A Commemorative Edition of Gauri Lankesh Patrike
Memories, Questions, and a Call to Action
September 12, 2017
The Gauri Lankesh Patrike has brought out a special commemorative edition on September 12, 2017 to pay tribute to the committed, independent voice of the Patrike, led by Gauri Lankesh. A large number of journalists, writers, activists and other figures have contributed to this edition. The Indian Cultural Forum will publish English translations of several of these pieces that recall and celebrate what Gauri and the Gauri Lankesh Patrike stand for.
Krishna Prasad: Gauri Lankesh has thrown light on the sad state of Indian media today... Looking at the acres of coverage of the protest marches, rallies, and meetings, a common reader and viewer must be wondering: How did the editor of a small, unheard-of, financially strapped Kannada tabloid end up irritating somebody so much that they decided to send her off to her next assignment like this? And what exactly did she do to irritate them so much to kill her?… At the same time, listening to all the speeches by the big names of newspapers and television, young journalists must be wondering: Why aren't we freely covering the kind of stories of inequality, inequity, injustice, intolerance, corruption, discrimination, communal polarisation etc. that these seniors are praising Gauri Lankesh for?
In a roundabout sort of way, by departing from this planet in this manner, Gauri Lankesh has thrown light on the sad state of Indian media today. That is probably going to be her lasting contribution to those of us who still believe in the power of journalism as an agent of change.
Looking at the acres of coverage of the protest marches, rallies, and meetings, a common reader and viewer must wonder: How did the editor of a small, unheard-of, financially strapped Kannada tabloid end up irritating somebody so much that they decided to send her off to her next assignment like this? And what exactly did she do to irritate them so much to kill her?
Conversely, they must wonder: How come so many of our large media houses, and big publications in English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, Malayalam, and Marathi, are happily swimming along with the sharks without the kind of harm that has come to Gauri and her “Patrike”?
At the same time, listening to all the speeches by the big names of newspapers and television, young journalists must wonder: Why aren't we freely covering the kind of stories of inequality, inequity, injustice, intolerance, corruption, discrimination, communal polarisation etc. that these seniors are praising Gauri Lankesh for?
Krishna Prasad is a long-time friend of Gauri Lankesh and Ex-Editor of Outlook magazine.
Boluwaru Mohammad Kunhi: Everyone is with you now, wherever you are. Think that, just as you thought when you were with us.
What is justice, Gauri? Will you gain even a paisa of profit from it? I read somewhere that justice meant doing good to friends and evil to enemies. I did not like that statement. Isn't it justice to wish for the good of both our friends and enemies? Everyone is with you now, wherever you are. Think that, just as you thought when you were with us. You spoke with the utmost love — even to those who hurled disgusting abuse at you on social media.
Boluwaru Mohammad Kunhi is an award-winning novelist, short story writer and playwright.
Rahamat Tarikere: Gauri was trolled by men who had no capacity to think… they abused her in the most heinous language possible. But Gauri was never bothered by the trolls or their language. She called them Daari tappida makkala – people in the wrong path – and be willing to discuss or argue with them…
In the two decades of her participation in Karnataka’s political movements, and her struggle [to build an independent voice] in the media, Gauri was undergoing a transformation without realising it herself. When Gauri took over the responsibility of the tabloid, she was very healthy. Either because of the increase in the work load, or financial problems, she became visibly weak physically. This physical change was antithetical to her inner spirit, which always remained rich and strong.
She was trolled by men who had no capacity to think, men drugged by the darkness of fundamentalist views. They abused her in the most heinous language possible. But Gauri was never bothered by the trolls or their language. She called them Daari tappida makkala – people in the wrong path – and be willing to discuss or argue with them…”
She did not blindly oppose the oppressors of ideological politics. For instance, when people made fun of Modi’s English, Gauri spoke against this act of attacking our ideological enemy because of language. English is a symbol of authority, and is used as a form of discrimination in an ex-colony of the British. Gauri felt it was ironical that we look down upon people, for not being fluent in such a language. Again, while she was extremely critical of the sick perspectives of S.L. Bhyrappa’s Avarana and Kavlu, she discussed his Uttarakanda, which she considered a good novel.
These instances tell us about her ideological commitment. She felt it was her responsibility to work towards protecting, and nurturing, ideological thinking. The ways in which she took care of young people involved in the struggles of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Hyderabad Central University (HCU) made it appear that she had adopted them. She would happily feed them, spend time with them. These girls and boys gave her the strength to continue her own fight. As a woman, this was the human touch she brought to the social movements. Gauri had built a vast network of the younger generation of activists who have a dream to build a new society.
Gauri also initiated many movements to re-establish human values and the importance of human life. It is not possible to compare her writing with that of her father P. Lankesh, but she travelled way ahead of him as an activist. Her personal beliefs, her ideological commitment, and the historical juncture we are in today – all these shaped her activism.
Gauri, daughter of Daskaha, jumps into the ritual fire as a reaction to her husband Shiva being shamed by her father. It is probably this puranic reference that gives the name “Gauri pushpa” to a wild flower that grows in forests, and has petals that could burn anything. Gauri, who was as strong and as wild as the Gauri pushpa, was shot dead. The living person who believed that revolution cannot be made with guns was claimed by a gun.
When M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead, I had written: “We do not know who killed him; but we do know who tried to harass him, who tortured him before his death. We also know who are celebrating his death…” I wish to write the same words about Gauri’s murder too. It is not the murderers who send jitters down our spines. It is those thousands of young boys (not girls) who believe that it is easy and possible to verbally and physically abuse, or even kill, those who think, or those with a different ideology.
