India: Concerns Raised Following Killing of Outspoken Journalist

Akash Vashishtha
New Delhi
170908-IN-journalist-620.jpg Demonstrators hold signs with the picture of slain Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh during a protest in New Delhi, Sept. 7, 2017.

Three days after Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was gunned down outside her home in the southern state of Karnataka, police have not identified her attackers.

Lankesh, 55, editor of Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly and publisher of her own weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was shot and killed by unidentified assailants outside her Bangalore home on Tuesday. Police sources said they were examining closed-circuit TV (CCTV) footage of the attack.

The journalist was identified as an outspoken critic of Hindutva politics, an ideology seeking to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government.

“No arrests have been made yet. The investigation is on. We are examining all evidence and all angles. The CCTV footage is being examined,” Jinendra Kanagavi, deputy commissioner of police in Bangalore told BenarNews.

Asked if investigators received any tips into the killing, Kanagavi replied, “Nothing directly has emerged. We are working in different directions. Different teams have been constituted to work on it.”

The state government announced a reward of 1 million rupee (U.S. $15,638) for information leading to the conviction of her killers.

Demand for judicial probe

As investigators showed no progress, news groups demanded a judicial probe and a fair and impartial investigation following protests throughout the country.

Protests were held in Chennai, Hyderabad, Dharwad, Thiruvananthapuram, Pune, Mumbai, Kolhapur, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Gorakhpur on Wednesday. In Delhi, several media organizations, journalist associations, students and left-wing politicians gathered to protest at the Press Club of India.

A joint resolution adopted by the Press Club of India, Press Association and Indian Women Corps had called upon the government to put all efforts to investigate the matter in a fair and impartial manner to restore confidence among journalists in the country.

“We want a judicial probe and speedy trial into the matter instead of a SIT (Special Investigation Team) inquiry.  There is so much anger not just among journalists, but in the whole of society,” Shobhna Jain, president of the Indian Women Press Corps, told BenarNews. “Police should be transparent in disclosing the stage of investigation so people known what is happening,”

Lankeh’s brother, Indrajit Lankesh, told an Indian TV network he was convinced his sister was killed because of the ideas she expressed. “It might be the right-wing extremists or it might be the Maoists because of the background,” Indrajit said.

Messages of support

“This murder is an attack on the free voice in the country. The widest possible unity is needed to check this kind of intolerance,” S.K. Pande, president of the Delhi Union of Journalists, told BenarNews. “A war is being launched against voices of reason, rationality and those believing in scientific temper. The free spirit of ideas is being attacked in this manner.”

Jaishankar Gupta, president of the Press Association who knew Lankesh, told BenarNews, “Gauri was an outspoken journalist. Her murder is not just one but is in a series of such acts.”

A BJP official responded to allegations the party was promoting right-wing extremism.

“A condemnable act of killing a woman journalist is being cynically exploited by desperate opposition and anti-BJP voices in the media to raise intolerance. In India’s federal structure, it is the opposition, Congress party in Karnataka that is responsible for preventing such incidents and bringing the culprits to justice,” national spokesman G.V.L. Narsimha Rao, told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, the opposition Indian National Congress (INC) party accused BJP of crushing dissent voices.

“Anybody who speaks against the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological think-tank) is attacked and even killed. They want to impose only one ideology which is against the nature of India. Sometimes the PM (Narendra Modi) speaks under pressure, but the entire idea is to crush dissent and this is resulting in a very serious problem in India,” INC Vice President Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.


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