Gauri Lankesh: Regional journalist to national heroine?
by Prerna Malhotra on 13 Sep 2017 21 Comments
With due apologies to the departed soul of Gauri Lankesh, a section of the country’s intellectuals and media are adept at conferring ‘sainthood’ and ‘martyrdom’ upon select individuals. They are masters at playing the victimhood card and deriving political mileage from certain unnatural deaths, as they are dexterous in the art of instantaneous cost-benefit analysis, within minutes of a person’s death. They can craft and implement their strategy with deep precision well before others can react, even as the police barely arrive at the crime scene. A dead body is valuable when they can utilise it to their political and ideological advantage in the battle for survival and relevance.


Thus, when Gauri Lankesh was barbarously murdered at her home in Bengaluru on Tuesday, 5 September 2017, the political vultures found a suitable body to prey on - a staunch leftist, a feminist, a journalist and social activist, and above all, an unswerving voice of anti-Hindutva, who had openly written and said reams of anti-Hindu, anti-Modi, anti-BJP/Sangh stuff. So, without wasting any time, these ‘progressive liberals’ instantly swung into action.


Before the Karnataka police could reach her Rajarajeshwari Nagar home in Bengaluru, where she was gunned down by unidentified assailants, the judgment was passed by these self-proclaimed sleuths that the Bharatiya Janata Party, RSS /rightist organisations, were behind this murder.


As if on cue, the media trial of the BJP/Sangh/Modi began from all sides. Television screens and social media were full of headlines that Gauri Lankesh was killed because of her anti- Hindutva/Modi/BJP/Sangh ideas. Soon the slogans proliferated - this country has become intolerant, there is no space for dissent left, Gauri was killed for her ideas, gun silences dissent, etc. etc.


Comrade Kavitha Krishnan wrote: “How many Godi channels will call the assassination of Gauri Lankesh by its right name ‘terrorism’” (possibly a misspelling for ‘Govt’)


Javed Akhtar tweeted, “Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and now Gauri Lankesh. If one kind of people are getting killed, which kind of people are the killers.”


Shehla Rashid, a student activist from JNU, even linked one right-wing organisation, Abhinav Bharat, to the killing in her tweets: “Don’t know how to process it. Still coming to terms with the fact that Gauri Lankesh has been assassinated. Most likely by Abhinav Bharat,” and “Investigating Gauri Lankesh’s assassination can expose Sangh terror networks, like Abhinav Bharat. Sadly, no agency will conduct it.”


As the murder-related narrative had been given a direction, many out-of-job politicians joined the bandwagon. Sitaram Yechuri chipped in: “The cold-blooded murder of Gauri Lankesh is reprehensible. Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi - such murderous violence has an eerie pattern.”


This linking of four names sought to weave a ‘complete’ narrative. Rahul Gandhi pitched in with a tweet: “Anybody who speaks against the ideology of the BJP or RSS is threatened, attacked and even killed.”


Lalu Prasad Yadav could not be left behind and conveniently forgetting that Raj Deo Ranjan, a journalist from Bihar, who was allegedly killed at the behest of RJD leader, Shahabuddin, tweeted: “Noted journalist and critic of right wing politics Gauri Lankesh silenced in New India. Terrible time for dissent”. (New India is a veiled reference to the Prime Minister, in addition to the dissent narrative)


Foreign journalists contributed their mite. Pakistani journalist Mehmal Sarfraz wrote: “Several journalists will now think twice before taking a stand against the Hindutva Brigade.”


Amnesty International added fuel to the freedom of expression narrative about Lankesh’s death: “It raises alarms about the state of freedom of expression in the country.”


Political vultures thus pronounced a judgment even before police investigations could take off. Gauri Lankesh had become the new patron saint of left-wing politics. This high decibel media trial won Gauri Lankesh – not a State funeral – but certainly a 21 gun salute at her funeral. This is incredible as the lady had recently been convicted by a court for defamation (publishing allegations that she could not substantiate in court) and would have been serving a six-month sentence in jail, but for the fact that she received bail to approach a higher court for relief!


Gauri, a Kannada journalist with a Kannada audience, and largely unknown outside radical Left circles, had worked for the comrades in her lifetime. Her sensational death served them even better, by giving them a cause and a public profile, at least for a few days. The screaming banshees lost no time blaming Prime Minister Modi, the BJP, the Sangh, the Hindutva forces – their ultimate enemies.


