UK Remembers Gauri Lankesh, Stands in Solidarity against State Strangulation of Media

LONDON (25 October 2017): Academics, journalist and writers have paid rich tribute to the slain Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh and expressed deep concern at the new threats being posed to journalists and academics in India under Modi Government. 

Addressing the meeting held at the University of Arts, London, titled 'Stand up to the murder of dissent - Stop the Killings of Journalists in Modi's India!’ speakers deplored BJP Government’s efforts to curb dissent and muzzle freedom of expression.

The meeting was organised by South Asia Solidarity Group.

Addressing the meeting Tim Dawson President of the UK's National Union of Journalists compared Modi Government’s policies to extremist racist ideology adding, that 'Mob violence in India is like the 1930s Ku Klux Klan in the southern states of America in when the government colluded by turning a blind eye towards the louts. The Modi government's apparent license for mob violence is an incredibly dangerous development. ...Journalists are no more important than other members of the public but they have a duty and a special capacity to shine a light on what is really happening. We need to see the rule of law observed, perpetrators held to account and prosecuted. British journalists have a job to do, they cannot be insular. They need to say to our government that if you have dealings with the Modi government, human rights must have centre stage'.

Tim Dawson, Teesta Setalvad (recorded message), Nitasha Kaul

Human Rights activist and writer Teesta Setalvad, in a video recorded message for the meeting cited a number of incidents explaining how religious minorities and marginalised communities were being subjugated to oppression and cited examples of journalists and academics who dared to expose these cruelties being silenced through intimidation or murder. ‘We need to reiterate that the government, which is supposed to uphold the constitution is not run by the parliamentary wing of the BJP, but by the RSS, an organisation committed to un-constitutionalism'.

Rana Ayyub, the young brave journalist, known for her expose’ of the direct involvement of Modi and Amit Shah in the massacre of Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat, addressed the meeting on mobile phone. She said that to her Gauri Lankesh was a mother-figure and a great source of encouragement in moments of despair who was in constant touch with her. She said she has not yet been able to overcome the impact of Gauri’s murder.

She also said that after the publication of her book, Gujarat Files, her brother and parents were under constant surveillance and were facing harassment. She said that specially after self-publishing her book, she had become ‘jobless for ever.’ 

She said that she had to self-publish her book because no publisher in India dared publish it but now it has been translated into 13 Indian languages.

In a question-answer session Rana asked Indian diaspora not to delude themselves into thinking that they are safe. She urged them to become active and take part in the fight for the protection of human rights in India.

In response to a question if Owaisi brothers could ever become mainstream Muslim leaders outside Hyderabad, Rana said although Asaduddin was an articulate person and a good speaker, the image of him that has been painted by the media and also because Indian Muslims still look towards the Congress as the only secular party, the chances of him ever becoming a leader of Indian  outside India were almost nil.

Academic and writer Nitasha Kaul narrated the repeated clamp down on media in Kashmir and how the Kashmiris are routinely deprived of internet and mobile facilities. Nitasha cited a long list of such incidents.

Mohammed Aboulenin, Head of News and current affairs at Al Arabi TV, expressed solidarity with Indian journalists whose experience, he said, was not different from what his colleagues were facing in Egypt. He gave examples of how government figures, especially in Iraq, had contacts with militias that were involved in kidnappings, killings and extortions. He said, ‘dissenting journalists must speak out together and for each other.’

South Asia Solidarity Group said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be aware that internationally and globally organizations are watching and that India is in danger of abrogating the most basic requirement for democracy - a free press. Not only is India now the 136th among 180 countries in terms of freedom of the press with the Modi regime being held responsible, but according to Reporters Without Borders India is 'Asia's deadliest country for media personnel ahead of  both Pakistan and Afghanistan'

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