More than 250 journalists and social activists gathered on Wednesday at the Press Club of India in New Delhi to condole the cold-blooded murder of independent journalist Gauri Lankesh. Media professionals from different platforms thronged the venue “to show solidarity” with many of them stating that Lankesh’s death was a cause of fear among the rationals and critics. Posters and placards were also put up to highlight the eerie similarity between the killings of MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and Lankesh.
“This is not a random act of violence. She stood for certain ideas and beliefs. It is a battle of ideas happening here and we need to acknowledge that,” Indian Women’s Press Corps Vice-President T K Raja Lakshmi told the audience.
“One has to keep in mind why a woman journalist like Gauri Lankesh was particularly chosen to be assassinated in this manner. When the trolls on social media target male journalists, the male journalists are called corrupt. But whenever we get targetted it’s because we (women) have slept with someone. Is this how they trivialise us?” said Neha Dixit, an independent journalist. “This murder won’t stop us. We will continue doing what she did,” she added.
Editor and publisher of the Kannada weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike, Lankesh, 55, was a staunch critic of the right-wing ideology and regularly published articles criticising the government. On Tuesday, unidentified assailants shot her dead outside the entrance of her house. As her death triggered outrage, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah constituted an SIT team to investigate into the killing.
Since Tuesday, Lankesh’s killing has generated mainly two kinds of reactions on social media. One, which condoles her death and applauds her for the work she has done. Another condemning her for being “sickular”, “Maoist-sympathiser” and a “communist”. Senior journalist Ravish Kumar spoke about one such tweet doing the rounds which used derogatory words for Lankesh.
“I’m disappointed that the Prime Minister follows people who referred to a person who just died as kuttiya,” Ravish said amid chants of ‘shame’ from the crowd. “If we have to continuously gather here for an obituary, it will be our defeat as journalists,” Ravish said adding that the many of his sympathisers have asked him to consider security measures since he too might be targetted for his work.
One of the common appeal in Wednesday’s protest was the call for unity and solidarity among members of the fraternity. “It’s very easy in India to sentimentalise issues revolving around women. The incident needs to be looked objectively and as journalists, we need to unite and stand together. We need to cross all lines of gender, language, regionalism and our ideologies. We need to focus on basic foundations of our profession,” veteran journalist Mrinal Pande said.
“Gauri was not a journalist but an ideology and ideologies cannot be killed by people. Ideologies are killed by ideologies and we must find which ideology killed her,” said Yogendra Yadav, appealing to people of all political leanings asking them to unite themselves to fight against such violent forces.
“It is a difficult era for journalists. RTI activists and environmentalists too have been murdered. This is a pattern. The perpetrators want to give a message that if we kill powerful people like Gauri Lankesh, we can harm anybody,” former JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar said. He also recalled how Lankesh often said telling the truth was difficult but it would make one fearless. “Woh mujhe kehti thi ke agar tumpe hamle ho rahe hain, samjho tum sahi raah pe ho (She always told me that if you are being attacked, it means you are on the right path) “Will you murder nationalists for their ideology? If somebody is a maoist, does it mean they can be killed? If something illegal is happening, the law will take its course. But we cannot kill people in the name of ideology,” he added.