Eliminated at Point Blank: Gauri Lankesh, a Journalist of Courage
Known for her radical views, Lankesh was gutsy of ideologies that weren’t compatible with the powers-that-be.
Her Facebook profile picture that features Rohith Vemula, with the caption ‘Punish the Culprits’, gives you an idea of the kind of person Gauri Lankesh was. In one word – fearless.
The 55-year-old senior journalist was shot dead outside her residence in Ideal Home Layout in Rajarajeswari Nagar in Bengaluru, late on Tuesday evening.
‘Not One To Soften The Blows’
She was known for her radical views and was gutsy about embracing ideologies that were not very compatible with the powers-that-be. She was not one to soften her blows using a velvet glove. Her approach was unabashedly in the face.
What is shocking about Gauri's murder is that it is so similar to the manner in which rationalist MM Kalburgi was killed at his home in Dharwad in Karnataka in August 2015.
Given her outspoken views against Hindutva, it is no surprise that fingers are being pointed at right-wing elements. Add to that, her conviction in the defamation case that was filed by BJP MP Prahlad Joshi in November last.
Joshi had accused Gauri of publishing a story defaming him in 2008, for which the court felt she could not produce substantial evidence. She was sentenced to jail for six months, but got bail.
That indeed is the worrying part. That just like in Kalburgi’s case – or in the case of noted rationalist and anti-superstition activist Professor Narendra Dabholkar, who was shot dead in Pune in August 2013 – anyone can brazenly decide to eliminate a voice of dissent at point blank range.
A Pre-Planned Attack
Prima facie, it seems the assailants tracked Gauri on her way from office to home, raising suspicion that the three motorbike-borne men could be hired killers. The police say the lights at her home were off since she stayed alone and the CCTV cameras would be the only way her killers can be tracked.
Given her work background, it would also make sense to look at the kind of stories she was pursuing in her tabloid in the recent past.
Karnataka DGP RK Dutta has, however, said there was no threat to Gauri's life.
Her Journalism, a Product of Her DNA
Gauri’s brand of journalism was a product of her DNA. The eldest daughter of poet and journalist P Lankesh – who is credited with having introduced a new brand of Kannada journalism through his publication – Gauri embraced the same template, with the tabloid known for being outspoken.
After her father's death in 2000, the paper was split between her and her brother. While Indrajit ran the original ‘Lankesh Patrike’, Gauri started the weekly ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’, known for its strident anti-establishment line.
Just a day before her death, Gauri was enquiring from her friend, Bengaluru-based senior journalist Sugata Raju, what kind of T-shirts she should buy for her ‘adopted son’, JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar.
“She would refer to Kanhaiya and others as my children,'' says Sugata. He also posted on Twitter a screenshot of his Whatsapp conversation with Gauri on 9 August, where she said: “I am so upset. My son Kanhaiya has been attacked in Indore. But he is safe. His friend Dhananjay is slightly wounded.'”
When Sugata expressed his admiration for Gauri for having adopted “these wonder boys”, Gauri replied emotionally: “I am lucky that they have accepted me as their Amma.''
The Onus Now On Karnataka Govt
What is surprising is that the murder took place on a day when the Bengaluru police was on maximum alert, with almost its entire force on the road. Prohibitory orders were in place in order to foil the BJP's ‘Mangaluru Chalo’ rally, with the police sealing its check posts at entry points to the city.
The onus is now on the Siddaramaiah government to ensure the Gauri Lankesh case does not go the Kalburgi way. With elections less than a year away, the case will otherwise be used by political rivals to throw mud at each other.
Gauri Lankesh practised journalism of courage and always exhorted others to stand up to what was wrong. The ink in her pen has been drained out, but she would be very disappointed if her brand of journalism also passes into past tense.
(The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached at @Iamtssudhir. 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.)
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