Gauri Lankesh: Journalist who fought divisive forces

By: V Kumara Swamy
Updated: 06 Sep 2017 10:38 AM
NEW DELHI: Gauri Lankesh, the journalist who was shot dead in Bangalore on Tuesady evening, will be deeply remembered and sorely missed by friends and colleagues - as bubbly and convivial a person as she was doughty and determined.

Slight of built, she took on the extreme "Hindutva" Right Wing in Karnataka in feisty fashion, writing, organising opinion, holding seminars and conferences and, quite often, staring down the disapproval that inevitably came her way.

She was keenly aware of the legacy her father Paalyada Lankesh had left behind, and turned the newspaper he founded, Lankesh Patrike, into an outspoken medium against sectarian and communal politics.

She never made heavy weather of it. Asked by a friend once if she wasn't taking undue risks, she retorted, typically in light vein: "Pah, nothing, and someone has to say these things, no, if we don't who will?"

She was in touch with friends and fraternity in New Delhi often, over phone or email, but also to talk about what her fears were over divisive forces: "We are doing what we can in Karnataka but it's also important to spread the word and awareness."

She ran Patrike, which her father had modelled on Mahatma Gandhi's Harijan, soon after Paalyada Lankesh's death in 2000. The weekly is said to have never published any advertisement, surviving solely on subscription income, and has emerged as a platform for Dalits, farmers and marginalised sections.

The Patrike was known for breaking stories on political scandals, financial scams, crime stories and encouraging new literary talent under her father Paalyada Lankesh. As editor, Gauri continued with the tradition. But after falling out with her brother Indrajit, she started her own weekly paper, Gauri Lankesh Patrike, in 2005.

Gauri had been living dangerously and she knew it. "They are after me but I am not scared," she told her friend Dibang, ABP News anchor, when they last met a few months ago.

"She was of the opinion that India was for all its citizens. That was her guiding principle," Dibang said.

Gauri Lankesh Patrike also doesn't take advertisements from either governments or corporations but is subscription-based and depends on revenues from other publications.

Late last year, she was convicted in two cases of criminal defamation for a report she published in 2008. The defamation case was filed by BJP leader and Dharwad MP Pralhad Joshi and another BJP leader, Umesh Dushi.

Gauri galvanised Kannada writers and like-minded editors in 2003 against the Sangh parivar in Karnataka after it threatened to convert the Guru Dattatreya Baba Budan Dargah in the Baba Budan Giri range of Chickmagalur into the "Ayodhya of the South".

Her Facebook page has Rohit Vemula's picture as the profile photo while her Twitter page has JNU student Kanhaiya Kumar's picture.

"Her death is a huge loss for the progressive movement in Karnataka and the country. She was a powerful voice. She was not scared of anybody and her father often told me that she was his rightful successor," said Shudra Srinivas, Kannada poet and a family friend.

Before she joined Lankesh Patrike, Gauri had worked as a correspondent for The Times of India in Bangalore and Delhi. She later returned to Bangalore and worked as a correspondent for Sunday, a magazine that used to be published by the ABP Group that owns The Telegraph, for nine years.

"She was a young journalist with a famous father but she was eager to carve an identity for herself. She did some incredible stories for the Sunday magazine. She was always plugged in with the politics of Karnataka and she had a good understanding of the issues," recalled Vir Sanghvi, her editor at Sunday.

-The Telegraph Calcutta