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Gauri Lankesh’s case shouldn’t fall by the wayside owing to police apathy

In all these cases, there was enough forensic evidence for the police to act on. But they don’t seem to have made any headway either due to incompetence or deliberate neglect

editorials Updated: Sep 06, 2017 16:41 IST
Gauri Lankesh,Govind Pansare,MM Kalburgi
A file picture of Kannada journalist Gowri Lankesh who was shot dead by unidentified assailants in her Bengaluru residence. 2017_000202B)(PTI)

A link is being drawn between the ghastly murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, that of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013, Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in 2015 and MM Kalburgi in Dharwad in 2015. It is too early to come to any conclusion about Lankesh’s killing as investigations are underway. But, many see this as an assault on the freedom of the press. Indeed, there is no denying that journalists have come under great pressure in recent times especially those reporting on injustices and corruption. There are two worrying aspects that must be highlighted. In all these cases as also similar ones which have not got much notice, the murders have not been carried out in any secretive manner. Rather, the killers have quite openly approached the victim and carried out the crime in full view of others and in the case of Lankesh,CCTV cameras.

This suggests that they have no fear of the law or of being apprehended. This also suggests that they may have powerful backers. The other is that these cases have been hanging fire for years. It can only be hoped that Lankesh’s case does not become a casualty to such apathy. The killers in all these cases have left behind enough evidence for the police to proceed on. Surely using ballistics and forensic evidence, some headway could have been made by now on the older cases. In fact, these cases had receded into the background and have been resurrected now only after Lankesh’s killing. From the time lag, we can only conclude that the police are either incompetent or are dragging out these cases for whatever reason. This is simply unacceptable. There have been demands for the Karnataka’s chief minister’s resignation. But this serves no purpose. In Lankesh’s case, she had also been involved in rehabilitating Maoists and this also earned her many enemies. But from whichever source the threat came, it is inexplicable that the police did not have a greater handle on the situation and seem to have been caught completely unawares.

Unfortunately, media attention also wanes after such sensational murders allowing the police to get away with inaction and incompetence. In the Dabholkar case, two of the suspects are absconding. In all the cases, the investigating officers have been changed frequently despite protests from the families. The longer these cases take, the less the likelihood of finding evidence or the culprits. It is time that we at least learnt of any progress made in these cases. Like those before, the case of Lankesh, who fought so valiantly for the underdog, should not fall by the wayside once the attention has died down.

First Published: Sep 06, 2017 14:56 IST