Bengaluru spoke in outrage today over the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist and activist who was killed last night at her home. Across the country, editors and others condemned the murder and expressed concern over what they described as a growing intolerance to dissent.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah called the murder an “assassination on democracy”.
The police have reportedly spotted one of three killers on CCTVs that were installed at Ms Lankesh’s house in the western part of the IT hub. The suspect is seen wearing a helmet, said police sources, adding that three teams have been formed to identify and track down the killers, who were likely paid assassins.
Journalists from across the country as well as prominent residents of Bengaluru were worried that Ms Lankesh’s shooting at point-blank range was in retaliation to her anti-establishment voice, her criticism of those in power ignoring those on the margins.
“This shows dissent will not be tolerated,” said BT Venkatesh, a lawyer who represented Ms Lankesh in a defamation case brought against her a few years ago by a BJP parliamentarian. At a condolence meeting held in the heart of Bengaluru, some attendees carried posters saying, “Namma Gauri” (I Am Gauri). They denounced intolerance and any threat to free speech.
Ms Lankesh ran a weekly Kannada paper in which she often wrote in support of the rehabilitation of Naxals and against divisive politics. Frequently, she contested right-wing ideology.
Journalists in different cities are organising meetings today and protest marches against her murder. “Gauri Lankesh’s murder drills a hole in the heart of the journalist community. Are we sliding into the heart of darkness?” said editor Nalini Singh.
Ms Lankesh, whose father P Lankesh was one of Karnataka’s best known journalists lived alone. Last night, as she returned from work and headed to her house after parking her car, seven shots were fired at her by men on a motorcycle. Three bullets hit her, including one on the head.
“A total of seven bullets were fired out of which four missed the target and hit the wall of the house. Three bullets had hit her — two in her chest area and one in the forehead,” Bengaluru Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar said.
Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra said there could be links between the murder of Ms Lankesh and that of rationalist and scholar MM Kalburgi who was killed in 2015 at his home in Dharwad, around 400 kms from Bengaluru. When the 77-year-old Sahitya Akademi award winner opened his door, the attackers shot him twice at point blank range. His case has yet to be solved.