#OurGauri: Gauri’s Resolute Life

Translated by Yogesh S. and Teesta Setalvad

Gauri Lankesh

Following Gauri Lankesh’s brutal murder, there were protests everywhere. Now that we remember someone who had lived a successful and a complete life, now that we mourn her death, the only question that we should be asking is, what was Gauri’s purpose in life?

Anti Hindu Rashtra
Gauri firmly believed that it was her constitutional duty to establish a just and equal society, a society which Basavanna and Ambedkar fought for. She lived her life according to this belief. Her personal life was not that important to her. Her social life was her personal life.  She was cremated in the Chamarajpet Lingayat crematorium. She was a proud Lingayat who would state her thoughts clearly.  One of her recent articles had supported the view that Lingayatism should be recognised as an independent religion. Just like many followers of Basavanna, she argued that Lingayats were never Hindus. This view was definitely not something that went well with the views of powerful majoritarian groups. 

She had posted a picture of her with her father on the internet a few hours before she was shot dead.  The post said:  “He was a father whom we rarely met, but a brilliant teacher of my life is my appa! Happy Teacher’s Day”. But she was not just her father’s daughter; she was much more than that.

Formation of Forums of Dissent
Gauri was one of the founding members of Karnataka Komu Saouharda Vedike (Forum for Communal Harmony in Karnataka). She, along with other activists, writers, artists, musicians, and some ten thousand Kannadigas, opposed the efforts to establish Baba Budangiri, a pilgrimage centre in Chikmaglur, as the “Ayodhya” of the south. Karnataka Komu Saouharda Vedike and Citizens for Justice and Peace had come together to file a petition in the Supreme Court.

Student politics and the right to free and compulsory education were very close to Gauri’s heart. This is the reason why she was close to Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid. Her relationship with Jignesh Mewani tells us about her commitment towards fighting caste-based oppression. She had a picture of Rohit Vemula in her Facebook account. And she was also one of those who were fighting for justice for the dalit student, Delta Meghawal, in Bengaluru. Her participation in various organisations and movements—for instance, in the National Forum of Fishermen, in the struggle of New Labour Unions to organise the unorganised sector in the country, in every anti neo-liberal development models (especially large dams) movements at the national level, in Right to Education—clearly demonstrates her efforts to bring all the movements together.

Her Efforts to Establish Peace and Harmony
Gauri, along with many well-known and respected individuals in Karnataka, established the Citizens’ Initiative for Peace in 2013. This initiative mainly aimed at making sure that the policy to rehabilitate radical naxalites in mainstream society—formulated in Karnataka in 2009—was implemented.  A.K. Subbayya, H.S. Doreswami, and Gauri Lankesh were part of that government body. As a result of this initiative, nine naxals had surrendered and been rehabilitated.

Any enlightened society would welcome the efforts and initiatives for establishing a peaceful and non-violent society. State Minister of Information & Technology, Ravishankar Prasad, crticised the violent and anti-social trolls but, just two days later, started propagating lies about Gauri’s relationship with naxals. The fight after the murder of Gauri is not only for the respect and love that she had earned; it is also a fight for her strength and struggle against cowardice,  against the rumors and lies that are being spread about her.

Who Killed Her?
Even though it is only the police who can answer this question (let us hope that they will carry out an objective investigation), certain clues raise certain serious questions and put forth some disturbing information.

Last year, Gauri was declared guilty in two defamation cases that were filed in 2008. Prahalad Joshi and Umesh Joshi were the two BJP leaders who had filed the cases against her. Jeevraj, an ex-minister of BJP, publicly said that she would have been alive if she had not written whatever she had about the RSS. He was particularly referring to her recent article “Chaddigala Maranahoma” (The quest for death of RSS).

According to Gauri’s lawyer, B.T.Venkatesh, the murderers belong to a Hindu fundamentalist terrorist organisation. They know it very well that it is impossible to do anything else when multiple cases have been filed against you.  They have lawyers everywhere. They have at least five lawyers in every taluk and all of them work for free. It was interesting how Gauri used the time (that would have otherwise gone to waste) in organising public meetings outside the courts when she had to appear for the hearings. She continued talking her heart out loud and clear. She wrote and spoke in both Kannada and English and was successful in influencing many.

There Are People Who Spread Hatred
Trolls in social media were celebrating her death. Four of such Twitter handles are followed by the Prime Minister.

According to the forensic reports, the murderers used a 7.65 mm state pistol to kill Gauri. A similar weapon had been used to kill the seventy-seven year old M. M. Kalburgi, a rationalist and a scholar, in Dharwad on 30 August 2015; the eighty-one year old Govind Pansare, a rationalist of Maharashtra, in Kolhapur on 16 February 2015; and Narendra Dabholkar on 20 August 2013 in Pune. 

Today is 10 September 2017. It has been five days since Gauri has been killed and there have been protests every day, but Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of this country and the one who is famous for connecting with people on social media, remains silent.
Adieu to you, my dearest friend Gauri.

Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum



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