Widespread protests and condemnation erupted across the country over the brutal murder of senior journalist and staunch critic of the Hindutva politics Gauri Lankesh, who was killed on the doorsteps of her west Bengaluru house by an unidentified assailant.
Lankesh, who faced three bullets, was shot dead from a close range at her house in Rajarajeshwari Nagar around 8 pm on Tuesday. The journalist, who was known for her Left-leaning views and forthright approach, was reportedly contemplating a series of expose on corrupt industrialists and politicians in Karnataka.
Amnesty International India flagged the murder, saying that the incident raised alarm about the state of the freedom of expression in the country. It is, however, unclear if Lankesh was killed because of her ideology.
What killed Lankesh?
A preliminary analysis of the four empty cartridges found at the crime scene has determined that a country-made 7.65 mm pistol was used in the killing.
According to The Indian Express, the weapon is of the same kind used in the killing of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi on 30 August, 2015 at Dharwad, and those used in the murder of Maharashtra rationalists Govind Pansare on 16 February, 2015 and Narendra Dabholkar on 20 August, 2013.
Who killed Lankesh?
Even though the Karnataka police retrieved a low-resolution footage from the two CCTV cameras outside Gauri’s house, they have understood that the killer was a man wearing a black helmet, who followed Lankesh to her door to open fire at her, The Times of India reported.
‘Somebody’s lurking near my home’
As the Bengaluru police is still trying to apprehend those behind the assassination and several conspiracy theories float about in the case, The Times of India reported that Gauri’s sister Kavitha Lankesh told the police that a week ago when Gauri was visiting Kavitha at her BHCS Layout at Chikkalasandra (Banashankari 3rd Stage) residence to visit their mother, Indira Lankesh, she had noticed some people lurking about suspiciously.
Both Kavitha and her mother had advised Gauri to report the matter to the police but she brushed it off saying she would do so if she came across any such activity again.
The Naxal Angle
Lankesh’s brother Indrajit claimed that she had been receiving hate messages from naxalites. Lankesh, who had worked extensively to bring forward naxalites, maintained silence on the alleged threats, said her brother. According to NDTV, Indrajit added that the naxal angle was something the police was working on.
The slain journalist’s sister, Kavita, however, refuted the claim, saying that Lankesh had worked in reforming naxals for years and against the Sangh Parivar. “I am not sure why my brother is speaking what he is speaking. He had no clue about her life, she lived with us,” The Times of India quoted her as saying.
Siddaramaiah orders SIT probe
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday ordered the creation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the murder. He also asked for sharing of information by a CID team that has been probing the murder of Kalburgi over the last two years..
“A SIT has been formed, headed by an Inspector-General-level officer, to investigate the journalist’s killing,” the chief minister told the media. While Lankesh’s family had demanded a CBI probe, reported Economic Times, the Congress leader said that if the family members insist on a CBI investigation, the state could think about it.
Twitter warns trolls
Following the venomous tweets directed toward Lankesh, Twitter said that those violating the site’s policies may find their accounts locked or suspended, Hindustan Timesreported. Several Twitter users had taken to the social media platform to voice hatred against the senior journalist for her alleged support to naxals.
According to Twitter’s rules, the micro-blogging site supports diverse opinions but does not tolerate behavior that “crosses the line into abuse”.
BJP’s rivals used the occasion to launch a scathing attack against the party. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed shock and distress over the murder, saying “this can’t and should not be tolerated”, the party’s vice president Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of silencing dissent. It was part of “their” ideology, he said.
“Anyone who speaks against BJP is silenced. People say that the prime minister is quiet and he has not said anything. The point is the entire ideology is to silence voices,” Gandhi said.
Meanwhile, CPM called the democratic forces to lodge a strong protest against what it said was “growing intolerance and hatred” in the country.
The party said in a statement that Lankesh’s murder “fits into a by now familiar pattern of eliminating voices that dare to speak out against the current climate of hate and intolerance by the RSS and BJP”.
Claiming that the killings of Pansare, Dabholkar, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh were all “interconnected”, the party said that all the deceased were vociferous in their opposition to superstition, obscurantism and the perpetuation of the communal agenda by the right-wing Hindutva forces.”
The Aam Aadmi Party, too joined the blame-game. While it expressed fears that its key leader and former scribe Ashish Khetan could meet a similar fate for taking on extremist elements, it also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “emboldening” right-wing extremists by following them on social media.
As media fraternity and activists gathered across the country in cities including New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad among others to condemn her murder, Lankesh was laid to rest with state honours at a cemetery in Chamarajpet in central Bengaluru on Wednesday.