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Who killed Gauri Lankesh? Why?
By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me.

—Martin Neimollar

Gauri Lankesh was known for her courageous journalism and activism, her commitment to causes of humanity and her steadfast belief in liberal values. Those who killed Gauri Lankesh had one purpose - to oppose these values, silence her and intimidate others who strongly believe in similar values and the importance of speaking out. At this juncture, with no clear evidence, it is certainly premature to pin-pointedly say for sure who killed Gauri Lankesh but her outspokenness makes it a decisive case of an ideological killing. She was killed for the liberal values she espoused.

Who killed her? To who was her existence such a threat that she should have been shot mercilessly, sprayed with bullets? The slain journalist was known for her plain speaking and scathing criticism of various political groups and so various theories are in circulation. Those who shockingly and shamelessly celebrate her death accuse her for being pro-Maoist and close to Naxalites, violating taxes and being corrupt. None of these allegations are substantiated with any basis, much less evidence. The same people make out a case that the Maoists may have killed her because she was asking them to lay down arms. In striking contrast to this dichotomous discourse over her relation with and her views about Maoists, there is absolute clarity about her recent body of work which focused primarily on the Hindu right wing's fascist project. She spoke and wrote excessively about increasing intolerance, shrinking space for dissent, caste based exclusions and communalism; and she had made no secret about her contempt for saffron brigade's politics of espousing all those things she was opposed to. She was a threat for the BJP-RSS not only because she used her writing and oratory skills to expose their divisive politics and dangerous project of weakening democracy. She was also a threat because her activism that beyond her role as a journalist created hurdles in their way.

Her lawyer B.T. Venkatesh in an interview to The Hoot has emphatically said that the killing was a sinister and pre-planned act by Hindu terror units and he unequivocally dismissed the Maoists angle as "conjectures that only serve to destabilise the investigation". "Let us say it loud and clear. Hindu terror units killed Gauri Lankesh. She opposed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP and these Hindutva forces and this killing is the silencing of that voice against hate politics. It had nothing to do with all the defamation cases filed against her," he said. The lawyer who was representing her in court said that she was involved in several litigations against the Hindutva organizations and that the defamation case in which she was convicted last year was just a trivial case. He maintained that though she had been facing grave threats from the Hindu right wing since 2004, the latest trigger was her opposition to Amit Shah's 'Mangaluru Chalo' bike rally as she feared escalation of communal violence amidst an already vitiated atmosphere. Her colleague Shivsundar pointed out that another possible trigger was that she spoke and wrote extensively on Karnataka's Basavanna tradition of anti-casteism, rationality and secularism.

Similarities are also being drawn between Lankesh's murders and the previous murders of intellectuals like Narendra Dabholkar in 2013 and Govind Pansare in 2015 who were shot dead in similar conditions and in both cases investigating agencies have implicated Hindutva outfit, Sanathan Sanstha. In M.M. Kalburgi's case, though the investigations have not revealed anything conclusive so far, the two assailants were also involved in Dabholkar and Pansare's killing. The commonality with Lankesh's case is that all four were staunch opponents of Hindutva ideology. All these four murders appear to have been carried out by professionals and investigating agencies have pointed out to the possibility of them being hired by someone to do the job. It is important that investigations in each one of these cases reach their final conclusion. Why the needle of suspicion in Gauri Lankesh's case falls more on the Hindutva outfits is also because of the kind of atmosphere being created by them in Karnataka and across rest of the country. Lumpen elements are being promoted to teach dissenters and minorities a lesson and the government in power tacitly supports such a phenomenon by turning a blind eye or calling them aberrations. A culture of hatred is permeating the society, making it easy for such murders. It doesn't take rocket science to figure out who is responsible.

There are sufficient other reasons to suspect the Hindu right wing groups. One among them is the celebratory tone, laced with the most vulgar of abuses, after Gauri Lankesh's murder, by some netizens who are avowed supporters of BJP and Modi Bhakts. Many top BJP leaders including Modi follow these trolls but it was only one among them, Ravi Shankar Prasad who showed the decency to snub these trolls for their repulsive comments.

Though suspicions are not enough to indict anyone and the law indeed must take its own course, it is not only not wrong to talk about these suspected motives but important to bring in this argument because of the enormous clout and power of the Hindutva groups patronised by the party ruling the country. This power has already used all its influence to change the narrative in several cases like Samjhauta Express blast, Col. Purohit indictment and has been abused to the hilt for stamping down voices for justice in Gauri Lankesh case. Its loyalist media has already been pressed into full gear to enter into denial mode and instead imagine a baseless narrative. The unequal power relations necessitate constant reminders of the visible signs of the probable suspects, lest truth is obfuscated by distortions and delays.

Gauri Lankesh's killing cannot be trivialized. It is not an aberration but seemingly part of a pattern but it inspires more outrage as her death becomes symbolic because of her high-profiled status within journalists and activists. What can be said with certainty at this juncture is that this killing is a message and warning to those who freely speak. It gives the latter all the more reason to strengthen themselves and speak out louder and unitedly. As a befitting tribute to her and for their own survival, silence really is not the option.

News Updated at : Sunday, September 10, 2017
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