The Press Club of India did not have space to even stand yesterday. The outpouring of grief and anger in the street as well as on the social media on the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh compelled many veterans to join hand and speak up against the culture of intimidation and violence against those who differ with the current dispensation and their politics of Hindu nationalism. There were political leaders of the left, though, Rahul Gandhi and leaders of other political parties too had condemned the murder elsewhere, who participated and spoke against the violent assault on the freedom of expression. All of them wanted us to stand united and fight against it. In Kolkata, Mamta Banerjee too joined the protest.
Immediately after speaking on the forum, Ms Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai said that the journalists should not allow politicians to ‘capture’ the space and that we should not become such helpless to get the political support. Of course, immediately after Burkha Dutt, another activist journalist countered her and said that it was a war in which we know who are the people involved and we need to name them. While we know political parties have not much love with the ideas and journalism, one just wonder, whether both of them could have said things if there were BJP leaders or Sangh leaders on the board. Why is this effort to look ‘non-political’ when we know who might have been the killer of Gauri Lankesh and why was she killed? It is again very pertinent to check weather Gauri Lankesh was killed for being a ‘journalist’ or an ideologue which was critical of Hindutva ?
Gauri Lankesh came from a well-established family. Her father P.Lankesh was the editor of Lankesh Patrike and her sibling Indrajit was into film making as well as became owner of the Lankesh Patrike after the demise of their father. Gauri and Indrajit has developed sharp ideological differences which compelled her to start her own Gauri Lankesh Patrike in Kannada. Her father was said to be influenced with Gandhian idealism but Gauri it look was more into rationalism. A moving tribute by her former husband Chidananda Rajghatta, Foreign Affairs Editor, Times of India, said how both of them became friend reading Abraham Covoor. So, it was clear that Gauri was a thorough rationalist and a constitutionalist as she believed in rights of minorities, Dalits and Adivasis. There is more to the story too. She has been speaking at various platforms by the human rights groups including Amnesty International and has been persistent in her criticism to brahmanical Hindutva.
We should not forget the events which will further grow tensions in Karnataka as far as the Hindutva project is concern. On August 22nd 2017, there was a huge rally in Belagavi in which seers and political leaders of the Lingayat Community had participated and demanded in absolutely unambiguous terms that their community was not a part of brahmanical Hinduism and that they should be declared a separate Lingayat dharma. Now this demand is not old because political philosophers like M.M.Kalburgi as well as Prof Bhagwan have spoken about it in details. Prof Kalburgi was brutally murdered at his home and Prof Bhagwan live in the shadow of police protection for his ‘alleged’ blasphemy of the brahmanical gods. The Hindu covered the rally and reported that all the seers and political leaders warned RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to desist in interfering in their community affairs. One of them, Jayabasava Mrutyunjay Swami said: “I want to tell Mr. Bhagwat that we believe in Ambedkar’s Constitution and not that by Manuwadis. We live according to modern principles of democracy and not vedic ideologies. We will ask leaders who are trying to divide us to give up the Lingayat faith.’ There is little doubt that Gauri Lankesh has been supportive of this view that Lingayat was a different faith than the Hindus.
In an article reproduced by The Wire on September 5th she says, ‘Let’s be clear about a couple of things at the outset. Though many people believed for a long time that Lingayats and Veerashaivas were one and the same, and that the words were interchangeable, they are very different. Lingayats are followers of Basavanna, the 12th-century social reformer who rebelled against Hindu society and established a new dharma. Veerashaivism, as the name suggests, is an order of Shaiva faith, which in turn is one of the two major Vedic faiths – the other one being the Vaishnava faith. Both Shaiva and Vaishnava followers constitute the sanatana dharma. The essential difference between the Lingayata dharma and the Veerashaiva is that the latter accepts the Vedic texts and practices like caste and gender discrimination, while Basavanna not only protested these, he offered an alternative that is an anti-thesis of sanatana dharma. This debate assumes a larger significance these days, when Hinduism is being equated exclusively with sanatana dharma, in contradiction to the origin of the word `Hindu’, which included Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. Shaivites, like Vaishnavites, are a part of the Hindu system of faith. And therein lies the difference. (Making sense of Lingayat verses Vairashaiva debate: The Wire (https://thewire.in/167389/karnataka-lingayat-veerashaive-debate/).
