Subscribe to SIAWI content updates by Email
Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > India: Death of a of Journalist - Tribute to Gauri Lankesh

India: Death of a of Journalist - Tribute to Gauri Lankesh

Thursday 14 September 2017, by siawi3


Tribute to Gauri Lankesh
India: Death of a of Journalist

by Nandana Reddy

The Indian Express, September 7, 2017

Gauri Lankesh opposed the communal totalitarian politics of the BJP and its twisted interpretation of Hinduism. She stood against the caste system, inequality, and gender discrimination.

We live in treacherous times. The insidious stench of fear and violence threatens to permeate the very core of our being. We are browbeaten into silence, our citizenship redefined and constitutional rights blurred. Never has India faced such a threat to her democracy.

And yet, some continue to speak out. Gauri Lankesh, journalist and activist, was one who voiced her opinions boldly and vociferously, no holds barred. Gunned down on the doorstep as she returned home from work on the evening of September 5, she is the latest free voice to be silenced. In 2015, rationalist M.M. Kalburgi and CPI leader Govind Pansare were shot dead in similar fashion. And in 2013, anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar. All these cowardly killings were in non-BJP ruled states.

Lankesh opposed the communal totalitarian politics of the BJP and its twisted interpretation of Hinduism. She stood against the caste system, inequality, and gender discrimination. She was feisty, blunt and forthright and diplomacy was not on her agenda. She was sharp and critical of injustice and made as many friends as she made enemies.

Her father, P. Lankesh, poet, playwright and journalist, was known to be left leaning and had close ties with socialist thinkers U.R. Ananthamurthy, Gopal Gowda and S. Venkatram. His play Kranthi Banthu Kranthi (The Revolution is Coming), that forecast the state of Emergency and made strong arguments against the use of violence as a political tool, was made into a film by my parents, Pattabhirama Reddy and Snehalata Reddy (my mother died as a result of her incarceration in the regime of Mrs Gandhi). It is ironic that his daughter, a crusader for democracy, should die by the gun. After her father’s death in 2000, Gauri became the editor of Lankesh Patrike, a popular Kannada tabloid founded by her father, while her brother Indrajit became the paper’s proprietor, managing editor and publisher. However, in 2005, the siblings had a falling out due to ideological differences. Indrajit accused Gauri of leftist leanings and Gauri started her own publication, Gauri Lankesh Patrike.

Among her many crusades, Gauri called for a meaningful dialogue between the government and Naxalites, facilitating the surrender of Maoists who wanted to give up their weapons and join the mainstream. She endorsed the demand for a separate religious tag for the Lingayat community, the followers of Basavanna, who rejected the caste system and scorned temple and idol worship, fought against discrimination on the basis of gender and birth and abhorred superstitions. They used Kannada instead and essentially discarded everything discriminatory about the Hindu religion and rebelled against it. Her support earned her the wrath of the Veerashaivas.

In 2008, she alleged that BJP MPs, Prahlad Joshi and Umesh Dhusi, were involved in criminal dealings based on what she said was “inside” information. Though several other media had published the same allegations, in November 2016 she was convicted in a defamation case, and sentenced to six months in jail and a fine.

Karnataka has been subjected to turbulent politics for the past two decades. Be it the BJP or the Congress, the focus has been on the politics of language, religion and caste. For the BJP this is a political tool for destabilisation and creating fear and uncertainty. The Congress, not seeing the writing on the wall, plays the same game, but badly.

Kalburgi was murdered two years ago and the culprits have not been found. Bengaluru is increasingly becoming a very unsafe place for women. The youth of Udupi and Mangalore are subject to the RSS’s moral policing. And the Congress is more concerned about building steel flyovers and financing the next election, leaving citizens a choice between the frying pan and the fire.

A vocal critic of both the ruling Congress, and right-wing forces including the BJP, Gauri condemned both. Giving numerous examples of attacks against Muslims and Dalits, she said she was worried for the future of the state. “We have no dearth of Yogi Adityanaths in Karnataka,” she said.

Soon after Gauri was gunned down, protests erupted outside her residence in Bengaluru and accusations were hurled against the state government for failing to protect Kalburgi and Gauri. Her brother demanded a CBI probe and the home minister, Ramalinga Reddy, was heckled, shifting the focus from the communal and right-wing agenda of the BJP to the ham-fisted incompetent governance of the Congress. Almost immediately, right-wing social media was rife with venomous tweets.

Gauri is not the first to be silenced. She will not be the last if we do not take a firm stand to defend our Constitution and democratic rights. No political party today seems to have this on their agenda and some like the BJP, backed by the RSS, are manipulating our narrative by changing the vocabulary.

