Do murders and mayhem define Karnataka?

Altogether 27 journalists have been targeted and slaughtered since 1992, according to reports.

Gauri Lankesh has been dead for less than 48 hours, as I key in these words. Her funeral is over. The savagery has begun. Lankesh will continue to be mourned by her family, friends and countless anonymous admirers, not just in India but across the world, for years to come. The savagery will soon be forgotten. Why has this particular cold- blooded murder of an outspoken journalist galvanised a nation into expressing anguish, anger, defiance? Perhaps because Gauri Lankesh’s assassination may turn out to be the last straw to break the camel’s back. Everything about the brutal gunning down of a defenceless woman at her own doorstep suggests a treacherous political conspiracy to silence an important voice representing the sentiments of millions who live in fear – want to speak out, want to protest, but dare not. Just as the Nirbhaya case became a tipping point that led to an unprecedented outpouring of citizens’ grief, Gauri Lankesh’s martyrdom (and I use that word deliberately) is likely to give rise to a wave of very vocal outrage that will be hard to dismiss by whichever government it is that is busy pointing fingers and looking the other way. Gauri Lankesh, in death, has already achieved her lifelong objective, which was to challenge the status quo.

Question the over-manipulated Hindu dharma narrative. When she wrote and spoke extensively against the tyranny of the caste system, and the unfair gender-biased interpretation of Hinduism, she spoke on behalf of countless Hindus and people from other religions. To try and dismiss her as a “Commie” or an “anti-national” is to devalue the sentiments of all right-thinking Hindus. Right thinking is the operative term. Lankesh was pitted against right-wingers, who have been making State-sponsored attempts to suppress the articulation of any form of analysis/dissent/criticism that upsets their agenda.

The question to ask this murder squad is: How many Gauri Lankeshes will you gun down? Ten more? A hundred more? Ten thousand? One lakh? What will those killings achieve? Nothing! Lankesh was not alone. Is not alone. Karnataka goes to the polls next year. The chief minister is obliged to act swiftly and nab the killers of Lankesh. Delays will not be tolerated this time. Gauri had stated boldly: “Abnormality is the new normal in Karnataka.” Her murder has only underlined the truth of that statement. The awful thing is how the definition of normal/abnormal, decent/indecent has been twisted in the past few years. One would think even her most vicious, rabid critics would display a modicum of what the world recognises as decency. But no! That’s too much to expect from this lot. It was sickening to read some of the hate being spewed on the social media minutes after the sad news broke. If this is the expression of true “Hindu dharma”, God help us all.

Altogether 27 journalists have been targeted and slaughtered since 1992, according to reports. Twenty-five more journo murders are under investigation. After highly respected scholar M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead, several red alerts did go off. What happened? Precisely nothing! The killers are still out there somewhere. The pattern of these killings has now been established. Follow the victim on a motorcycle, wait for the right opportunity... and bang! Bang! Bang! Shoot at close range and finish the job quickly... efficiently (as with Kalburgi, so with Gauri, a 7.65mm pistol was used). Once done, ride off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Professional hitmen can be hired for '5,000. Even less.

Gauri Lankesh was well aware of the threats to her life. And had refused to consider armed security guards. Even those would not have been able to save her. Gauri had made herself an easy and attractive target for those she provoked. And the reason she provoked openly was because she believed in the power of democracy. She believed democracy would protect her rights as a citizen to criticise and disagree publicly with those in power. Well, Gauri Lankesh was horribly wrong in harbouring such a belief... such an illusion. The idea of democracy... why, the idea of India itself… has been mauled and distorted by the very people who claim to be its custodians. It’s a matter of great shame that it’s we who have voted for these people. It’s we who keep them in power. It’s we who meekly surrender to their bullying.

What is the point of over-analysing Gauri Lankesh’s politics? Whether or not she let down Naxalites or protected dalits. Whichever way she lived her life, her ideology was hers — she owned it. Her principles and value systems were equally hers. A democracy that does not respect a citizen’s supremacy over his/her mind and body, remains a fake democracy — not worth the paper its Constitution is printed on. Once again, India is at that point where we can let her murder go with a shrug and a careless: “These things happen”. Or fight for her... and for ourselves. For if we don’t, we will all be dead. And nobody will be left to light our funeral pyres.

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