Senior journalist, editor and activist Gauri Lankesh, 55, was shot dead by unidentified assailants at the entrance of her home in Bengaluru West on Tuesday evening. Four bullets were pumped into the editor of the Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike at her doorstep after she had stepped out of her car and opened the gates to her home which lay in darkness at around 8 pm.
Neighbours came out of a flat opposite the home where the journalist lived alone on what they thought were sounds of firecrackers and found Gauri lying in a pool of blood on her porch barely a metre away from the locked verandah to her home. “Normally, she works late hours because she is a journalist. Today she seemed to have returned home earlier than usual,’’ a neighbour said. Read | Who is Gauri Lankesh?
The assailants were either following Lankesh on her way back home from work or were waiting in the neighborhood for her arrival, police said. “I just sat down for dinner when I heard the firecracker type of sounds. When I came out, there were people in all the balconies and the gate was lying open with a car waiting to enter. There was no one else around,’’ said Manohar a watchman at the apartments opposite the journalist’s house. Some neighbours claimed to have seen two men moving up and down several times on a motorcycle on the quiet street in the Ideal Homes colony in Rajarajeshwarinagar through the day.
“The incident happened at exactly 8 pm and four bullets were fired in her chest,’’ a police inspector said. “The shots were fired from a very close range inside the compound of the house. She had been living alone in recent days after her elderly mother moved to her sister’s house,’’ said Shivasundar, a longtime journalist colleague of Gauri Lankesh.
Police are hoping that CCTV footage from cameras Gauri Lankesh had put up at her home — at the insistence of friends — may yield some clues on the identities of the killers. “She has faced a lot of threats. If you see her social media profile, there are constant threats from right wing forces whom she strongly opposed all her life. She was reluctant and did not care too much for her personal safety. There were also some incidents of theft at the home a while ago so we forced her to set up some security cameras and we are hoping that it will yield some results because they were on when the incident occurred,’’ Shivasundar said.
Supporters and friends of the journalist, who was known for her strident opposition to Hindutva forces, drew parallels between the killing of Gauri Lankesh and the 2015 murder of rationalist and writer M M Kalburgi. Kalburgi was shot dead by two unidentified persons who came on a motorcycle. The assailants knocked on the door of the Dharwad home of the 77-year-old Sahitya Akademi Award winner and shot Kalburgi on the doorstep with two bullets from a 7.65 mm country made pistol.
The murder of Kalburgi remains unsolved to date. The biggest finding in the Kalburgi murder case, being investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Karnataka police, so far is the fact that the 7.65 mm pistol used for the killing of the rationalist is the same gun that was used to murder 81-year-old Maharashtra rationalist and leftist thinker Govind Pansare in Kohlapur on February 16, 2015 by two unidentified men.
Forensic analysis has also revealed that one of the two guns used to shoot down Pansare in 2015 was also used to kill Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on August 20, 2013 by a pair of unidentified men. Lankesh’s close friend and women’s right activist K S Vimala said: “They have killed her because she always opposed communal forces. First, it was Kalburgi and now it is Gauri. They can kill her but they cannot kill her thoughts.”
In recent days, Gauri Lankesh was actively involved in bringing many persons involved with the Naxal movement in Karnataka back into the mainstream with the co-operation of the Karnataka government where she enjoyed a good rapport with chief minister Siddaramaiah. The CM said three police teams have been constituted to probe the killing. He also said that he had asked the police to get in touch with their Maharashtra counterparts probing the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said: “It will not be appropriate for me to make any comments as to who is behind the incident. It could be for personal reasons or for ideological reasons.”
Lankesh was convicted in a defamation case filed by BJP MP Prahlad Joshi over a report published in her paper. Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore tweeted: “Terrible news from Bengaluru about the heinous murder of Gauri Lankesh. I condemn all acts of violence against journalists.” BJP national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said: “The murder of Gauri Lankesh is condemnable outright. Onus is on Siddaramaiah to ensure proper investigation.”