Gauri Lankesh’s Murder & Indian Media

The strong protest, anger and condemnation of the manner in which the Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh was recently murdered by apparently extremist elements sends a crucial message to the world at large. Yes, the media persons, activists, intellectuals and others displayed little delay in not just condemning the murder simply because a journalist had fallen victim to bullets from unknown sources. But more so, they sensed the factors which probably led her to being targeted. She was an activist, who strongly condemned the Hindutva drive, worked for communal harmony and was viewed as a fearless, independent as well as outspoken journalist. Clearly, the manner in which she exercised her freedom of expression and right to express her views was not appreciated by the elements she spoke against.

The condemnation expressed instantly against her murder displays that not just thousands, but lakhs in the Indian community silently or loudly support the views that Lankesh dared to express. This certainly sends a strong message to elements represented by the murderers who thought that they would succeed in silencing her voice. The body has been silenced but not the voice. This is indicated by messages streaming in on Facebook, opinions being voiced on television, newspapers and other means of communication. The majority condemning the murder says that with her death many more voices have risen to say what she sought to. And this certainly carries a severe warning for whoever directed her murder.

Yes, the “murderers” apparently presumed that by killing her, they would succeed in silencing her. They probably did not expect the strong reaction, protest and condemnation that this murder would provoke. It is also important to note that the ones who shot Lankesh were apparently hired criminals who probably have no other association with those who paid them for the job. The real murderers are the ones who hired them for the job. There is no knowing as to who would be their next target. Definitely, at present, the Indian media at large has taken note of this not being the first case of outrageous murder in Karnataka. In 2015, MM Kalburgi, a renowned scholar and former Vice Chancellor of Hampi University, was murdered outside his home in Dharwad, Karnataka. Two years have passed by but police has not yet made any arrest in this case.

Undeniably, Lankesh’s murder suggests that certain elements are desperate to silence voices speaking in favour of communal harmony and secularism and spare no efforts to criticise those disrupting the same, particularly the Hindutva elements. If they were not desperate, they would not have resorted to the kind of strategy they have used to silence Lankesh. She is dead. But her death has added greater strength to the voice of those critical of Hindutva elements, supporters of communal harmony and secularism. The desperate elements apparently were alarmed by Lankesh using her regional language, that is Kannada paper run by her, to propagate her views. Usage of regional language implied there being strong probability of the common voter in Karnataka being influenced by what she wrote. And there perhaps Lankesh’s Kannada journalism was really playing its part in promoting the importance of Indian secularism and other issues she believed in, but some extremist elements did not.

Clearly, certain elements were uncomfortable with the possible impact of Lankesh’s Kannada journalism on common voters’ political views in Karnataka. They probably viewed these as politically damaging for their own prospects. So they apparently thought that silencing this outspoken journalist would reduce the political risk posed to them by her writings. It is indeed sad, democratic rights of a citizen were abused. The condemnable action taken by extremist elements also raises the question as to why didn’t they give greater importance to countering her views through other means. After all, nobody is prevented in a free and democratic nation from presenting her/his views in a civilised manner. Perhaps, they weren’t confident of the response that their views would receive. But then, this would have also given them the opportunity to judge popularity, rationality as well as credibility of their views.

But they chose not to act in a civilised, democratic manner. Or perhaps, they may have judged the limited appeal that their views appeared to have through various means of communication. So they opted for restricting impact of views opposing them in Karnataka by silencing the Kannada journalist. And they were probably not prepared for the impact that this would have across the whole country. Clearly, this sends a strong message to one and all. Indian media cannot be taken lightly. Yes, there are certain limitations but this does not imply that each and every one related to Indian media can turn a blind eye and/or remain quiet to abuse of democracy, secularism and freedom of expression. The outrage raised questioning the murder of Lankesh is apparently just a symbolic example of this hard fact. This strongly conveys that democratic and secular voice of Indian media cannot be silenced easily.


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