Bengaluru: Exactly a year has passed since journalist Gauri Lankesh was assassinated in front of her residence but the shock and grief was still writ large on the faces of writers, activists, politicians and intellectuals who gathered in Bengaluru on Wednesday to pay tribute to her and condemn the killing of other rationalists and progressive thinkers.
Intellectuals like Girish Karnad, Jnanapeetha Awardee Prof K S Bhagawan, Gauri Lankesh’s family members, actor Prakash Raj, JNU student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid and many other activists gathered on her first death anniversary.
Mevani, a youth icon of Dalit movement and an independent legislator of Gujarat, said an “undeclared emergency” was declared with Lankesh’s murder and the arrest of activists by dubbing them “urban naxals” was another example of it under “Modi’s rule.”
After protest march against communal forces and seeking ban on Sanathan Sanstha, Gauri Lankesh tabloid re-inaugurated in Senate Hall of Central College in Bengaluru.
Prakash Raj, who was a close friend of Lankesh, said it has been a year since Gauri's assassination and many voices including his has risen. “We have spoken quite a bit in the last year about our pain, anger, disappointment etc.”
“The one who we said was responsible for her assassination is the one who is being found guilty through investigation. They feared her words and voice. It is evident now. Slowly one is getting to know the organisations behind Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi killings. They are becoming desperate and much more killings and assassinations will take place and they will become more and more violent,” he added.
He further said, “We need to talk to people and raise these issues. It has come down to say we need to protect Hinduism and not just humanity. We had PM Manmohan Singh who used to be silent. But Modi is consciously being silent. We need to talk about this to people.
The government is promoting violent activities. By calling us urban naxals they are ensuring that people don't listen to us.”
Student activist Umar Khalid said the killers were afraid of her ideas and words, so they killed her with bullets. “I am not surprised that Narendra Modi was following the ones who celebrated the death of Gauri Lankesh (on Twitter) since they learnt such views and thoughts from Modi,” said Khalid.
Swami Agnivesh, who was recently attacked by right-wing activists twice, was also present at the event. He said that if raising voice for dalits, adivasis and poor makes one urban naxal, then he is also an urban naxal.
“How many laws this government will bring to curtail us. Even SC condemned the recent arrests of human rights activists and lawyers saying ‘Dissent is the safety valve of democracy’. But Rajnath Singh says you cannot be critical of the government. Those who speak like that do not understand democracy and constitution. Modi cannot be bigger than constitution!” he said.
JNU scholar and activist Kanhaiya Kumar said that constitution is his religion and it is under attack.
“The Constitution was burnt and slogans were said against Ambedkar. We have been telling that the Constitution is at risk. The ones who read and write are being put in jail. That is the reality. It is time for us to win and them (referring to communal forces) to lose.”
“By putting people in jails and by giving them names such as urban naxal, anti-Hindu you (Centre) tried divide and rule. Now we understand your divert and rule politics too. We love our mother Gauri and she directed us to uphold the Constitution,” he added.
Mentioning the attacks on Swami Agnivesh, he questioned whether India needed the saffron of Agnivesh or that of UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath.