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State funeral for Lankesh, candle-light vigils amid outrage over murder
Shock across country; condemnations continue to pour in
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BENGALURU/NEW DELHI, Sep 6 (Agencies): Hundreds gathered to pay their respects to senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, who was buried on Wednesday evening with full state honours at a cemetery in Bengaluru's Chamarajpet.

The police gave a gun salute to Lankesh, 55, who was shot dead at point-blank range at her home yesterday. Amid outrage, editors and others have condemned the murder, also expressing concern over what they described as a growing intolerance to dissent.

There have been protests across the country and since dusk, candlelight vigils are being held in the heart of Bengaluru, Mumbai and in Kolkata, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee participated.

“Namma Gauri” (I Am Gauri) said large posters in Bengaluru as attendees denounced intolerance and any threat to free speech.

There were chants of "Gauri Lankesh Amar Rahe (Long live Gauri Lankesh)" as the journalist's body was lowered into the grave. There were no religious rituals at the funeral. "She was a rationalist and we do not want to go against her ideologies," said Lankesh's brother.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah along with several ministers was present at the cemetery. He also visited the Ravindra Kalakshetra cultural centre where Ms Lankesh's body was kept in a coffin for a few hours this afternoon to allow people to pay tribute. Siddaramaiah has called the murder an "assassination on democracy."

On footage from CCTVs installed at Lankesh's house in the western part of the IT hub, a man in a helmet is seen walking up to Lankesh as she parked her car and firing at her, sources said. Gauri Lankesh tried to run into her house but collapsed outside. The police suspect the man seen on camera was accompanied by two others on a motorcycle.

At meetings and protest marches organised across the country by journalists, thinkers and activists, many alleged that Lankesh's murder was in retaliation to her anti-establishment voice, her criticism of those in power ignoring those on the margins.

“This shows dissent will not be tolerated," said BT Venkatesh, a lawyer who represented Lankesh in a defamation case brought against her a few years ago by a BJP parliamentarian.

“Gauri Lankesh's murder drills a hole in the heart of the journalist community. Are we sliding into the heart of darkness?” said editor Nalini Singh. The Editors' Guild has called the murder a "brutal assault on the freedom of the press."

Lankesh, whose father P Lankesh was one of Karnataka's best known journalists, ran a weekly Kannada paper in which she often wrote in support of the rehabilitation of Naxals and against divisive politics. Frequently, she contested right-wing ideology.

Gauri Lankesh lived alone. Last night she had just returned from work when she was attacked. Seven shots were fired at her. Three bullets hit her, including one on the head.

Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra said there could be links between the murder of Ms Lankesh and that of rationalist and scholar MM Kalburgi who was killed in 2015 at his home in Dharwad, around 400 km from Bengaluru. When the 77-year-old Sahitya Akademi award winner opened his door, the attackers shot him twice at point blank range. His case has yet to be solved.

AT NEW DELHI, Outraged over the gunning down of one of their own, Gauri Lankesh, prominent journalists from across the city gathered at the Press Club of India here, and demanded justice amid call for standing up to "forces" trying to the "muzzle" the voices of dissent.

Author and senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta termed yesterday's killing of Lankesh in Bengaluru as "a defining moment" in the history of Indian media.

"We are seeing the space for free-thinking shrinking. They want to silence the people who want to hold truth to power. We cannot remain silent, because that is what they want. Don't keep quiet. That would be their success," he said.

Lankesh, 55, was shot dead by unidentified assailants at the entrance of her residence in the Rajrajeshwari Nagar, Karnataka police chief R K Dutta said.

The Press Club of India (PCI) had yesterday strongly condemned the killing, saying, "A fearless and independent journalist who gave voice to many causes and always stood up for justice has been shot dead in the most brutal manner in order to silence her voice."

The PCI, along with Press Association and Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) held a protest meet in the afternoon against the killing of Lankesh.

Senior journalist Manini Chatterjee said, "Regardless of legislative majority, certain rights should be inviolable."

The Club demanded that the attackers be identified and brought to book in a swift manner. "What is wrong in being a journalist and also an activist or vice-versa," Thakurta asked.

"There was a criminal defamation case against Lankesh. Why was Gauri targeted for the same story that was published by several others? At this defining moment in the right to free speech, we cannot forget Gauri, if we do, their objective would be served," he said.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) also staged a protest at the Jantar Mantar. The Delhi unit of the forum said the killing of senior Kannada journalist was an example of "politics of intolerance".

The KUWJ also said it was an "attempt" to muzzle the voices of criticisms.

"She was not only a journalist but a social activist who shared the concerns of the society. This murder is similar to the killings of M M Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare," KUWJ said in a statement.

In the meanwhile the condemnations continued to pour in across the nation against horrific killing.

Amnesty International India (AII) said that the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh by gunmen outside her residence in Bengaluru "raises alarm" about the state of freedom of expression in the country.

In a press statement issued here today, AII said that Gauri, who was known for her strident anti-establishment views and writings against Hindu fundamentalists, was never afraid of speaking truth to power, the rights body said.

"Her assassination must be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. The police must investigate whether she was killed because of her journalism," Asmita Basu, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India, said.

"Critical journalists and activists have increasingly faced threats and attacks across India in recent years. State governments must act to protect those whose voices of dissent are being silenced," Basu said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said that there have been no conviction in any of 27 cases of journalists "murdered for their work" in India since 1992, the statement said.

The Editors Guild of India too expressed deep shock over her killing and strongly condemned it.

“Her killing is an ominous portent for dissent in democracy and a brutal assault on the freedom of the press. The Editors Guild of India demands that the Karnataka government acts with alacrity to bring the culprits to justice apart from instituting a judicial probe into the killing,” said a statement, signed by Raj Chengappa, president; Prakash Dubey, general secretary; and Kalyani Shankar, treasurer.


News Updated at : Thursday, September 7, 2017
 
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