May Gauri’s death not be in vain.

The writer, [Nandana Reddy] a Bengaluru-based activist, and Lankesh were long-time friends



India: Gauri Lankesh, journalist and activist, 1962-2017

Nilanjana Roy

12 September

Financial TImes

Indian newspaper publisher who spoke truth to power was murdered this month

September 8, 2017

by: Nilanjana Roy

If you judge the calibre of an editor by the quality of her enemies, Gauri Lankesh was one of India’s best. She was murdered on September 5 by three gunmen who attacked as she entered her Bangalore home. The killing shocked the Indian media.

She had been overseeing the weekly edition of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, her Kannada-language tabloid, one of the very few Indian newspapers that proudly carried a female publisher’s name on its masthead.

Aside from the usual pressures, the media in India has faced greater political intimidation, vicious abuse, threats and accusations of being “anti-national” after the 2014 election, when Narendra Modi swept to power on a Hindu nationalist platform. Many self-censored. Even those who did not back down measured their words in public, but Lankesh spoke freely. Privately, Delhi’s editors shared tales of her impassioned phone calls: “Speak up, you must do more, why are all of you so timid!”

Lankesh, who was 55, was a strong critic of Modi’s government, but she spoke truth to all forms of power — religious, political, caste-driven and communal. She was unafraid of making enemies, and she made them with relish — a recent op-ed she wrote attacked “flag bearers of the Hindutva brigade” and questioned leaders from the powerful Lingayat religious community.

If critics expected that she would curb herself after she lost a defamation suit in 2016 filed by BJP leaders, they were mistaken

Gauri Lankesh was born in 1962 to a prominent Karnataka family. Her father, a Kannada writer, P Lankesh, was adored for his poetry, short stories, plays and films. He received India’s highest literary prize, the Sahitya Akademi award, in 1993. Gauri, his oldest daughter, inherited his jousting spirit, uncompromising anti-caste views and religious scepticism. She is survived by her sister, Kavitha, a film director and lyricist, and her brother, Indrajit, a film producer and publisher.

In 1980, P Lankesh started Karnataka’s first tabloid, Lankesh Patrike. The state had seen nothing like this — punchy, colourful journalism that gleefully blurred the line between gossip and fact. “It was very successful, and spawned many imitators,” says the journalist Manoj Mitta. Before the rise of television, Lankesh Patrike boasted a circulation of millions. P Lankesh shrugged off the defamation suits and death threats, an attitude that his daughter would later adopt.

Gauri Lankesh thought she might want to be a doctor, turning only later to English-language journalism. Her marriage to a fellow journalist, Chidanand Rajghatta, brought her to Delhi. “Even when we divorced 27 years ago, after five years of courtship and five years of marriage, we remained great friends,” her ex-husband wrote in a tribute.

Gauri was reluctant to take over Lankesh Patrike when her father died in 2000, but stepped up rather than let his legacy die. Her brother Indrajit became business editor, though their differing political views — Gauri was of the far left, Indrajit supports the BJP — caused clashes later. She had written chiefly in English and switched to Kannada, at first with trepidation, then with confidence as she wrote more, travelled frequently, reclaiming both terrain and language.

In 2005, she and her brother fell out over her report of the killing of a Maoist Naxalite leader in a police encounter. He pulled the piece. Gauri denied that she had been sympathetic to the Naxalites, alleging that Indrajit had threatened her with a gun. She started her own tabloid, the Gauri Lankesh Patrike. The Congress government in Karnataka praised her efforts on a 2014 state committee that persuaded Naxalites to surrender and return to the mainstream.

The forum for communal harmony, the Komu Souharda Vedike, that she started in 2005, frequently clashed with Hindu rightwing groups. She enraged religious zealots with her rationalist views, influenced by the 12th century Hindu reformer Basavanna, and by the jurist and Dalit leader Dr BR Ambedkar.

If critics expected that she would curb herself after she lost a defamation suit in 2016 filed by BJP leaders, they were mistaken. Free on anticipatory bail, ready to appeal against the verdict, she said: “I oppose the BJP’s fascist and communal politics . . . I oppose the caste system of the ‘Hindu Dharma’, which is unfair, unjust and gender-biased.”

Colleagues say that Lankesh was fearless, reckless, and driven by injustice. “We can’t fit into his shoes,” she’d said in 2000, hesitating at the thought of taking over her father’s legacy. But she filled them well. It would take three bullets, fired at close range in a murder that reminded many of the previous killings of rationalist thinkers, to finally silence her fluting, unrepentant, fearless voice.