Gauri Lankesh was a friend to me, always at the forefront in any progressive initiative that took place in Karnataka. She carried the legacy of her legendary father P. Lankesh, who founded Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly in 1980, and edited it until his death in 2000. Lankesh Patrike was a platform for the oppressed and all marginalised sections of the society including dalits and women; and pioneered a brand of journalism that became an inspiration to many others. It became a mouthpiece for many progressive movements such as “Raitara Chaluvali” (farmers’ agitation), Dalit movement, and Gokak movement. Gauri took over as the editor after 2000 and ran the Patrike with the same commitment and fearlessness. Before taking over the weekly, Gauri had a career as a journalist for sixteen years with the Times of India and Eenadu’s Telugu television channel in Delhi.
Gauri was a staunch critic of the rightwing Hindutva politics. She actively fought against the Hindutva forces that attempted to hinduise the sufi shrine at Baba Budangiri. In one of the protest meetings, she called Hinduism “as (a) system of hierarchy in society”, in which “women were treated as second class creatures”. She headed “Komu Sauharda Vedike”, an anti-communal front in Karnataka. She also strongly propagated the view that the followers of Basavanna were not Hindus. The Hindutva forces had accumulated a lot of grudge against Gauri and they voiced it many times. I met her at an international conference on the 125th anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar recently where she voiced her desire to publish a Kannada translation of my book, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt. Gauri is the fourth prominent victim of the Hindutva zealots, as the pattern of the murders of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Comrade Govind Pansare, and M M Kalburgi clearly reveals. The Karnataka government decided to perform Gauri’s cremation with state honours which is welcome, but that is not enough. The state government should see to it that justice is done to Gauri at the earliest.
“The murder of Gauri Lankesh follows on the heels of the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi…”