Social activists, journalists, members of people's forums and political party workers from across the country organized a protest rally in Bengaluru on Wednesday to condemn the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, gathering at the main railway station before taking to the streets.
Members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the Karnataka Janashakthi, the Aam Aadmi Party and several student groups also took part in the rally. The 55-year-old editor of Kannada weekly ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’ was shot dead outside her home in a city suburb on September 5.
The rallyists sang protest songs, raised slogans such as ‘Gauri Lankesh Amar Rahe’ and demanding that Lankesh's assailants be brought to book. Wearing black head bands that read ‘I am Gauri’, they took out the march from the railway station to the Central College Grounds.
Prominent among the participants were the CPI-M general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, social activist Medha Patkar, eminent journalists P Sainath and Sagarika Ghose, Swaraj India leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, documentary producers Anand Patwardhan and Rakesh Sharma and civil rights activists Teesta Setalvad, Kavitha Krishnan and Jignesh Mevani, besides film producer Prakash Rai.
‘The forum of progressive thinkers, writers, social activists, artistes and intellectuals was formed on Friday to fight against the Lankesh killing and decided to hold the national-level 'resistance convention',’ the forum convenor K Leela said.
Condemning the killing, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and leaders of human rights and journalism groups have added their voices to calls for Indian authorities to bring the attackers to justice.
‘I condemn the murder of Gauri Lankesh,’ Bokova said. ‘Any attack on the media is an attack on the fundamental right to freedom of expression of each member of society. I urge the Indian authorities to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and this crime is punished.’
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Asia Program Coordinator, Steven Butler, said: ‘We urge police in Karnataka to thoroughly investigate the murder of Gauri Lankesh, including whether journalism was a motive’.
The Human Rights Watch South Asia Director, Meenakshi Ganguly, said: ‘The motives for Gauri Lankesh's killing are not yet known, but the possibility of a politically motivated shooting needs to be fully and promptly investigated.’
It described Lankesh, as a campaigner ‘for democracy, secularism, and civil liberties’ and ‘a vocal critic of militant Hindu nationalism promoted by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres's spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, repeated Bokova's statement and said that ‘India needs to address the problem of impunity in journalist murders and ensure the press can work freely.’
The committee said that India was ranked 13th on its latest Impunity Index, ‘a measure of countries worldwide where journalists are killed and the murderers go free.’At least 27 journalists have been murdered in direct retaliation for their work in India since 1992, according to CPJ.
In Mumbai film personalities like Shekhar Kapur, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar have condemned the death of the journalist but also the unsolved muder of three other critics of right-wing extremist ideology - M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.