One of the English phrases says that “Pen is mightier than the sword”. The attempt by sword to put down pen is purely a result of fear that Pen has created. Starting from Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, the series of attempts to put an end to their lives is a result of this fear. Each of them had taken on the conservative rightwing forces – aiming towards ending irrationalism and superstition, re-interpreting the historical figures in a secular light, building in rationalism into literary work and taking fight with the Hindutva forces. These very ideas of rationalism & scientific temper, secularism, respect for pluralism goes against the basic values of the rightwing. They believe in power of the sword and re-establishing the power of Sword was their natural necessity. A pen taking up fight with a sword was something unacceptable for them.
Establishing a fascist regime in society demands an imposition of new social norms. The new social norms seek to reduce the democratic spaces to those using pen and increasing spaces to those using sword. It depends on the ideological side one represents. In this despotic society, some are more powerful than the other whether in terms of religion, caste, class, race or region. An ideology based on supremacy of the few is sought to be imposed through use of the Sword. Sword
represents an effort in this direction. Those using pen and representing rational voices are sought to be crushed through the Sword. The democratic spaces available to those using pen are sought to be ended.
Lankesh represented a rational voice in society. She was highly critical of Hindutva forces and sought to expose them. She strongly opposed the communal politics of Sangh Parivar. In 1992, Lankesh voiced against the polarization that took place following Babri Masjid demolition. In 2003, she opposed the Sangh Parivar campaign to hinduise the Sufi shrine Guru Dattatreya Baba Budan Dargah located at Baba Budan giri. She headed Koumu Souharda Vedike, a forum for promotion of communal harmony. She openly campaigned against caste system and exposed the double standards of Hindutva groups.
Lankesh carried forward the legacy of her father in the form of the tabloid ‘Lankesh Patrike’. It ran without any dependence on advertising money. Following the death of his father, she carried the legacy in the name of ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’. The paper was vocal on issues of secularism, communalism, and the rights of the Dalits and downtrodden. Her editorials were a reflection of her strong political views carried under the title ‘Kanda hage’ (As I saw it). Her last editorial dealt on the fake news propagated by the rightwing and the efforts undertaken by alternative news sites to expose them.
Combining activism with journalism, she went on to expose the rightwing through her paper. She also participated in various rights and justice issues. Her support to social movements and struggles across is well known. Lankesh also supported the movement carried out in JNU and Gujarat following Una. She considered Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Umar Khalid and Jignesh Mevani as her adopted children. She was increasingly being perceived as a threat by right wing forces for exposing them.
The assassination of Lankesh is an attempt at crushing viewpoints that go against Sangh Parivar brand of politics. The act of imposing power of the sword is an integral part of training provided by the saffron forces. The shakhas rather than preaching the usage of pen and its related attributes like debating and discussion, seek to provide training in usage of arms, thrishuls, sticks, guns to their upcoming cadres. In one sided lectures around the greatness of the past, critical discussions are hardly allowed. It is natural that devoid of rationality and logic and an emotion built around religion interpreted in its extremities, such people go on to commit acts which result in such incidents.
While the act of ending lives of rationalists may at first look as an attempt at instilling fear by those who took up the act, on the other hand it is only a result of the fear that has filled the spine of the rightwing forces. A BJP member had even went on to state that Gauri Lankesh faced death for being critical of BJP. Internet trollers who support BJP even went on to use abusive language against her through their tweets.
Inclusive of the lynching incidents, the acts of killing rationalists, the targeting of intellectuals are a means adopted by the BJP regime to impose the power of the sword. It is thus natural that more than on focus on pens, it is the tanks which is sought to be brought into Universities. More than extension of support to progressive groups, it is the lynch mobs who acquire an important space in the current regime. More than Social activists, it is the Bajrang activists who are given a free reign.
The assassination of Gauri Lankesh is sad. But it should also be an alarm call to all those who want to protect the idea of plural, secular and democratic India. It also needs to go beyond that to have a just and egalitarian India. It is only by bringing back the might of the Pen through protecting people such as Lankesh, that a fascist India can be prevented from emerging.
T Navin is a writer and works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University