Gauri Lankesh killing: True tribute only when journalists stand for principles
Journalist Gauri Lankesh may have been silenced, but it is now for us – the journalists –to ensure her lifelong battle is not lost.
A colleague has fallen to assassins’ bullets, but let her death not go in vain.
Though heartbreaking, Gauri Lankesh, the feisty journalist shot dead in Bengaluru on Tuesday night, made us proud. She stood for principles which she strongly felt were right and refused to yield ground, until life was snuffed out of her.
Her killing has triggered nationwide outrage and an outpouring of grief. From Rajasthan to Assam, and Delhi to Kerala, thousands took to the streets to protest her senseless killing. Photographs of her lying in a pool of blood at the porch of her house moved us to tears.
The murder was senseless, though the motive behind it is yet to be established. Presumably, someone – or some people – somewhere decided that Lankesh, known for her strident pro-poor and anti-Hindutva activism, had crossed the line and needed to be shut up once and for all. The assassins did the rest.
Lankesh may have been silenced, but it is now for us – the journalists –to ensure her lifelong battle is not lost.
It is okay to walk the streets in protest against her killing and hold candlelit vigils in her memory. But our collective show of support for a dead colleague must not end with just mere symbolism, but should rather translate into more substantive action.
For one, we as a community need to exert sustained pressure on the authorities to bring her killers to justice. More importantly, Lankesh’s murder must prompt us to contemplate, besides grieving, at a time when some believe we are no better than ‘presstitutes’.
Police investigations expectedly will reveal the reasons behind her murder. As of now, we can only speculate whether it was the handiwork of some murderous right-wingers or Maoists who could have grown disenchanted with Lankesh. There are also insinuations that all was not well within her own family.
Whatever the reason, there is no denying that Lankesh lived and died without yielding an inch of her principles. She was steadfast in her conviction and her commitment and courage are something that we need to draw lessons from, particularly when we have generally let our personal scruples and professional standards slip. There of course have been journalists in the country who showed spine and stood up to the powers that be and also the promises of pelf they offered and paid with their lives. But they are more of an exception than the rule.
Lankesh’s death offers us with a rare moment when we can hold a mirror to ourselves and scrutinise whether we measure up to her exacting standards. It is nobody’s case that the positions she took were always correct and naturally, there were people who disagreed with her at times. But it was her single-minded devotion to her belief and work that set her apart and earned our respect.
A true tribute to Lankesh therefore will be when we sincerely attempt to live up to the professional standards she set. Matching her in conscience, ethics and commitment will be difficult, but they are definitely worth a try. Not trying will mean we are only shedding crocodile tears.