Journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was laid to rest with state honours at the Lingayat burial ground in Chamrajpete, Bengaluru on an overcast evening Wednesday. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily and other state ministers were present at the funeral, as were writers, activists, actors and hundreds of Bengaluru residents.
Lankesh’s body was lowered into the rain-soaked ground amid cries of “Gauri Lankesh amar rahe”. No religious rituals were performed, as her brother Indrajit had specified earlier in the evening. Instead, some threw flowers or clumps of soil; others raised slogans and sang protest songs. Her mother Indira and sister Kavita were inconsolable.
A number of women had turned up through the day to pay their respects to the feisty journalist. “I am here because she fought, and she is still fighting. She has left behind a legacy that can help us counter the violence we have seen in the last three and half years,” says Aarathi, a special educator, who turned up at the Ravindra Kalakshetra near Town Hall, like hundreds of others, to bid goodbye to Lankesh. The journalist’s body had been kept there for a few hours in the afternoon for the public to pay their respects. “She had what was rare in an activist: swag,” said Pushpa Achanta, a journalist.
Longtime readers of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, Anasuya and Nandini were at the funeral ground to remember the woman who lived by secularism. “Right from the time of the Bababudangiri movement in Chikmagalur, she had committed herself to communal harmony. She also groomed a younger generation of journalists and activists,” Anasuya said.
Writer BT Jahnavi spoke of her long association with the newspapers run by Lankesh and her father, P Lankesh. “I began my career in Lankesh Patrike and have continued to write since. Both were daredevils and feared no one. I came here today because we should not allow such voices to be silenced,” she said.
“Her newspaper did two things: expose corporate interests and the Brahminical forces of Hindutva,” said Sanjoy Kumar, a Dalit and student activist of the Karnataka Vidyarthi Sangha. “She relentlessly followed cases of young Muslims being slapped with fake terror cases, and exposed the religious mutts and seers for their wrongdoings,” he said.
“For many of us,” said Swati Shukla, another activist of the Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike, the forum for communal harmony Lankesh had founded in 2002, “she was like a mother. This is a big blow to progressive forces across the country.”