Karnataka is top on the radar of BJP as it is their entry point for South. Lingayat community constitute over 17% of the total population in Karnataka and with its biggest leader Yeddyurappa, BJP and its top brass had been quite sure about their return but the event unfolding there have made things a bit more difficult. Yaddyurappa remained a mascot of Hindutva in the state but the religious leadership of the Lingayat are now open and categorical to clearly chart their own path and delink themselves from the brahmanical Hinduism which certainly is not a positive signal for the community just before the election. It seems the party has realized the huge loss of goodwill in the community in the aftermath of Gauri Lankesh’s death which seems to have antagonize the ‘liberals’ who were supportive of it particularly after the attempt to justify the murder. As usual, the paid media gang has been brought to start the vilification campaign in multiple way but in a careful way. The Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, condemned those who were ‘celebrating’ her death, the trolls continue to vilify her through whisper campaign on twitter as well as on whatsapp platforms while the Mughals of the media vampire would create more confusion and bring new ‘angles’ to the issue. And what else could you expect than bringing a brother who she had dissociated long back and had openly in defiance of his family’s political thoughts now wished to join the BJP.
According a report published in The New Indian Express on July 10th, 2017, Indrajit Lankesh said that , ‘After 25 years of journalism and being in the film industry, I have earned a lot of love and affection from people,” says Indrajit, adding, “This (politics) is a another place, I want to know if I can fit in. As of now I am just known to be aligned to BJP’s ideology, of course, Yeddyurappa and Narendra Modi’s leadership has inspired me to join politics. It is just a thought now, and it is too early to give any kind of confirmation. But films will go on, and I will be announcing my next project details very shortly.’
The media has shamelessly tried to deviate from the issue and brought the issue of her differences with her brother as well as possible ‘Naxal’ connection on the issue. Two rabid Sanghi channels The Republic TV and Times Now have brought her brother Indrajit on the show suggesting that there could be a Naxal angle into the case. Timesnow went on to suggest that she had just put CCTV cameras at her residence a fortnight ago which means that she might have felt threatened. The problem in this case is that she had her own difference with her brother who as we place on record is willing to join BJP, shown his appreciation for Narendra Modi’s leadership. Even when the entire Lingayat community today stands together in their attempt to get a separate identity than the brahmanical Hinduism her brother want to go back to them. There are other things which are visible on social media and need to be seriously looked into. It need to be elaborated as who were rejoicing at her killings ? Who said that she was a ‘commee’ as if being a communist is a crime. Who are those who said that ‘the lefties are crying on the death of a bitch? When nothing work then they say, we keep quiet on the deaths of so many RSS cadres in Kerala and Karnataka. There is no doubt that many states have witnessed the political violence whether it is Kerala, Bengal, Karnataka where cadres of the parties indulge in violence but why to ignore the violence against common people by the Hindutva sponsored goons in the state where they are in power. How can you ignore the violence against Dalits, minorities and adivasis in the name of their food habits as well as cow protection? Secondly, the pattern of violence against Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and now Gauri Lankesh provide the same clue.
