Gauri Lankesh, known for her fearless opposition of Hindutva politics and right-wing groups, did not take the issue of security or threats seriously even after her close friends raised the matter with her.
Former Minister and activist B.T. Lalitha Naik recounted an incident two months ago when she and Gauri were travelling in the same car to Madikeri. “Speaking of the murder of M.M. Kalburgi, Gauri said that she had received threat calls from unidentified persons saying they would kill her. But, she said that if she started taking them seriously, she could do no good work. She also enquired about a death threat letter that was posted to me, which even I had not taken seriously. Carried away by a false sense of invincibility, she did not take any of those calls seriously,” Ms. Naik said.
Reactions poured in from various quarters across the country. Freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy, who worked closely with Gauri to bring naxals into the mainstream, said: “I have lost a daughter today. Despite ideological differences between us, she was a great human being. As an editor, she never compromised and I suspect she fell prey to Hindu fundamentalists, whom she fought valiantly even outside the scope of journalism.”
Leading linguist G.N. Ganesh Devy, also convenor of Dakshninayana — a movement he launched following the murder of Kalburgi — termed the killing of Gauri as “cold-blooded and pre-planned assassination and not a murder”. “This seems only a new chapter in the attack against thinkers in the country, following the assassinations of Narendra Dhabolkar, Govind Pansare and Kalburgi. The shadow of fascism is only growing thicker and longer,” he said.
Senior Kannada writer Chandrashekhar Patil, who was the first to return his Pampa Award following the murder of Kalburgi in 2015, said there is a need to rethink strategies to fight “the communal forces that have engulfed Indian society and safeguard our constitutional principles.”
A shocked K.L. Ashok, State general secretary of Komu Souharda Vedike, the communal harmony forum of which Gauri was president, said it was the “murder of democracy, secularism and freedom of speech”.
“She was a committed writer. I spoke to her only five days ago about our office,” he said, adding that she had also written against the ‘Mangaluru Chalo’ rally.
Several writers and thinkers took out a protest in Dharwad on Tuesday night immediately after hearing the news of the murder. “On Wednesday, we will take a silent rally from Kalburgi’s residence to the city centre. We appeal to all colleges in Dharwad to close and respond to the dastardly attack,” Mr. Devy added.
Meanwhile, Indrajith Lankesh, journalist and brother of Gauri, has demanded a CBI probe into the murder. He said he had told his sister and the government to arrange for police security, which he felt she needed. “More than my sister, it is the murder of a woman, journalist and an intellectual. The culprits need to be brought to book immediately. We demand a CBI probe,” he said.
However, other family members considered closer to Gauri refused to comment.