The Bullet Hit Gauri, But Was Meant for Us All
The series of assassinations needs to be exposed and crushed along with the ‘who’
September 8, 2017
Gauri Lankesh had clearly touched many a heart, as the response to her assassination shows. Her reach was far and wide with the elite, the journalists, the academics and above all students like Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Umar Khalid and Dalit leaders like Jignesh Mevani all pouring their hearts out, in protests, and on the social media. Mevani recalled how Lankesh would come to the railway station to pick him up, Khalid said she was like his mother, and thousands gathered at different venues all across India to weep for the journalist whose life was exemplary, as indeed was her death.
She thus, became a threat to an increasingly fascist and weak state. And a target to be put out to create fear and silence others. She was murdered in the death of night by cowards just like so many others before her just when she stepped out of her car to enter her home. She had written of the threats to her life, of the BJP and the Hindutva forces baying for her blood, the insecurity that had come into her life as she insisted on speaking the truth, writing the facts, and supporting the weak.
It is not who killed her that alone is important, but those who ensured her death. The system that has been targeting and killing dissenters one by one in a series of assassinations needs to be exposed, and crushed along with the ‘who’.
There are many now who are pointing fingers at the right wing, about whom Gauri had expressed insecurity on many an occasion. She was locked up in jail for her exposure for two BJP legislators, and only just released on bail. It was a price she was prepared to pay for the truth, and even after this she refused to compromise. Her spirit was broken, and clearly the cowards who wanted to silence her by using the instruments of state resorted to the gun.
But what strengthens this argument is the kind of response that has been unleashed against Gauri Lankesh and those who are supporting her in the social media. Trolls who do not hide their BJP affiliations, and as has been reported at length in The Citizen as well, have mounted a systemic attack against her after her death sinking to new lows to hurl abuse at a dead woman. Many of the more vicious ones on the social media are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior Ministers of the BJP. Many of them have hurled threat and abuse at senior journalists and others who have come out in her support. No action is being taken against this dirt that is defending murder, and threatening citizens of India with murder and worse.
As all know, these trolls work to laid out plans, and clearly the orchestrated attack now comes from some resentment and anger that the right wing nurtured against Gauri Lankesh. And for all those—as the abuse makes apparent—who believe in a democratic, free India and are prepared to fight for it.
The Congress government in Karnataka has given Gauri Lankesh a state funeral. But what is really required is for the state government to speed up the probe, ensure quick arrest of all accused, a speedy trial and justice. The probe must unravel the nexus between the killers and mentors, for not just the journalist but the rationalists and others who have been killed in a similar manner before. The Karnataka police and many in the state government have not exactly been known for probity.
Journalist bodies also held condolence meetings in different parts of the country. However, this amounts to little without introspection, and a change in the servile acceptance of government and corporate diktat. Gauri died because of this. Because the media organisations placed her on the outside, the periphery as it were, and let her battle for truth and justice on her own. There is little point in crying about her death in meetings, and then going back to the offices to continue with a system where the media continues to touch the feet of power and money. And where facts are traded for lies, and where the truth is blacked out. This makes the task of independent journalists far more difficult, isolating them and exposing them to the threats that finally took Gauri’s life.
As a senior scribe said, “this bullet felled Gauri but it was meant for us all.” It was, and it will be fired with increasing frequency until and unless the media realises that holding hands at a condolence meeting is but a trivial gesture unless it is accompanied with a free, strong, assertion of independence from all who currently control it. Not just to save the individual, but to save India from those who have pledged to destroy her unity and her democracy.
Published first in The Citizen.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.