In a shocking turn of events, veteran journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her house at Rajajeshwari Nagar in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening. According to police reports, unknown assailants fired seven rounds at her at the entrance of her house and the well known right-wing critic laid to rest after three bullets hit her in the head and chest.
Being a senior journalist, editor and activist, Gauri Lankesh came to the light as the editor of Kannada tabloid, Gauri Lankesh Patrike. Gauri Lankesh’s publication was a faction of the Lankesh Patrike, started by her father P Lankesh in 1980. Well known for its anti-establishment, anti-caste and secular stance, the paper split into two after the death of P Lankesh, with Gauri Lankesh running one and her brother Indrajit Lankesh managing the other.
According to friends and supporters close to the slain journalist, there had been a marked change in Gauri Lankesh after she took charge as the editor of the Kannada tabloid. As reported by Scroll.in, Theatre personality and activist Prakash Belawadi, who is also a childhood friend of Lankesh, was quoted saying, “When her father died and she took over the paper, she developed a certain political ideology that surprised some of us. But maybe it did not surprise many people who knew that she was her father’s daughter. She became harder and harder and took a very strong stand against the Sangh Parivar and a very pro-Dalit stand. There was also a time when she took a pro-regional stand but she gave that up.”
While police continue the investigation into the murder case, many aware of Lankesh’s strong opposition to Right wing forces believe the reason behind the murder might be the vocal secular stand she took against the majoritarian Hindutva politics. Writer and columnist Aakar Patel was quoted by Scroll, saying, “The reason why she might be hated and possibly why she was murdered is that she was very open about the fact that she engaged, entertained and associated with people who the mainstream media in India hated.”
And even as people from several sectors condemn the death of the senior journalist, many like Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy and noted Historian Ramachandra Guha links Lankesh’s murder with the deaths of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi, who were allegedly killed by fringe right-wing outfits. Furthermore, a senior police official also mentioned that the modus operandi of all the murder cases seem very close to each other. As reported by Firstpost, the police official said, “Bullets were fired on chest and heads, and the three assailants came on a bike. It’s very similar to what was witnessed in the murder of Pansare, Dabholkar, and Kalburgi.”
Narendra Dabholkar murder: Narendra Dabholkar, the Editor of the Sadhana magazine, which was known for promoting progressive thoughts, was found dead in a pool of blood at the Omkareshwar Bridge in Pune in August 2013. Dabholkar was leading a campaign to bat for the passing of an anti-
superstition and black magic bill by the Maharashtra government. Reportedly, even Dabholkar was shot by unknown assailants who fled on a motorcycle after firing four rounds at him from point-blank range.
Govind Pansare murder: Senior Communist leader and a close aide of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare was shot dead in a similar manner in February 2015. Reportedly, Pansare was killed by two unknown men who shot five rounds at him and his wife outside their residence. Associated with several social movements, Pansare was the forefront of an anti-toll agitation in Kolhapur, during the time of his death. Well known for his strong stand against the Right-wing ideologies, he had written several books criticizing the Indian society. After the death of Dabholkar, Pansare escalated pressure on the government to pass the Anti-superstition Bill which was passed in December 2015.
MM Kalburgi murder: Renowned activist and rationalist MM Kalburgi was shot dead by two unknown men in August 2015 at his residence. Similar to the previous murders, Kalburgi was also fired from a close range by assailants who fled on a motorcycle. Also the former vice-chancellor of Hampi University, Kalburgi was booked in 2014 for allegedly hurting Hindu sentiments, following his movement against idol worship and Brahminical rituals.
Earlier, linking the three murders the Bombay High Court had observed, “The reports reveal that these were clearly not one or two stray incidents. Certain organisations must be backing them, helping them financially. These incidents were well-planned.” Investigations had further revealed that the murder weapon in all the cases were the same 7.65 mm country-made pistol. More interestingly, in two of the three cities where the murders took place, a common phone device was active with a different connection.