If anybody has doubt then one can also read the statement by sitting BJP MLA and a former Minister from Karnataka Mr Jeevraj who said that, ‘Her vitriolic writings against Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in her tabloid, Gauri Lankesh Patrike, might have cost journalist an and activist Gauri Lankesh her life, Mr Jeevraj says that Gauri Lankesh had written a report headlined, “Chaddigala Marana Homa” (the slaughter of RSS). “If only she had refrained from such writings, she would probably have survived. Gauri Lankesh was like my sister and she might have written against us which is acceptable in a democracy,” he says (Asian Age : http://www.asianage.com/india/all-india/070917/writing-against-rss-cost-gauri-lankesh-her-life-bjp-minister.html
While police and investigating agencies would do their work, there is a lot for the media to introspect on this. Today, each one of them want to ‘own’ Gauri for her ‘courageous’ and principled stand against the ‘rightwing’ but most of them remained at high position when the newrooms and editorial board rooms of the media became suffocating gas chambers for those like Gauri Lankesh. Frankly, speaking, people like me were unaware of her writing and I am not sure how popular was she with common middle class people in Karnataka. If she were a much sought after columnist who worked with various newspapers it is because of her privileged background. She was more into social movements and against the politics of Hindutva’s hateful ideology. So was she killed for being a ‘journalist’ or was she ‘killed’ for pursuing an agenda which the Hindutva forces felt that would be an obstacle in their way.
Does it not look surprising that with 90% TV channels reporting according to the wishes of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi, a few of them attempting to balance things and in the name of ‘dissent’ most of them can’t go beyond Congress party or a few mainstream left. The print is showing some dissent but the dissenters there are the core group of privileged journalists or academics of their own ‘biradari’ many of who may be socio-culturally ‘secular’ but economically rightwing. How many of them had the ‘courage’ to publish her article or keep her as a regular columnist in their dailies? The Hindutva is not afraid of media because it has almost made it virtually redundant. It is not even crawling at the moment as Advani famously said during the Emergency for our media. It is now completely spineless and working as the Public Relation Agency of the ruling party but its role does not end here. It is not merely reporting news but ‘cooking’ it also in their editorial offices. That is more dangerous. If a news anchor can celebrate the death or other bring ‘new’ revelation on her death making her story similar to any other ‘crime’ news then it reflect how much have we lost in these three years. In the coming years, they can go further to dilute the entire issue and make it a crime sex story so that the killers who tried to silence the opponents continue to do so looking for the other preys.
One is surprised that despite overwhelming percentage of electronic media and print media writing stories as per the whims and fancies of ruling party, its leader still want to control all forms of voices and are very disturbed with those who can unmake their agenda. This shows the power of dissent. The megalomaniac leaders habitual of prostrating public relation officers always fear the dissenters even if they have limited reach and that is why smaller publications based on sound convictions of freedom, social justice and socialist are far superior and influential than those who claim to represent all yet have been merely converted to providing us information. Gauri Lankesh and others like her are not in the profession to be a public relation officer or supply information being generated in the newsrooms but they are among those very few who give us food for thought. It is these ideas of democratic dissent which believe in human rights of all and speak against all forms of discrimination i.e. racial, religious, caste, gender, region and physical appearance, which the dominant narratives in most of our societies consider as obstacle in their ‘progress’ that has kept the hope of all the oppressed people. Countering and challenging the carefully built and sangh Parivar influenced narrative of victimization among the powerful and dominant castes in India to suit their political goals that keep the oppressed and marginalized on the toes and divide them further on their caste lines, is essential for a healthy secular socialist republican democracy.
Yes, to be candid, Gauri Lankesh died for a secular democratic cause. She became victim of hatred. She did not die because she was a journalist but because she fought against the Hindutva hatred in India. There are journalist are killed for exposing the mafias, taking on the political establishment but none spoke for them. Therefore it is important for us to understand that it is not the issue of Gauri Lankesh being a media person but belonging to a particular ideology that threatens the Hindutva and Sangh Parivar. The fact is that the rightwing is not afraid of media but of a counter ideology and they grew because of the political vacuum created by the centrist parties functioning just to ‘govern’ without any emphasis on ideological perspective on issues that confront us today. The legacy of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi and now Gauri Lankesh is clearly humanism, reasoning, human rights and standing head on against the forces of hatred and divisiveness.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: email@example.com