Noted journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead by unidentified men outside her home in Bengaluru, has never restrained herself in the past to speak about right-wing elements indulging in violence in the state. Lankesh, the editor of Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike, has always been known for her vocal criticism of Hindutva forces.
At the National Convention of Human Rights Defenders in March this year in New Delhi, she said, “Karnataka’s trajectory from a progressive, secular state to a communal state has been very interesting and crippling one. In 12th century, we had Basavanna who spoke much before Marx about the dignity of labour, about equality and rationality and specifically against Brahmin hegemony. But today all those who claim to be Basavanna’s followers are BJP followers. It’s totally against what Basavanna stood for.”
She also spoke about how death threats were becoming ‘common’ in Karnataka and how in earlier times thinkers and activists were never physically harmed when they spoke against a ruling regime.
“In the 20th century, we had someone called Kuvempu, a Jnanpith award-winning writer who led the kind of movement, intellectual movement in Karnataka where he called people to come out of their caste and communities and become a universal person. And of course we had UR Ananthamoorthy, Kalaburgi, my own father P Lankesh, Poornachandra Tejaswi…all these people, the transformation is such that they are all trenchant critics of Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi but let me say that none of them ever were physically attacked, let alone death threats. But now death threats have become a common factor in Karnataka,” she had said then.
Lankesh cited instances of attacks on activists who questioned Hinduism and how they went scot-free.
“Whether there is an attack on pubs and homestays in the name of culture and protection of women or whether there are attacks on Dalits remiscent of something very similar to what happened in Una, happened in Karnataka also which did not make much news in the name of cow protection, or attacks on liberals and leftists in the name of Hindutva,” she added.
The veteran journalist did not spare the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka accusing it of filing sedition cases against AISF activists.
“The Congress government in Karnataka is so stupid that here Rahul Gandhi goes to JNU in support of AISF student Kanhaiya and in Tumkur, AISF students are distributing pamphlets about Kanhaiya and Rohit and ABVP goons attack them. I tell the Home minister to get the ABVP goons behind bars so that they will know that they cant wag their tails in Karnataka. He says yes and the next minute I know the Karnataka police in a Congress government have put sedition cases against AISF students,” she said.
She held the Congress government responsible for lathi-charging thousands of women garment workers who had come out on the streets of Bengaluru agitating against changes in provident fund rules.
She ended her remarks saying that ‘abnormality is becoming the new normal’ in Karnataka and that the state could face the prospect of a ”communal, casteist and corrupt BJP government” in elections next year.