Speaking for secularism: In tweets and speeches, Gauri Lankesh always took a stand
A vocal supporter for liberal rights, Gauri Lankesh was on Tuesday evening shot by assailants at her home in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening.Updated: Sep 06, 2017 08:59 IST
Gauri Lankesh’s Twitter account has a photograph of her sitting with Kanhaiya Kumar, the Leftist JNU student accused of sedition. If she had an opinion to give or a side to take, she said it out loudly and clearly.
A senior Kannada journalist and editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, the 55-year-old was shot dead at her Bengaluru home on Tuesday night. She was a critic of Hindutva groups and a defender of secular and liberal values. The fate of Rohingya Muslims, the death of children in a Gorakhpur hospital, Karnataka’s drift toward “communalism” and the “struggle” for an egalitarian society – Lankesh commented on public affairs through Twitter, speeches and debates.
Hours before her death, she retweeted several articles and senior journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Shekhar Gupta on why India was “throwing out” the Rohingyas.
She retweeted posts criticising the RSS, BJP and Hindutva groups, warned against the “mistake” of sharing fake posts and ‘liked’ a tweet on how to survive the Blue Whale game that challenges people to commit suicide.
Ok some of us commit mistakes like sharing fake posts. let us warn each other then. and not try to expose each other. peace... comrades— Gauri Lankesh (@gaurilankesh) September 4, 2017
On September 3, Lankesh retweeted a post which pictured a Hindu and a Muslim woman eating together from the same banana leaf in Kerala on Onam, the state’s main festival often called a symbol of secularism.
Lankesh’s activism focused on defending secularism. In a YouTube video, she is seen talking about growing communalism in Karnataka and the threat of violence because of it.
“Karnataka’s trajectory from progressive, secular state to [a] communal state has been very interesting and a crippling one. In 12th century we had Basvanna who spoke much before Marx about the dignity of labour, equality and rationality — and specially against Brahmin hegemony. But today, all who claim to be Basvanna followers are BJP followers — totally against what Basvanna stood for,” she said, referring to the 12th-century Kannada poet and philosopher.
“We had UR Ananthamurthy, Kalburgi, my own father P Lankesh, Purna Chandra Tejaswi, all these people. They were all trenchant critics of Jawaharlal Nehru, of Indira Gandhi, of Rajiv Gandhi. But none of them were ever physically attacked, let alone [receiving] death threats.”
“Whether it’s attacks in the name of culture or protecting women, or attacks on Dalits… attacks in the name of crow protection or attacks on liberals in the name of Hindutva — abnormality has become the new normal in Karnataka,” she said at a conference on human rights in Delhi in March, reportedly one of her last public speeches.
Lankesh’s speech is critical of the Congress government in Karnataka, too, calling the party “stupid” for missing opportunities to score politically against the BJP.
Last year, Lankesh was convicted in a defamation case filed by two BJP leaders in Karnataka for a story she published in 2008. After getting bail, she called her case against her a “struggle” in an interview with newslaundry.com.
“Unfortunately, today anybody talking in support of human rights and against fake encounters is branded a Maoist supporter. Along with that, my criticism of Hindutva politics and the caste system, which is part and parcel of what is considered ‘Hindu dharma’, makes my critics brand me as a ‘Hindu hater’. But I consider it my constitutional duty to continue – in my own little way – the struggle of Basavanna and Dr Ambedkar towards establishing an egalitarian society.”