But dispassionate analysis suggests that Gauri was probably felled by the purely domestic politics she was pursuing at the time of her death. While the police have not made any definitive statement so far, media leaks suggest they are investigating the local stories she was following at the time of her death, as also the alleged Naxal anger with her mediating with cadres to come over-ground and surrender.


But truth is the last thing that can deter the comrades when they march towards the socialist revolution. Recall how Rohith Vemula was lionized as a larger than life Dalit, when his father clearly stated that the family was Other Backward Class, and the official enquiry upheld that his mother’s Scheduled Caste certificate was false. Not surprisingly, the comrades never bothered to utter a word about the suppression and deaths of truly deserving Scheduled Caste persons.


The anti-Modi brigade had once conferred ‘sainthood’ to the terrorist accomplice, Ishrat Jahan, but the courts upheld the fact that she was actually a ‘terrorist’.


Still, the radical and secular crowd always scores the first goals because of its ability to ‘beat’ the real investigations and pronounce and tom-tom immediate judgment with great fanfare. They serve their agenda and move on to the next target. The real judgments come years after the event and do not gain the same media traction.


It goes without saying that the murderers of Gauri Lankesh must be brought to book. We need to know the motive behind the killing: personal, professional, related to her work with Naxalites, her exposé of influential state leaders, or any other issue. We need to interrogate the State Government for the poor law and order situation, which is a state subject.


There is some dispute over which agency should conduct the probe when the state leadership is also under a scanner. Interestingly, while a CBI inquiry would normally have been the first demand on the secular brigade, this time they maintained a stoic silence in this regard. Why? Anyway, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has now been set up by the State Government to investigate the matter.


Incidentally, has anyone been named in the probes into the deaths of Dhabolkar, Pansare and Kalburgi? Strangely, their ‘friends’ do not really care; they have already encashed the deaths politically and continue to do so at every opportunity. Now, Gauri Lankesh has been added to the list of usable deaths.


One hopes that the media trial and pre-judgment by Left progressive intellectuals and media does not hamper fair investigations in this case. Gauri had many enemies - personal (property disputes), professional (stories), social (had antagonized some hard core Naxals, as claimed by her brother), ideological (her hate-filled rhetoric on many issues). There could thus be many motives behind her killing.


It bears stating, however, that nationwide, many journalists have been killed by the sand, land, or mining mafias, but there is none to grieve for them. When Dera Saccha Sauda leader, Gurmeet Ram Rahim, was convicted for the rape of two female inmates in his ashram, it came to light that a local journalist, Ram Chander Chhatrapati, who had first exposed the crime, had been shot dead at point blank range at his residence in October 2002. Fifteen years later, the family is still fighting for justice, and till date, not a single reputed journalist, media house, or opposition party politician has espoused the cause.


The radical progressives break their silence only when it suits them, at other times they blackout inconvenient voices.


Nor do they have any consistency. They shout at the top of their voices about minorities’ rights, especially Muslims, but have little empathy for the Supreme Court’s judgement banning instant Triple Talaq which saves Muslim women from the fear of being turned out of their homes at any moment, for any petty reason.


Mercifully, thanks to a robust social media and a few TV channels, other facets of the story also started coming to the fore; else the lies would prevail until the day of the trial and final judgment.


Meanwhile, there is much heart burning over the political hijack of the journalists’ protest meeting at the Press Club of India on 6 September. Jointly organised by the Press Club of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association and Editor’s Guild, the event was undermined by the presence of Left politicians like Sitaram Yechuri who were invited by unknown journalists, whose affiliation could hardly be a secret.


Non-aligned journalists were aghast, and then enraged when CPI poster boy Kanhaiya Kumar took the mike. Next in line to speak, Umar Khalid, was restrained from taking the mike! As recriminations grew amongst journalists, with many taking to Twitter to express their angst, the anti-establishment show of strength degenerated into nothingness. Gauri Lankesh could not be cast into an icon of opposition unity for 2019, and returned to size as a regional journalist who crossed paths with regional strongmen.


The author teaches at Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi, Delhi 

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top