Gauri Lankesh: A Woman of Strength

Gauri Lankesh: A Woman of Strength
Gauri Lankesh was a noted journalist and social activist.
Gauri Lankesh: A Woman of Strength
Gauri Lankesh was a noted journalist and social activist.

Gauri Lankesh- Two years of remembrance

People say you should live each day as if it’s your last. But what if that life is taken away from you, not by a natural order of things, but by those who try to stifle your voice? In any case, Gauri Lankesh, despite death knocking unannounced at her door, managed to get the most out of her life. The 55-year-old journalist-turned-activist was shot down outside her home on the evening of September 05, 2017.

While the entire nation stood still in shock, one thing was clear. The assassination was a staunch proof that Lankesh’s voice had reached far and wide – the ears of comforted and troubled alike.

The life of Gauri Lankesh

Daughter of Palya Lankesh and Indira, Gauri Lankesh was born on January, 29th, 1962 in Bangalore (now known as Bengaluru). Her late father, Palya Lankesh, remains a strong, prominent figure in the world of Kannada literature even today. In 1980, around the time Gauri Lankesh first stepped into journalism, P. Lankesh started Lankesh Patrike, the weekly which became a milestone for resistance journalism. It was Lankesh Patrike that Gauri ultimately took over as the editor, post her father’s death in 2000.

Lankesh, who initially wanted to become a doctor, saw herself diverging into journalism instead. The eldest of three siblings, she started her full-time career with Times of India in Bengaluru in the 1980s. Before her father died in 2000, Lankesh had worked as a journalist for over 16 years.

Career and Lankesh Patrike

After the demise of P. Lankesh in 2000, the responsibility of Lankesh Patrike fell on the shoulders of Gauri and her younger brother, Indrajit Lankesh. While they initially planned to cease operations of the tabloid, it was on the insistence of Mani, the publisher, that they decided to continue publishing. Indrajit handled the business affairs, while Gauri stepped in as the editor of the weekly.

In interviews, she frequently mentioned how taking command of Lankesh Patrike meant filling into some very big shoes for her, and she would put in all efforts to make sure she earned it. However, conflicts started arising between the two siblings- eventually leading to them parting ways in 2005. It was then that Gauri started her own weekly- Gauri Lankesh Patrike, where she served as an editor till her death in 2017. Both the magazines remained true to P. Lankesh’s ideals and kept going without any advertisement support.

Political leaning and activism

Till the time of her death, Gauri Lankesh remained a key name in the liberal, left front. She was loud in her criticism of the “Hindutva” politics, as well as the caste system. She thought of Hinduism as “a system of hierarchy” that treated women as “second-class creatures”. Many of her close friends believe that Lankesh often went too far with her criticism, thus bagging the hatred and questions of many. But despite all, she was not the one to flinch.

In 2006, she was invited for a literary meet in Shimoga, Karnataka, but her participation was opposed by RSS. She was called pro-Naxal at many points in her life, but always denied the allegations. In February 2005, her own brother, Indrajit accused her of being pro-Naxal. She was subsequently named member of a committee formed by the then Karnataka government (Congress), that made efforts to convince Naxals to give up violence and surrender.

Gauri was a firm supporter of freedom of speech and practiced her own fervently. It was the death of her father, however, that brought about an obvious change in her mannerism. Before 2000, she worked as a professional journalist, not as involved in loud activism. It was when she took over the editorial duties (and powers) of Lankesh Patrike that she headed entirely towards her father-like journalism- one that aspired to change things and speak boldly.

Many experts see the assassination of Gauri Lankesh as a response to her activism, one that became an eyesore for many. Lankesh had opinions that were not popular, and she made it a point to not hide them. Post her death, a protest was organized at the Press Club of India, demanding the freedom and protection of the press. Her weekly, Gauri Lankesh Patrike, though discontinued and orphaned after her death, resumed launching editions for its subscribers in the name of Naanu Gaaru (I am Gauri).

Gauri Lankesh- a life lived

Her weekly, now renamed as Nyaya Patha (The path of justice), was announced to return to shelves on the first anniversary of her death. Investigation of her assassination, being carried out by a Special Investigation Team, is said to be in its final stages, with the alleged killer in police custody. Parashuram Wagmare, a 25-year-old, is said to have close links with radical organizations like Sanatan Sanstha and Sri Rama Sene. Confessing to the murder, he said he was instructed by “someone” to kill Lankesh for “hurting the sentiments of Hindus”.

As years pass by since her demise, Gauri Lankesh is remembered by many in their own different ways. Her sister, Kavitha Lankesh, says she remembers people turning to Lankesh when faced with a problem, even small ones, and Lankesh would always be ready to help. While she may not be around to witness, Gauri Lankesh left behind a wave of protest, of people boldly raising their voices- exactly what she stood for.

On October 8, 2018, Gauri Lankesh’s name was carved on a memorial pillar along with other journalists killed in the line of duty at the Bayeux-Calvados Awards held in France as a gesture of honour.

Meanwhile, the Gauri Lankesh Memorial Trust has announced the name of journalist and NDTV executive editor Ravish Kumar as the first recipient of the annual ‘Gauri Lankesh Memorial Award for Journalism’. The award carries a cash prize of ₹1 lakh and will be presented on September 22, 2019.

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