BJP, Congress spar over Lankesh murder; family, fraternity seek swift probe

The BJP and the Congress continued to spar over the gunning down of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh on Thursday as her family and the journalist fraternity demanded a swift and transparent probe into the murder.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said he would not go into assumptions, but it must be “anti-progressive” people who killed Lankesh.

“I don’t want to say now that this party has killed her or that party has killed. But I am sure that anti-progressive people and those who are opposed to Gauri Lankesh might have taken advantage of this situation,” Kharge said.

Hitting back at the Congress for attempting to pin the blame on it for the killing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the Congress was trying to give a clean cheat to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.

“The onus is on Siddaramaiah to ensure proper investigation. Law and order in the state is in his hands,” BJP General Secretary P. Muralidhar Rao said.

He also described Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi as an “irresponsible leader” for blaming the BJP on the issue.

“We have seen, if there is any irresponsible leader in this world, he is Rahul Gandhi…if there is a party which is in the hands of an irresponsible leader, it is in the hands of Rahul Gandhi,” Rao told India Today TV channel.

Rao’s remarks came in the wake of Rahul Gandhi’s accusation that silencing dissent was part of the BJP’s ideology.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati on Thursday said there was “a deep conspiracy” behind Lankesh’s murder and demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) not only in Lankesh’s case but also that in the killings of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi.

“The way independent journalists, intellectuals and writers are being eliminated, prima facie this looks like part of a larger conspiracy. The central government should order NIA probe into these matters,” Mayawati said in a statement.

She also linked these killings with cow vigilantism, “love jihad” and “Ghar Wapsi” campaigns, and asked the state governments to get serious on these issues, which she lamented “has not happened yet”.

Meanwhile, a group of editors, writers and media professionals from South Asia, the United Kingdom and Australia on Thursday joined together to demand swift action in the incident.

The South Asia Media Defenders Network, an informal association of editors and media practitioners, which stands for the rights of journalists under pressure, expressed sadness and anger at the gunning down of Lankesh.

The network includes names of Siddharth Varadarajan, Nidhi Razdan, Pradip Phanjoubam, Tarun Basu, Vijay Naik, Kavita Bajeli-Datt, Mahendra Ved, Rita Payne, John Zubrzycki, David Brewer and William Horsley.

These journalists, along with others in the association, said that they stood in solidarity with Lankesh’s family and her colleagues in and outside the state, and demanded a full, impartial investigation into her death and the circumstances leding to it. They sought that the killers and conspirators be brought to justice.

The network urged the media and civil society organisations to robustly pursue a campaign to ensure that there was no let-up in the investigation, so that the killers, their backers and conspirators were brought to book.

Another journalists’ body, the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), also condemned the killing and sought speedy probe into the matter.

Lankesh’s family, meanwhile, said they would wait for the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to find the culprits and would only approach the court if it failed.

“We will give all the cooperation the SIT needs,” Lankesh’s brother Indrajit Lankesh told reporters in Bengaluru at a press conference. “We will wait for the SIT to give us information and clues on the killers.”

Lankesh, 55, editor of popular Kannada tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was shot dead outside her Bengaluru home by three unidentified assailants on Tuesday night.

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