Bangalore: Acclaimed senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, 55, was shot dead last night by attackers who fired around 7 times at close range. Police suspect hired attackers were involved while her family believes that the shooting was captured on CCTV footage by one of the cameras near the porch where Gauri was found lying in a pool of blood. Gauri Lankesh was a prominent journalist-cum-activist vocal in her criticism of Hindu nationalist politics in India. She was killed last night by unidentified assailants who reportedly came on motorcycles and fled the scene after they shot and left her at her doorsteps.
Who was Gauri Lankesh?
Gauri Lankesh was a fearless, outspoken journalist who edited a weekly newspaper in Bangalore. She used to work for The Times of India and then moved on to running an independent newspaper called Lankesh Patrike for several years in collaboration with her brother Indrajith. Her father, P Lankesh, who was a left-wing writer and poet, had founded the newspaper. After splitting up with her brother, she went on start several publications which included her own newspaper – Gauri Lankesh Patrike. Her sister is Kavitha Lankesh, an award winning filmmaker.
Why was she a controversial figure?
Gauri’s tabloid was known for its obvious left-leaning views and was facing several defamation issues. She was sympathetic towards Naxalites and Maoists known to carry bloody insurgency against the Government. She was convicted on the grounds of defamation last year when she published a report on the local BJP leaders. At the time of her death, she was out on bail appealing a conviction which sentenced her to about 6 months in jail.
After her conviction, she criticized the “fascist and communal politics” of the BJP in an interview with Narada News stating, “My Constitution teaches me to be a secular citizen, not communal. It is my right to fight against these communal elements.”
“I believe in democracy and freedom of expression, and hence, am open to criticism too. People are welcome to call me anti-BJP or anti-Modi if they want to. They are free to have their own opinion, just as I am free to have my opinion.”
What is known about her murder so far?
Gauri was on her way home in her car on Tuesday night after work. She was reportedly shot dead when she was about to open her gate upon reaching home around 8 pm. One bullet hit her on the head, while four others which missed and hit the wall have been recovered. Investigators suspect she was under surveillance by the killers and followed home from work.
She was found by neighbors who first thought the shooting sounds were from firecrackers. Some others claimed they heard the sounds of a two-wheeler around the time of the shooting.
The police have recovered footage from two CCTV cameras which Gauri had installed outside her home, which is flanked by two vacant plots, as a safety measure. The officials have traced her route from work to her home and are in the process of retrieving footage from every possible CCTV camera along the way.
Gauri’s is not the first voice to be silenced
The killing comes in the wake of other assassinations, that of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, scholar Malleshappa Kalburgi, and author-politician Govind Pansare. The murder of Gauri Lankesh has caused fury within the activist community with several states planning protest marches. Her killing was widely condemned on Twitter and across all social media platforms by many including the Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah.
K Marulasiddappa, renowned writer, told the BBC, “The attack on the select writers is obviously happening because they are able to mold public opinion. There is a pattern in the way assailants come on motorbikes, kill, and vanish.” He added that the killing must be politically motivated as there was seemingly no personal agenda involved.