Journalist Gauri Lankesh, who ran a tabloid critical of the right wing, was shot dead outside her Bengaluru home on Tuesday night.
Lankesh (55) was the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly tabloid that was started in 2005. She was the daughter of writer and journalist P Lankesh, who had started the first Kannada tabloid in the 1980s.
Policemen told reporters that till 6 pm on Tuesday, Lankesh was at the office of Gauri Lankesh Patrike in Gandhinagar in Bangalore. She left for her home in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in her car and apparently two men followed her on a motorcycle. At 7.45 pm, she reached her house and got off the car to open the gate.
The two men who had been following her and another, who was already standing outside her house, shot seven bullets at her, police said. Two bullets were lodged in her chest, one hit her head while four missed her and hit the door of the house. MN Anucheth, DCP West, said her body was found in the verandah of her house.
Lankesh stayed alone in her house. She has a brother Indrajeet and sister Kavita.
Bangalore Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar said police have taken hold of her house’s CCTV footage to find leads and have formed three teams to crack the case. Police have imposed naka bandi on all roads around her house and are checking every vehicle. Kumar said the police will also investigate if Lankesh’s murder has anything to do with her ideological/political stance.
Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy told the media that only an investigation can reveal the heart of the matter. He said Chief Minister Siddaramaiah would consider ordering a CBI inquiry, if such a demand is made.
Pulled no punches
The latest edition of her publication had carried stories against former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, and journalist-turned-politician and Mysuru MP Prathap Simha. Both are from the BJP.
In November last year, Lankesh was convicted in two criminal defamation cases for a story that was published in 2008 against three BJP leaders. Soon after her arrest, she was out on bail and appealed against the order of the lower court in the Karnataka High Court.
In an email interview to Newslaundry last November, Lankesh had said Modi bhakts and the Hindutva brigade wanted her in jail.
Lankesh as a person
A colleague of Lankesh, Bhagyashree, told 101Reporters that one of their mutual friends had told her that Gauri had informed her about the death threats.
BT Venkatesh, senior lawyer and Lankesh’s legal representative in all her cases, said she was fierce and had the guts to take on those who rule our country. While on his way to her house, he told 101Reporters she constantly questioned right-wing ideology.
He informed that an old case that was filed against her in a magistrate’s court was to be heard tomorrow. While she was not going to be present, he had spoken to her a few days ago regarding it.
Venkatesh said incidents like this happened in countries like Iran, where questioning the government or the powers that be is frowned upon. “But now it seems like it has reached India too. How else can you explain the death of rationalists, journalists! She met the same fate as Kalburgi,” he said, recalling the murder of Professor MM Kalburgi, who was shot dead in August 2015.
He said Lankesh was often asked why she did not opt for armed security. “She asked why should anyone in the country need protection? Is being outspoken a crime?”
Another friend and a long-standing advisor of Lankesh, senior political correspondent Ravindra Reshme remembered her as a curious, strongly opinionated and a fierce journalist. He said some Naxal group or those who were against her views of the right wing could be behind the murder.
“She had recently started bringing many Naxal leaders into the limelight and had even gotten some, including Sirimane Nagaraj, to surrender to Karnataka police. Either a complete rightist who was offended by her words and views killed her or some Naxalites who feared that she was a possible police informer and would hand them over to the police killed her. These are the only two possibilities I see,” he said.
Reshme said initially Lankesh was like any other cub journalist but the death of Naxal leader Saketh Rajan in a police encounter in 2005 changed her. He said Lankesh was deeply shocked that the police could kill someone in that manner, especially a man who was fighting for the rights of the people.
“This was also when the ideology of Lankesh Patrike took a turn. Even though she was the editor, after the encounter, she marched to the then chief minister N Dharam Singh’s house and staged a protest, demanding an inquiry,” he said.
To her, right felt wrong
He added that Lankesh would constantly question the motives and antics of the right wing. “She was sceptical and did not believe that Narendra Modi or the Bharatiya Janata Party was ever right, or good, for the people or country,” he said.
“In the end, the power of the gun that she so protested against killed her,” he said.
The slain editor’s sister, Kavita, urged the Karnataka government to take immediate action and not sit on its hands like it did after the murder of Professor Kalburgi, the probe of whose death has seen no progress even after two years.
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