often pointed fingers at the organisation for being responsible for Gandhi’s assassination, such allegations could never be proved.

Godse’s testimony in court is indeed an eye opener and surprising. Godse’s mentor Savarkar justified the politics of violence and death. The reasons attributed by Godse in court seem to be behind today’s atmosphere filled with hatred. Godse said:

Perhaps it would have been better had I not committed this action, but circumstances were outside my control. I was anxious that he (Gandhi) shouldn’t die due to natural causes so that the world could see what punishment awaits a person who advocates unjust and anti-national ideas that clearly favour one community at the expense of others.
Nathuram Godse’s testimony in court

The same Gandhi who sacrificed everything to ensure India’s independence was dubbed a traitor by Godse, merely because he spoke in favour of Muslims. Thus, Godse justified Gandhi’s murder on anti-national grounds. He didn’t look at it as murder but as righteous punishment.

Gandhi’s only crime was that his opinions on nation and society were radically different from those held by Godse. This is what is happening today. Any person who holds a contrarian view on Pakistan or Kashmir is instantly dubbed anti-national. How long will it take before we have another Godse amidst us today?

Justifying Violence

What Savarkar did was no different from how the radical Islamic terror groups recruit extremists in the name of jihad. He wrote a book about the revolt of 1857, in which he justified mass murder of the wives and children of British officers in Kanpur.

Such instances of wanton violence against the innocent are rarely found in the history of India, and yet Savarkar justifies such acts. He says:

Whenever a nation endures injustice for a fairly long period, with the entire country up in arms against the system, the only way to avenge national honour is by killing the oppressor.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Historians have labelled the Kanpur killings as a dark chapter in India’s independence, but Savarkar glorifies it in the name of righteous vengeance. When asked what the murdered wives and children of the English officers were guilty of, Savarkar replied through a fable that it was foolish to kill the snake only to nurse its babies.

Savarkar hadn’t been to Kaala-Pani yet. His descent from being a nationalist to a bitter Hindutvadi was such that he went on to justify the mass rape of women from the enemy’s camp. He thought of the Hindu spirit of tolerance not as a virtue, but as a weakness, and one that would cost them dearly. Just like communism cost the lives of thousands of innocents, Savarkar’s ideology also justified violence as fair means.

Similarly, the Wahhabi groups today are also justifying killings in the name of Islam. Godse was Savarkar’s pupil and was highly influenced by him. It is even said by some that Godse was merely an agent who executed Savarkar’s plan. Even though the latter was never officially found guilty, he is still responsible for the ideology that gave birth to Godse’s bloody actions. Gauri Lankesh’s murder in cold blood raises the same questions all over again.

Founding Principles of Democracy

The leaders of the newly independent India adopted the democratic mode of governance after careful deliberation. With special care, they made freedom of religion and speech a fundamental right, and thus inscribed it in the Constitution. They embraced the rule of law and decreed that all conflicts would be resolved through spirited but peaceful discussion. If all parties concerned failed to reach a consensus, the court would have the last word.

They never said it was justified to kill someone in the name of belief or to impose one’s point of view on others by force. Only courts can pronounce judgments on life. Not even the President or the Prime Minister have that power. In doing this, they rejected Savarkar’s creed and embraced Gandhi’s ideology.

In the last few years, however, the spectre of Savarkar’s thought has raised its ugly head. Hate and bigotry are being glorified under different banners; those of nationalism, religion, caste, ancient traditions, new India, etc. The biggest names in politics feel no compunction in following social media accounts that routinely express these bigoted sentiments, stoke hatred, and incite violence. In these terrifying times, Gauri Lankesh’s death is an indication that now is the time to raise your voice – before it’s too late.

(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on QuintHindi.)