Third Letter To Gauri Lankesh….Dear Gauri, Did You Hear This?

Indian protesters hold candles and placards during a candle light vigil to protest the killing of Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh in Hyderabad, Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. Lankesh's killing has provoked outrage and anguish across the country, with thousands protesting what they see as an effort to silence critics of India's ruling Hindu nationalist party. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Dear Gowri,

Hope my letters are not disturbing you… but as days pass and events that disturb and confuse multiply, how can I not write  and share with you?… Please pardon me!

The first 2 letters (Letter 1, Letter 2)  have had different kinds of responses…most of the readers took to the emotional aspects that it was filled with, some said it was apolitical, yet others chose to ignore and avoid. But what surprised and shocked me was the latent fear in each one of us…A friend remarked that you walked into the jaws of a rabid dog knowing you would be bitten and maybe killed…so what is this big fuss about? But the fact remains, yes it remains as a shudder that you are no longer with us, in the world…which you loved and passionately held on to…the wrong of it, the intolerance attached to the whole sequence of events and also your voice that held together the vestiges of sanity and justice since a decade that has been muffled and silenced…Is that not what one should protest against?

Today is yet another International Day when I cannot help but think about you….Sept 21st is the International Day of Peace…Ironically the theme this year is TOGETHER FOR PEACE: RESPECT SAFETY AND DIGNITY FOR ALL…Yes, the same values that you fought for and spoke up with uncanny boldness and clarity! The U.N Secretary General laments that “neighbours are being portrayed as the “other” and communities are becoming convenient “scapegoats”…”. He motivates to build bridges and transform fear into hope. This day focuses on the huge and frightening situation of refugees and migrants. As the major nations of the world put up the “No Entry, Not Welcome” sign boards all over the place and threaten to build walls, India too is slowly tearing the garb of hospitality and generosity it always wore…We too are taking the hard, practical stance towards the “last man” that Gandhiji referred to, often conveniently forgetting the “talisman message” of the Father of the Nation that we quote all the time.

When we hold talks on peace, negotiation and advocate for equity and egalitarian society, do we think of the faces of the poorest and the weakest nearest to us? I am so sure you would have shouted “No…we do not!” But many of us like the World Leaders are either choosing to be silent or learning to be the “ barking dog”…While reading about Yusra Mardino, a refugee from conflict torn Syria who is now the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador having played in Rio Summer Games Olympics (2016) and Ishak from Myanmar who has taken shelter in Malaysia, I miss you…you would  have loved to hear the voices of hope and peace that emanate from these young hearts as clarion calls, for war and impotent anger and hate fills the air…

As discussions about “refugees and migrants’ mount, how can one not think of the refugees that ‘development and climate change’ create all around us? The sad state and insecurity of the villages in Narmada Valley where waters are rising, the unknown and invisible people ousted by the super highways and metros all over the country, the forest people of Kerala who are dispossessed each time a new development plan is envisaged cannot be ignored or sidelined if we are to speak about peace, respect and dignity for all. As this is being written, small citizens’ groups in Kerala are protesting against the proposed Oil Storage Facility of BPL-HPCL being made in Payyannur (North Kerala) taking over 129.74 acres of wetlands and paddy fields with support from the State Government. This will violate all existing norms to conserve wetlands, paddy fields and mangrove ecosystems. It is too early for us to forget the violent lashing out and suppression of the community in Puthu Vypeen ( Kochi) who have been resisting the Indian Oil Corporation Fuel Tank that is being established right in the midst of their life and livelihoods. This too is with the connivance of the State Government. The loss of livelihood and destruction to marine ecosystems that are home to fishes and lobsters that is already happening in Vizhinjam as Adani’s port is being built will create a wave of jobless refugees along the coast of Thiruvananthapuram. This along with various levels of dispossession of communities and tearing of ecological fabric that accompanies the implementation of projects – the quarries along the hills, the water being siphoned off from lakes and backwaters for the construction, the reclamation of paddy fields and wetlands for required land – makes the impact have a wider circle. At each level, there is an additional list of people who are ousted out of their homes to fall into the “development refugee” status.

More disturbing is the news about individuals who are becoming “scapegoats” of the intolerant “right” attitude and being punished for their “ wrong” doings. As this is being written a strong campaign to bring justice and freedom to Hadiya who has been under house arrest since many days is emerging. It brings tears to my eyes that you held your pen for the last time to criticize the High Court for not respecting the right of an adult person to choose her life and partner. The State and the Women’s Commission are silent and evasive…, and there is need for more and more pressure for Hadiya to lead a free life. She is still a “refugee in her own home”.

So what is peace and justice if the right of an individual is denied and the situation is burgeoning into a violent and unjust crisis where some brutal sections of the society take law into their own hands, create fear and silence the voices of sanity and reason?

These are questions and issues I would like to share with you, dear sister…the chair is there and we look towards it many a time in many a place…knowing the air is filled with your voice and opinion about the issues that we are talking about…

Take care, dear departed,



Sept 21st 2017


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