#Our Gauri: “Gauri fought her struggles peacefully without letting the world know about it.”
Translated from the original Kannada by Yogesh S
December 1, 2017
I had known Gauri Lankesh for twenty five years. We spoke very little. We would speak only when there was some important issue to be discussed. She usually called late in the night, and we would talk for really long hours. Whenever we spoke, she would talk about the thoughts that were bothering her at that point, and about her struggle to keep the tabloid going. Every time I spoke to her, I felt she was facing very difficult circumstances, and hence was battered.
I am not sharing this to tell you how close Gauri and I were. Her death, no, her brutal murder in front of her own house has been written about in thousands of words across the world. I am writing this to draw your attention to four elements that might have gone missing in the flood of words spent on Gauri.
Firstly, a slim single woman, Gauri fought her struggles peacefully without letting the world know about it. One might think she achieved the title of an ideological fighter, and it was easy for her to fight all the odds she faced. That is not true, especially not during her last days at all.
Secondly, certain readers and people working in mainstream media look down upon tabloids. They think it is a machinery of publishers and journalists to mint money. This might be even true about some of the tabloids, but certainly not about Gauri Lankesh Patrike.
Thirdly, it is not true that people who have a soft corner towards Naxals, JNU models, anti-war activists receive a lot of foreign funds. Gauri surely did not. She drove the cheapest car sold by Toyota in India. When she was shot, the ignition of this very car was still on.
Fourth, during her last days, her financial fate had gotten entangled with demonetisation, a brainchild of Narendra Modi whom she criticised throughout her life.
Gauri hails from a very influential family in Karnataka. Her family is well known in the political circles. Anybody who saw their relationship with the current Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, would know that it was not very difficult for her to come out of the financial crisis. Instead, when she had called me to take my advice, I learnt she was not the one who would use her political networks.
The questions that Gauri and Gauri Lankesh Patrike faced during demonetisation also explain the conditions that the media as a whole had to face. The blow was severe, especially on the smaller printing presses in the regional languages. The problems faced by the staff and their families were grave.
Gauri was there when RBI declared that demonetisation offered nothing to the Indian economy. She was killed exactly five days after this announcement. It gives me great relief to know that her murderers were not able stop her from celebrating this announcement.
Gauri’s death has shown us another aspect of Indian media. This is the biggest gift that Gauri has given to us, and people like us, who believe that media can undergo a change. One might be surprised looking at the number of pamphlets being printed, the scale at which protests are being organised after Gauri’s death. On the other hand, looking at the struggle Gauri and her tabloid faced, one might even wonder, how did these big media houses of English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi languages survived. Looking at the big media houses and their journalists condemning the murder of Gauri Lankesh, one might be even wondering about the reasons behind their silence on the issues of inequality, injustice, untouchability, corruption, discrimination and communal segregation.
David Halberstam, an American journalist once said, “Journalism is neither for making more friends and, nor for being praised. If you have thought of journalism as meant for such things, it is better you change your profession.” Look how strangely many journalists are behaving in India. They have deliberately gone blind to the increasing communal violence and hatred in the country and a journalist like Gauri was killed because she refused to be blind to such burning issues. The question that few of us who are like Gauri and are alive should be asking ourselves is, “how many enemies have I earned?’”
During the tour of the cricket team of England in India for a test match series in November 1984, the British High Commissioner Percy Norris was shot dead. This was happening just few days after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguards. The opening batsman of England then, Graeme Fowler, writes about being in India during such a time in his book Foxy. On their way to Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, he writes “There were fifty five thousand people there. Any one of them could have been carrying a gun in their pockets…”
Media in new India is also in a similar situation. A journalist, who dares to ask questions to the state, opposes those forces that spread hatred and violence based on caste/ religion, questions their enemies and exposes the corruption, could be killed anytime. They could be stalked till home and killed in their own homes. Fowler could live more than 28 years then, and Gauri lived till she was 55 years.
I had got a message from Gauri last November. The message said, “The publisher of Bangalore Mirror has decided not to carry my column anymore. I am in your club now.” I had replied by saying this shouldn’t have happened. Gauri had replied saying, “So what? We would be alive to defeat the communal forces.”
Is it possible Gauri?
Is it truly possible?
First published in the commemorative edition by Gauri Lankesh Patrike
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