Remembering Gauri Lankesh, despite the far-right

India
Society

Sadly, for a variety of reasons, I was unable to attend the memorial in honour of the slain Bangalorean journalist Gauri Lankesh. The news of her death hit me like a kick in the stomach, though I didn’t really know her.

She was a fearless journalist critical of Hindu nationalism and the far-right, and was murdered on her doorstep in Bangalore, Karnataka state, on 5 September 2017.

Journalists across the Indian subcontinent felt a personal loss, though most had never read Gauri’s work. She wrote in Kannada, the language of Bangalore, of Karnataka state. Yet another member of the media family taken down for speaking truth to power. Gauri's father was my husband’s college professor too. So it felt like I knew her, though I’d met her only once, briefly.

After her death, the tributes and accolades poured in.

A nation-wide – in fact international – condemnation, of her murder resounded across the globe. Protest marches were held in most major Indian cities, many carrying placards reading: ‘I am Gauri’.

But now, barely a week later, the fascists and hate-mongers are slowly creeping out of the woodwork. A particularly vitriolic Facebook post by Francois Gautier, former India correspondent of French newspaper Le Figaro and well-known Hindutva apologist, says: ‘A 21 gun salute and a state funeral given to a Maoist radical & intellectual terrorist by an anti-Hindu Congress Govt which is doing all in its power to encourage Abrahamic & leftist fascism in Karnataka!

‘After a trial running to almost eight years, Gauri Lankesh could not produce a shred of evidence to prove her “news” was authentic. It was “The neutral Court” that found her guilty of willful defamation. She was given a suspended six month imprisonment and Rs 10,000 [$15.60] fine with a provision to appeal to a higher Court!

‘Condolences on her death, but she was hard core anti-India, anti-army, anti-Hindu & wiling to go to any immoral length to score a(n) ideological point to support breaking India forces. She was given a “state funeral”!’

I doubt if Gautier ever read Gauri’s original work.

Gauri wrote fiercely and passionately for the underdog. She tried to bring to the mainstream the story of hunted-down Naxalites, many of whom are now dubbed terrorists. Many of whom were just passionate, young people, disillusioned and disgusted by the injustice meted out to India’s dispossessed, its poorest and most wretched citizens.

Her former husband wrote a beautiful and moving tribute to her calling her ‘his first love and best friend’.

I’ve always felt Gandhi was strategic in opting for and urging non-violence. Gandhi could never have fought and defeated the force of the mighty British Empire with guns or armies. The Naxalites’ mindless violence can never win hearts or victories. But for her defence, of these misguided young people, she’s been dubbed ‘anti-army, anti-India’. For speaking up for Muslims murdered for the ‘crime’ of eating beef, she’s dubbed ‘anti-Hindu’.

No further comment is needed.

The forces of Hindutva, whom the likes of Gautier defend, do not believe in even cursory decency. They will descend to any depths. Nikhil Dadich, allegedly followed on Twitter by the current Indian Prime Minister, revolted the nation with his now famous quote: ‘A bitch died a dog’s death and now all the puppies are wailing in the same tune,’ said his tweet in Hindi, soon after Gauri Lankesh’s murder.

Not everyone, not even all journalists approved of all Gauri’s outrageous, provocative writing. Her magazine Lankesh Patrike is often referred to in a slightly disparaging way as a mere tabloid. But no writer, however high-brow, serious, eminent or intellectual could dispute the fact that this woman deserved every tribute in the land for her utterly fearless, unbelievably gutsy writing.

Gauri Lankesh gave a damn. She refused to kowtow to anyone. Not to the most powerful. Neither politicians nor priests nor the mafia succeeded in scaring her into silence. She paid for her fearlessness with her life.

Her name has become a legend. And she, an atheist, will go down in our history as a true defender of the Hindu faith. The Hindu faith, that is, in its truest, purest form.

In death, her pen proved more powerful. She became an inspiration to millions. Her legacy will live on forever.

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