It’s a sad day for the world’s largest democracy. A human being, a woman, a journalist had to pay with her life for having an opinion and for speaking what she thought was right. Gouri Lankesh was the Founder editor of Gouri Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly tabloid which she ran without any advertisements from government and corporates and, the owner of many other publications. Daughter of Kannada writer and Journalist P. Lankesh, the firebrand journalist was an activist for Dalits, women and many other downtrodden sections of society. She was the neither the first nor the last to be silenced for voicing out her thoughts. Rationalist and thinker Narendra Dabholkar, who spent much of his life exposing baseless rituals, black magic, and godmen, was murdered in 2013 by two motorcycle borne men. What was his fault? He wanted to bring a change, clean our society off superstitions. In February 2015, Govind Pansare, a prominent CPI leader and trade unionist and his wife Uma were shot at by two assailants outside their house in Kolapur when the septuagenarian couple was returning from their morning walk. He had come under the scanner for his views on Hindutva and had believed to have called Nathuram Godse a part of RSS. What angered Maharashtra conservatives were his interpretation of Shivaji. Noted Kannada writer and scholar M M Kulburgi was killed in the similar manner for his strong views. Sandesh Times Bureau Chief Tarun Mishra, TV journalist Indradev Yadav, Rajdeo Ranjan, the bureau chief of Dainik Hindustan, Kishore Dave, the bureau chief of a Gujarati newspaper called Jai Hind, Dainik Bhaskar reporter Dharmendra Singh were murdered because they spoke a language which didn’t please a section of the society. This piece is not about whether their views were right or wrong. It is about – do we have a right to speak our mind? Is killing the person who dares to differ from the popular ideology the way out? Then what about our fundamental right to Freedom of Speech and Expression? In the past, more number of journalists are killed covering politics and corruption in their own country than covering any other beat. Perhaps these number are next only to Syria and those covering wars.
History is replete with incidents where the activists, journalists and whistle blowers are killed because they refuse to fall in line, because their views are a threat to age old thinking and popular notions. We are becoming a highly intolerant society that we don’t bat an eyelid before pumping bullets into someone whose ideology doesn’t match with ours’. Like the blue whale challenge – either be quiet or prepare to die. And if someone dares to call this country intolerant, he too is trolled and shamed.
Come to think of it, we are a highly tolerant country – we tolerate even killers. Today social media is abuzz with condolences messages, articles and editorials on the murder of Gouri Lankesh. There are candle light marches, meetings, rallies, debates expressing why Gouri was killed. People from all walks of life, even those who had never heard of this critic of Hindu right-wing extremism are distressed and angry. But in a day or two another more important news will take over and this tolerance – intolerance debate will be moved to the inside pages; a junior reporter now and then will file reports on the status of inquiries and the diligence of police in catching the culprits. And sooner than we expect, it will be business as usual until the next murder and the next silencing of a rising voice.
Who killed Gouri Lankesh? Depleting law and order situation in our country, political apathy, absence of any fear of law in masses, rising intolerance amongst a handful of people or the silence of the masses? Long live our right to Freedom of Expression!