Long live Gauri!
Fr. Cedric Prakash, SJ
The celebrated German playwright, poet and fierce anti-Nazi critic Bertolt Brecht once wrote:
“in the dark times, will there also be singing?
yes, there will also be singing about the dark times”.
Apt words, as we remember the celebrated journalist and human rights defender Gauri Lankesh, who was brutally gunned down exactly a week ago on the night of September 5th in Bengaluru. Her murder has resulted in an unprecedented outrage of anger, shock and sadness from concerned citizens all over the world over.
Gauri represented the very best of a free and fearless India, which respects the rights of her citizens, which celebrates pluralism and above all, defends the highest values of democracy!
Gauri had the courage to take on the Sangh Parivar and all communal-minded people, she abhorred the caste system, she fought for the emancipation of women, she took up cudgels for the poor and marginalized and she was a relentless crusader for the freedom of speech and expression! She spared none, when injustice was the issue!
The bullets of the assassins that fateful night carried some clear messages: that it is they who ‘apparently’ control the destiny of the nation; that the likes of Gauri, had no place in their scheme of things, that they brook no dissent, that they are cloaked with immunity and can obviously get away with murder. .
The murder of Gauri provides other insights into her assassins and the powers behind them too; these include:
• they are spineless cowards; masked in anonymity, they gunned down an unarmed defenseless woman
• they are violent; they have the muscle, the money and the clout to do away with violently with anyone who does not subscribe to their fascist agenda. ‘Ahimsa’ obviously means nothing to them
• they lack the intelligence, the conviction and the staying power to debate or write objectively on critical issues plaguing the country and our people today. Gauri consistently wrote and spoke about these issues.
• they are afraid of the Truth; when courageous and upright journalists like Gauri expose their evil deeds and other nefarious activities, they are just unable to accept them, leave alone swallow the facts
• they are adept in defocusing and divisiveness; Gauri’s estranged brother conveniently speaks about ‘Naxalite’ involvement. Some TV channels with their stooge anchors vomit the same possibility The Central Government in a manipulative manner asks the State Government as to why Gauri was not given protection from the Naxalites!
• they are good in sweeping other issues under the carpet. Gauri’s chilling murder is naturally headlines; but at the same time other major issues are quickly turned from the pages of people’s memories like the deaths of children in UP, the official report of the fiasco of demonetization, the institutionalization of corruption, the thousands affected by floods in several parts of the country and the official inability and apathy to respond to those affected, the crimes of ‘godmen’ against women like the Dera Chief and Asaram Bapu, the mob lynching of people; the list is endless.
• they do not care about the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution of India; for them, journalists who speak truth to power, human rights defenders, right to information activists and for that matter, any one from civil society who dissents, is termed as ‘anti-national’; and needs to be done away with. The trolling and the venom spewed on Gauri in social media by the ‘bhakts’ of PM Modi is a clear indication that freedom of speech and expression is not something that they cherish. Gauri believed in the Constitution and passionately defended the rights of citizens until the very end!
The above are just some ways fascist forces in India operate today. There is no denying the fact that the cold-blooded, pre-mediated murder of Gauri has political patronage at the highest level. All this has been witnessed before, in the Gujarat Carnage of 2002; the ‘fake encounters’ which followed; in the gruesome killings of rationalists and intellectuals like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi; in the murders of several other journalists, human rights and RTI activists all over the country.
That there is an overwhelming outrage to Gauri’s murder from several sections of society, speaks volumes that all is still not lost for the country. Gauri’s death has also brought together women and men from all walks of life in a show of strength and unity against the emerging fascist forces. Rallies, demonstrations and public meetings have been held in practically every major city and town. Her murder has found significant space in some of the most respected newspapers and magazines in India and abroad. On September 12th, more than 50,000 people gathered in Bangalore in a rally to protest the killing of Gauri.Shouts of “Gauri Lankesh amar rahe!”(Long Live Gauri!) rent the air.
This visible and vocal unity must continue. Many people are convinced that though they ‘killed’ her, Gauri’s spirit will never die! The greatest tribute one can then pay to this courageous woman is to ensure that the rich legacy she has left behind will never die; that all will be done to protect the democratic and pluralistic fabric of our great country! Above all, to be reminded of the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who during the Nazi Regime wrote:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”.
LONG LIVE GAURI!
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is a human rights activist. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org)