Silencing the ink: Gauri Lankesh, a fearless journalist of courage

Published: September 6, 2017
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Gauri’s brand of journalism was a product of her DNA. PHOTO: GAURI LANKESH/FACEBOOK

Gauri Lankesh’s Facebook profile picture that features Rohith Vemula, with the caption ‘Punish the culprits’, gives you an idea of the kind of person she was – fearless.

Posted by Gauri Lankesh on Monday, January 18, 2016

The 55-year-old senior journalist was shot dead outside her residence in Ideal Home Layout in Rajarajeswari Nagar, Bengaluru, late yesterday evening.

Not one to soften the blows

Lankesh 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 while her approach to everything in life was unabashedly in the face.

What is shocking about Lankesh’s murder is that it is very similar to the manner in which rationalist Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi was killed at his home in Dharwad, 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Prahlad Joshi in November last year. Joshi had accused Lankesh 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 eventually got out on bail.

However, at this stage, when investigations have just begun, it would be foolhardy and irresponsible to jump to conclusions. What is more important is that the case does not meet the same fate as the Kulburgi murder that is yet to be cracked.

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 Lankesh on her way home from office, raising suspicion that the three motorbike-borne men could be hired killers. The police say the lights at her home were switched 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.

After Kalburgi was gunned down, several editors in Karnataka were asked by the police force if they needed security. It seems Lankesh turned it down, though now her brother Indrajit Lankesh says he wanted security for her.

Karnataka Director General of Police (DGP) Rupak Kumar Dutta has, however, said there was no threat to Lankesh’s life.

Her journalism, a product of her DNA

Gauri’s brand of journalism was a product of her DNA. She was 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. However, after her father’s death in 2000, the paper was split between her and her brother. While her brother ran the original ‘Lankesh Patrike’, she started the weekly ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’, known for its strident anti-establishment line.

Just a day before her death, Lankesh was enquiring from her friend, a Bengaluru-based senior journalist Sugata Raju, what kind of t-shirts she should buy for her ‘adopted son’, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar.

Gauri Lankesh with Kanhaiya Kumar. Photo: Gauri Lankesh/Facebook

“She would refer to Kanhaiya and others as my children,” says Raju.

He also posted on Twitter a screenshot of his Whatsapp conversation with Gauri on August 9th.

The onus now on Karnataka government

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 placed in order to foil the BJP’s ‘Mangaluru Chalo’ rally, with the police sealing its check posts at each entry point of the city.

The onus is now on the Siddaramaiah government to ensure that the Gauri 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 practiced the 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 the past tense.

This post originally appeared in The Quint here.

T S Sudhir

T S Sudhir

The author is an Indian TV, print and digital journalist with over 25 years experience. He was the Editor (South India) at NDTV and later at India Today. He is a columnist writing extensively on politics, sports, entertainment and development issues. He is also a satirist and the author of badminton player Saina Nehwal's biography. He tweets as @Iamtssudhir (twitter.com/Iamtssudhir)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    A well balanced blog. A great fearless journalist has been lost today.

    It’s true that she was against BJP and that even led her to jail term for defamation. But, it’s also true that what she ran was a tabloid in the truest sense of the word and hence a lot of yellow journalism went on in her paper, just like her father’s, which was under her brother. This clearly led to her making a lot of enemies.

    But the murderers and conspirators must be caught and jailed, even if they belong to any Hindutva group of not.Recommend

  • vasan

    You can include the stone throwing incident in Delhi on a church. Exactly similarRecommend

  • wb

    Completely agree. India is secular in name only. In reality, even today Mullahs and Imams rule the roast. So, India should be called as Islamic Republic of Mullahs India.Recommend

  • Sane

    What a distorted fact about rapists of 70 years old Nun, You Hinduwta supporters and Hindu fanatics are master in lies. Lies and propaganda is your weapon to cover your crimes and sins. The Nun was raped by all Hinduwta extremists. You must have some shame for you lies and misleading the readers. None of the rapist was Muslim.

    A senior CID official said that Gopal Sarkar’s wife Anita Sarkar and
    several other neighbours from Habra Goalbati were shown the CCTV
    captured faces of the criminals and they were able to identify most of
    the criminals by name.

