Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gauri Lankesh: ‘Abnormality is becoming the new normal in Karnataka’ // ‘Murder of democracy, climate of hate, intolerance complicit’

NB: Gauri Lankesh's murder is a warning to all Indians who dare to criticise the ruling dispensation. Routine condemnations by BJP ministers are of no use, given the fact that impunity from punishment is assured for their brands of activists. Why else would cow-vigilantes film their own acts of murder, unless they wanted to show their masters what they were doing, and sure they would go scot-free? Why would the Delhi police do nothing while student activists allied to the ruling party ran amuck in Ramjas College in February this year? It is no secret that the so-called Sangh Parivar's world-view (let us be clear that this government is controlled by them) is filled with hatred, revenge and the idealisation of 'militancy'. At the time of the Kalburgi murder, most of their public interventions consisted in abusing the victims after ritual condemnation of violence. And Gauri Lankesh's death is being celebrated by persons whose political affiliation is fairly clear. What message is being conveyed when India's Prime Minister chooses to patronise twitter accounts of vicious net-activists? 

There are sufficient indications that the advent of the Modi government has sent a signal to activists affiliated to the Sangh and their ideological allies that India's criminal justice system will be made to serve their political programme; and all pretence of a fair and reliable justice system will be thrown to the winds. The conviction by a trial court of an RSS activist in the 2007 Ajmer blast case; shows that there are still some police officers, magistrates and judges who are courageous enough to stand up to this blatant assault on constitutional governance. 

But the portents are ominous - because the Modi government has shown itself to be blatantly partisan in its administration of justice. If the RSS thinks that the destruction of justice is a sign of national glory, it is sadly mistaken. Its contempt for the rule of law will take India rapidly toward totalitarian rule. Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud was similarly struck down in 2015 and the people behind her murder will also never be brought to punishment. Indian citizens and democrats the world over should expose this hooliganism and resist this tyranny. We are forever indebted to journalists like Gauri Lankesh and Ram Chandra Chatarpati for their professionalism and their service to the public. 

RIP Gauri Lankesh. Your courage and sacrifice will never be forgotten. DS

Gauri Lankesh: ‘Abnormality is becoming the new normal in Karnataka’
Noted journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead by unidentified men outside her home in Bengaluru, has never restrained herself in the past to speak about right-wing elements indulging in violence in the state. Lankesh, the editor of Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike, has always been known for her vocal criticism of Hindutva forces. At the National Convention of Human Rights Defenders in March this year in New Delhi, she said, “Karnataka’s trajectory from a progressive, secular state to a communal state has been very interesting and crippling one. In 12th century, we had Basavanna who spoke much before Marx about the dignity of labour, about equality and rationality and specifically against Brahmin hegemony. But today all those who claim to be Basavanna’s followers are BJP followers. It’s totally against what Basavanna stood for.”

She also spoke about how death threats were becoming ‘common’ in Karnataka and how in earlier times thinkers and activists were never physically harmed when they spoke against a ruling regime.
“In the 20th century, we had someone called Kuvempu, a Jnanpith award-winning writer who led the kind of movement, intellectual movement in Karnataka where he called people to come out of their caste and communities and become a universal person. And of course we had UR Ananthamoorthy, Kalaburgi, my own father P Lankesh, Poornachandra Tejaswi…all these people, the transformation is such that they are all trenchant critics of Jawaharlal NehruRajiv GandhiIndira Gandhi but let me say that none of them ever were physically attacked, let alone death threats. But now death threats hav become a common factor in Karnataka,” she had said then.

Lankesh cited instances of attacks on activists who questioned Hinduism and how they went scot-free. “Whether there is an attack on pubs and homestays in the name of culture and protection of women or whether there are attacks on Dalits remiscent of something very similar to what happened in Una, happened in Karnataka also which did not make much news in the name of cow protection, or attacks on liberals and leftists in the name of Hindutva,” she added. The veteran journalist did not spare the Siddaramaiah-led Congress governmnt in Karnataka accusing it of filing sedition cases against AISF activists. What Gauri posted on social media on her last day

“The Congress government in Karnataka is so stupid that here Rahul Gandhi goes to JNU in support of AISF student Kanhaiya and in Tumkur, AISF students are distributing pamphlets about Kanhaiya and Rohit and ABVP goons attack them. I tell the Home minister to get the ABVP goons behind bars so that they will know that they cant wag their tails in Karnataka. He says yes and the next minute I know the Karnataka police in a Congress government have put sedition cases against AISF students,” she said. She held the Congress government responsible for lathi-charging thousands of women garment workers who had come out on the streets of Bengaluru agitating against changes in provident fund rules. She ended her remarks saying that ‘abnormality is becoming the new normal’ in Karnataka and that the state could face the prospect of a  ”communal, casteist and corrupt BJP government” in elections next year.

Members of the literary community spoke out strongly against the murder of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, calling it an attempt to “silence those who believe in democracy and decency”. Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who was hounded into silence in 2015 by protests against his work, said, “One thought that this sort of sentiment had died down. This incident proves that the climate of hatred and intolerance seems to be alive. We need to respond to this attack with awareness and continued diligence.” Historian Ramachandra Guha said Lankesh’s murder was “part of a pattern that links the deaths of (Narendra) Dabholkar, (M M) Kalburgi and (Govind) Pansare”. “The climate of hate and intolerance that has been promoted by this current (BJP) government, aided by television channels and freelance goondas, is complicit in this murder. It is chilling. We are becoming mirror images of Bangladesh and Pakistan, where writers are killed for what they say. This is an attempt to silence all of us, all of those who believe in democracy and decency.” Read | Who is Gauri Lankesh?

Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan called it “murder of democracy”. “Any bold and independent dissenter can now become the target of fascists. We need to develop a zero-tolerance policy towards such dastardly acts. This is the fourth murder in a series and now any dissenter could become a target. It is high time all lovers of freedom and democracy come together on a common platform,” he said.
Writer and linguist Ganesh Devy, who now lives in Dharwad, also said he believed Lankesh’s murder was linked to the assassinations of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi. “This monstrous shadow of fascist forces now looms over the lives of everyone here,” he said. Kannada writer Vivek Shanbhag said the murder of the anti-establishment journalist was a clear message: “to shut up”. “She has been very critical of what has been happening in our society, what is happening around us. She was not partial in her criticism… She was always against those who committed atrocities and for the downtrodden. She was a fearless journalist. And this is a shameful act for all of us. What kind of society have we become?” 

Many remembered Lankesh as an equal opportunity offender and exceptionally bold woman. “She was the daughter of (Kannada poet, writer, journalist and playwright) P Lankesh, one of the most outspoken people in Karnataka. She inherited that courage and fearlessness. She was a journalist but also an activist,” said Devy. “It is not easy to be a woman, an activist and a fearless person in this country,” said theatre-person Arundhati Nag, a friend of Lankesh. “She was a strong social and political voice, and this is what we need - people who can speak out. This is not how you deal with someone who is anti-establishment.” Guha too believed that Lankesh earned the ire of the extremist right-wing, “which is particularly offended by independent women”.

Critic and translator Chandan Gowda, who teaches at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, and who knew Lankesh well, said she often received threats for her work. “Over the years, she had grown indifferent to them. She was deeply concerned and critical of the growth of right-wing Hindutva,” he said. Gowda said he remembered her as a “fabulous force, an extremely warm and giving person”. “It was impossible not to like her,” he said.

see also

A letter to Jaitley: Why do students get jailed but RSS leaders who issue vile threats walk freely?