The response we have seen to the heinous murders of Kalburgi and Gauri are reassuring. It seems as though their death has achieved what they were trying to achieve all their lives. It still isn’t dark in the path of those building a humane Karnataka. We can still walk that path, but only if we are united.
Rahamat Tarikere is the Head of the Department of the Department of Kannada, Kannada University, Hampi. He returned his Sahitya Academy award in 2015 to protest the murder of M.M. Kalburgi. He was also a regular contributor to Gauri Lankesh Patrike.
B M Basheer: Gauri had learnt the importance of not being a bystander to any form of oppression or violence. Pushing herself to say “Stop it right now!” was the most important thing for her… She chose to write and speak in the language that the people she was fighting for understood.
It was her ethical and moral stand that helped Gauri outgrow P. Lankesh's intellectual personality. Gauri felt emotionally lonely and physically week. Neither was/ is she celebrated for her excellent oratory skills, nor was her writing exceptionally intellectual. But Gauri knew one thing: a good speech or excellent writing could not save an innocent person from being attacked on the streets. Knowing this, and believing in this, she had learnt the importance of not being a bystander to any form of oppression or violence. Pushing oneself to say “Stop it right now!” was the most important thing for her.
Gauri was trained to be a journalist in English. She wasn’t very fluent in speaking Kannada, and she would struggle to write in Kannada. Her decision to step out of English language journalism and take over Lankesh Patrike, and so to write in Kannada, shocked many. Most of them were not sure about her capabilities. Some even wondered how would a person who found it difficult to speak in Kannada would be able to write in it. Gauri’s simple, and yet straightforward approach, was an answer for all these questions that were floating around her decision. She chose to write and speak in the language that the people she was fighting for understood, not in literary language.
People who read and admired Lankesh Patrike had said, “Lakesh’s tabloid has become as weak as his daughter looks.” She proved them wrong though. The way in which she lived her life, and now her death, have proved them wrong.
B.M. Basheer is a famous poet, novelist, a journalist, and news editor of Vaarthabharathi Daily.
Chandan Gowda: Gauri… was adored by thousands for her courage, her ideals, her concern for people, and her friendly nature… [she] had grown into an exceptional public figure…
Gauri’s column “Kanda Haage” (As I see it) is a testimony to the broad diversity of her interests: the story of a girl saving a forest in Somalia, Al Gore’s documentary on the environment, J .D. Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye and so on. The portraits she wrote — of B V Karanth, Keeram Nagaraj, Tejaswi and K Ramdas — show her sensitivity as well as the affection and seriousness she brought to her personal relationships. Her column about the suicide of a photographer who had taken photos of starving Somalian children, or the one about the fond relationship between her father and his dog (which she wrote when the dog died), are all expressions of Gauri’s underlying humanity.
Gauri, who was adored by thousands for her courage, her ideals, her concern for people, and her friendly nature, and who had grown into an exceptional public figure, was always a dear friend to me. Of late, her full commitment to public life made it hard for us to meet frequently, but we still met whenever possible. Even as we spoke about the dangers of the deteriorating political situation, we continued to chat about our recent reads, the movies we saw, and our old friends. A woman with a generous heart and with no trace of bitterness, she was a force of hope in my life. I am unable to comprehend this time when she is not with me anymore.
Chandan Gowda is a long time friend of Gauri and is professor at Azim Premji University.
Vikas Mourya: The day Rohit Vemula committed suicide, my friends and I could not sleep at night... I got a call from Gauramma… I started shouting at the top of my voice. I wanted to kill those scoundrels. That is when Amma said, “Pick up your pen and write something about Rohit.” She added, “Never even think of killing anyone and never even say you want to kill someone." I wrote an article titled, “Let us save Rohit Vemula” (Rohit Vemulanannu badukisona).
That was the day Rohit Vemula committed suicide. My friends and I could not sleep that night. We were sitting together, shocked and sad. I got a call from Gauramma. She said she knew I would not be asleep. I could not stop myself. I broke down, and cried. She was quiet. Then I got so angry, I wanted to burn those scoundrels. I started shouting at the top of my voice. That is when Amma said, “Pick up your pen and write something about Rohit.” I wrote an article titled, “Let us save Rohit Vemula” (Rohit Vemulanannu badukisona). I was surprised that my article had no violence, its words were not like those when I was talking to her. I called Amma and thanked her. She said, “Never even think of killing anyone and never even say you want to kill someone.”
I also had enraged arguments, fights, and differences with Amma. She had written against reservations at the level of promotions. Umashankar and I argued with her. Amma defended her stand. We were taken aback: How could our Gauramma have such a view? The discussion continued for another week. I met her after a month at an event, and she said to me, “Child, you were right. I was a little wrong in the case of reservations at the level of promotions. If we need equality, then yes, we need the reservations.” I said, “Have you not forgotten about it yet?” She burst into laughter and said, “We should forget the things that we were right about, Child, not our mistakes.”
Vikas Mourya is a young writer and intellectual associated with the movements to emancipate Dalits and other oppressed communities.
We Have Lost Gauri; We Do Not Want to Lose Anyone Else: Megha Pansare in conversation with Souradeep Roy
“The murder of Gauri Lankesh follows on the heels of the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi…”
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Indian Writers' Forum.
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