WSS is shocked by the cold-blooded assassination of senior journalist and human rights activist Gauri Lankesh. Unidentified gunmen drew up outside her house in Bengaluru almost immediately after she arrived around 8 pm on 5th September, and shot multiple bullets at her at point blank range and fled on motorbikes. She died almost instantaneously. We condemn this political assassination in the strongest possible words.
Gauri Lankesh had fought tirelessly in support of the rights of people from all oppressed sections of society, especially to maintain communal harmony, speak against caste-based violence and unite together all progressive forces. She was a fearless independent woman who never hesitated to question atrocities of any kind, including the sinister and powerful forces backing the perpetrators of these atrocities. Her work as an anti-communal and anti-caste crusader was relentless. She was one of the primary leaders of the anti communal struggle. She was a founding member of the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike (Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum) and was also a member of the All India Forum for Right to Education. She had been a vocal supporter of anti-caste, feminist and student struggles and in forging unity across ideologies to confront fascist forces.
Gauri Lankesh had worked as a journalist in the Times of India, Sunday magazine, and Eenadu Telugu channel for 16 years before taking over the editorship of Lankesh Patrike, an independent news magazine in Kannada that was widely read, after the death of her father. She has also written several books as well as articles on other platforms and was one of the few women editors in the Karnataka press. In her writings she has critiqued corruption by all political parties, communal and caste-based politics. She had gone further to criticize Hinduism itself as a hierarchical system and to align herself with the struggles of Basavanna, Dr. Ambedkar, and the constitution in forging an egalitarian society. The former is especially noteworthy, as she had supported the recent move by a section of Lingayats to claim a separate religious status outside of Hinduism since Basavanna had categorically denied the authority of the Vedas, a move that had greatly threatened to divide the Lingayat base of the RSS and BJP. She was also out on bail after being sentenced in a defamation case after publishing an article by a journalist naming the BJP MP of Dharwad as part of a cover up involving the cheating of a jeweller by three BJP workers. She had often spoken of death threats levelled at her consistently over the past two years, and the ways in which she and others were being targeted in multiple right wing publications such as that of the Sanatan Sansthe and on online fora.
Gauri Lankesh’s murder follows the same pattern as the murders of Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar. In fact Gauri had intensively written about the murders of these rationalists and was campaigning to bring their killers to justice. Her murder speaks volumes of how weak the ruling forces are and how deep the intolerance runs. Her assassination was meant as a message to anyone speaking up against the working of right wing forces. Even her murder needed the anonymity and cover of the night. The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of those murders sends out a clear message that the murders of rationalists and anti-communal activists will go unpunished. We demand:
- A judicially monitored probe by a state level special investigation team into the murder of Gauri Lankesh
- The government should declare this murder as an act of terror
- The government should constitute a joint parliamentary committee to look into the pattern of killings of rationalists and anti-communal activists.
- A judicial investigation into the terror activities of the Sanatan Sansthe, Hindu Jagran Vedike, RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP, Sri Rama Sene and other organizations who are part of the Sangh Parivar.