The brutal murder of well-known journalist and human rights defender Gauri Lankesh, on September 5 in Bengaluru, has shocked and saddened many the world over. Gauri represented the very best of the India which is free and fearless, which respects the rights of her citizens, which celebrates pluralism and above all, safeguards the highest values of democracy! Gauri had the courage to take on the Sangh Parivar and all communal-minded people, she abhorred the caste system, she fought for the emancipation of women, she took up cudgels for the poor and marginalized and she was a relentless crusader for the freedom of speech and expression!
The bullets of the assassins that fateful night carried with it some clear messages: that it is they who ‘apparently’ control the destiny of the nation; that the likes of Gauri, had no place in their scheme of things, that they brook no dissent, that they are cloaked with immunity and can obviously get away with murder. The fact that there was an overwhelming outrage to Gauri’s murder from several sections of society from across the country speaks volumes that all is still not lost for the country.
The murder of Gauri provides other insights into her assassins and the powers behind them too, which include:
· they are spineless cowards; masked in anonymity, they gun down an unarmed defenseless woman
· they are violent; they have the muscle and the clout to do away with violently anyone who does not subscribe to their fascist agenda. ‘Ahimsa’ obviously means nothing to them
· they lack the intelligence, the conviction and the staying power to debate or write objectively on critical issues plaguing the country and our people today. Gauri consistently wrote and spoke about these issues.
· they are afraid of the Truth; when courageous and upright journalists like Gauri expose their evil deeds and other nefarious activities they are just unable to accept them, leave alone swallow the facts.
· they are adept in defocusing; Gauri’s estranged brother conveniently speaks about ‘Naxalite’ involvement. Some TV channels with their stooge anchors vomit the same possibility The Central Government in a manipulative manner asks the State Government as to why Gauri was not given protection from the Naxalites!
· they are good in sweeping other issues under the carpet. Gauri’s chilling murder is naturally headlines; but at the same time other major issues are quickly turned from the pages of people’s memories like the deaths of children in UP, the fiasco of demonetization, the institutionalization of corruption, the thousands affected by floods in several parts of the country and the official inability and apathy to respond to those affected, the crimes of Godmen against women like the Dera Chief and Asaram Bapu, the mob lynching of people. The list is endless.
· they don’t care about the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution of India; for them, journalists who speak truth to power, human rights defenders, right to information activists and for that matter, any one from civil society who dissents, is termed as ‘anti-national’ and needs to be done away with. The trolling and the venom spewed on Gauri in social media by the ‘bhakts’ of PM Modi is a clear indication that the freedom of speech and expression is not something that they cherish. Gauri believed in the Constitution and passionately defended the rights of citizens until the very end!
The above are some ways in which fascists operate. There is no denying the fact that the cold-blooded, pre-mediated murder of Gauri has political patronage at the highest level. We have seen it in the ‘fake encounters’ in Gujarat; we have seen it in the killings of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi; we have seen it in the murders of several other journalists, human rights and RTI activists all over the country.
Besides the shock, grief and outrage Gauri’s death has also brought together women and men from all walks of life in a show of unity. This visible and vocal unity must continue. We are convinced that though they ‘killed’ her, Gauri’s spirit will live on! The greatest tribute we can then pay to this courageous woman is to ensure that the rich legacy she has left us will never die; that we will do all we can to protect the democratic and pluralistic fabric of our great country!
(The writer is a human rights activist. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Published on 11th September 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 37)