    As per their reported identification, one of the accused Milan Sarkar
    – a Bangladesh Jessore based relative of Gopal Sarkar was the
    mastermind and had brought over other associates to commit the crime.
    The gang is said to have committed similar robbery in the past. He was
    related to Gopal Sarkar and his family.

    Read More:

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/564053/Elderly-nun-gang-rape-convent-school-India-West-Bengal-Convent-of-Jesus-and-Mary-School

    http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2015/03/15/elderly-nuns-rape-in-west_n_6871808.htmlRecommend

  • Sane

    Wikipedia is prone to editing and not referred as reliable source. Indian and international newspapers are not real source? Recommend

  • Sane

    Soon India shall be Islamic Republic of India.Recommend

  • wb

    Don’t be so impatient. Impatience cost you Bangladesh in 1971. So, go down and read all the links.Recommend

  • Patwari

    What about the University student gang rape
    on a bus in Delhi? There were were 10/15 of
    BJP/RSS hindu thugs, goons. She died of her injuries.
    What about the rape of the Danish female tourist
    last year? And the German woman who was raped?
    Can we go into the Finnish woman’s rape? The Dutch
    girl’s gang rape last year. Not forgetting the Swedish
    woman either. All of this last year. Now these are rapes
    reported. Majority of the rape victims, domestic and
    foreign, specially foreign women do not want to get
    involved in Hindustani legal system, that does not favor
    the victims. Everyone knows this. These women just leave.
    That’s why almost, in every country in the West, there are
    travel advisories for women planning on visiting Hindia.
    A Dalit hindu woman is raped by a non Dalit hindu
    every 7 minutes. And nothing is done, because Dalits
    are low caste.
    Now, you know why Hindia is the Rape Capital of the world?Recommend

  • Patwari

    No Banarsi Brahmini Mulla. You are in the habit of distorting facts.
    Your hate for Muslims is very evident. You will DO ANYTHING to
    make Muslim look bad. There is no shame in you.
    That’s how low hindus are.Recommend

  • Patwari

    No need to. Just don’t tell anyone you
    upgraded your caste to Brahmini. Move
    to another down south. Everyone is illiterate
    there. Just wear a janeo thread, and fairness
    cream.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Banarsi Mulla, we don’t need a history lesson on a hindu journalist.
    No one is interested here in a Pak e Paper. Go spout it in Times of
    Hindia, Maharashtra Tabloid, Bombay Gazette, The Hindu and other
    Hindustani rags.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Better still, how about Hindu Hindutva Hindustan Home of Pure Dravidians.
    Shorter version,..HHHHOPD. Now that name is prettyyy…good. Catchy.
    May Lord Ganesha, Rama, Lord Hanuman, Parvati, Goddess Lakshmi,
    Goddess Radha, Radhika, and specially Lord Pavan bless you all hindus.Recommend

  • wb

    you need every lesson from a Hindu. Recommend

  • wb

    Thank you. We will accomplish soon. Recommend

  • Sane

    This time your tall claim made you to retreat from Doklam and soon going to tax further Recommend

  • wb

    This time, we made China tuck its tail between its leg and stop all construction. That is a lesson China will not forget in a thousand years. Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    After demonetization, antinationals lost their source is fake currency. That is why she was trying to get Naxals go main stream. Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    President is Macaulay defined Dalit, Prime Minister, a maid’s & chaiwala’s son is a tad above Dalit, Army general & MSc Maths Chief Minister of largest state r farm hands, Chief Justice & Air Chief r Sikh… BJP party president is Jain.

    India is progressing & is egalitarian because it is Hindu. Cut Hindu/Dharmik roots then u r staring at ISIS land of AfPak or depressed drug addicts land of South Central America.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Listen to this so called minority speaker. https://youtu.be/wdUCs7JqjAQRecommend

  • vasan

    You are thoroughly misinformed friend. Pakistan retains a rank above India in worst rape crimes including jirgas, trade offs, for migration etc. While India convicts rape criminals, rape is awarded by jirgas as justice in Pakistan. That defines the country’s criminal systemRecommend