The murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh dominated the discussions in the morning session of the Pune International Literary Festival on Saturday, with BJP spokesperson Tuhin Sinha describing the protests against the murder as “farcical” and scripted. “The response to the murder of Gauri Lankesh is so farcical. It is being play acted. At some point, the government has to hit back and say this is not the way,” said author and Mumbai BJP spokesperson Tuhin Sinha.
Sinha was attending a session “The Political Landscape: Boon or Bane?” at the literary festival alongside Congress national spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi, Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe, and media persons Uday Mahurkar and Rishi Suri. Chaturvedi countered saying the BJP did not know how to live with dissent.
“The Congress party hears everyone put politely even if we don’t agree. But unfortunately you (BJP) don’t. We think this is where discussion stops. Also, deciding that something is farcical, terming any protest which does not sound like your idea as farcical… that is unfortunate. This is a democracy. There will be dissent. Live with it. It happens in a democracy even if you don’t agree with the idea,” Chaturvedi said.
She claimed that the last few years had seen a reduction in the space for dissent and discussion, which had weakened India’s democracy. “Look at foreign media coverage of events here. It talks about atrocities and minorities. Protesters are called anti-national, when in fact, protests are the essence of democracy,” added Chaturvedi.
The two spokespersons engaged in a war of words over the protests and social media reactions to journalist Lankesh’s murder. Defending his statement, Sinha brought attention to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi statements after the murder.
“When I talk about farcical reactions to death of Gauri Lankesh, what I meant was Rahul Gandhi coming on TV and saying that RSS is involved. Your chief minister (in Karnataka) announced Rs 10 lakh for information on Lankesh’s murderers. He should give it to Rahul Gandhi,” said Sinha. Gorhe said the murder seemed like a conspiracy and the debates around it was not allowing real investigation to go forward.