Senior Editor and social activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead on Tuesday night by unidentified assailants, was a “fearless” journalist but her “activism won enemies for her”, said senior journalists and acquaintances who had worked with her for years.
She was “highly opinionated” and a woman of “strong conviction”, according to the people who have known her over decades.
Ramakrishna Upadhya, a senior journalist who had known Lankesh for over 30 years, had worked along with her for eight years with the Anandabazar Patrika Group.
“When I worked with her, she was one of the most fearless persons and her writings used to represent all sides without biases,” Bengaluru-based Upadhya told IANS here.
“After her father’s death, she took over Lankesh Patrike and after a few years started her own Gauri Lankesh Patrike. This was when she turned into an activist.”
“As journalists, we may all have our own political stances, but our writings need a balance. She lost this balance after a while,” Upadhya said.
“A lot of times, she used to run unverified reports and turned purely into a critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party. She had unnecessarily created enemies for herself through activism,” he added.
But as a person, Lankesh was very “warm” and “highly independent”, he said.
“Around 20 years ago, she built a house for herself in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, which was right from then a very scarcely populated place and an almost dangerous place for a woman to come home late at night,” he added.
“She should have taken precaution when she was aware of the threats,” Upadhya said.
Ravindra Reshme, a senior Kannada journalist, says he has known the Lankesh family since July 1980, when P. Lankesh had started Lankesh Patrike.
“My association with the family goes way back to 1980 starting with Lankesh Patrike and I have worked with Gauri Lankesh for her Gauri Lankesh Patrike till 2007,” Reshme told IANS.
“Lankesh had started the tabloid during the post-Emergency period, talking openly about political leaders and it was received very well across the state,” he said.
“I had seen her marry her contemporary, Chidanand Rajghatta, also a journalist. They were two very strongly opinionated people and had later separated but remained great friends ever since,” he said.
After Lankesh took over her father’s paper following his death, she tried to bring “liberal” and “cosmopolitan” views to it, Reshme said.
The Maoist issue in Karnataka had forced Gauri and her brother Indrajit Lankesh, who were running Lankesh Patrike together, to split, he said.
“Gauri became an open sympathiser of the Maoists… although she didn’t support their violence, she became very emotional towards their cause.”
“The mistake that Gauri committed was to ridicule the Hindu groups. This irked even her followers,” Reshme told IANS.
“But no one could question her courage of conviction and sincerity,” he added.
Bengaluru-based social activist Prabha N. who was present at the Press Club here on Wednesday, said Lankesh always stood up for fellow women journalists.
“She was not only courageous but also shared that courage with fellow journalists and never hesitated when she had to stand up for one of us,” she told reporters.
Many senior journalists and activists from across the country condemned Lankesh’s killing.
“Shocked and angry — after (Narendra) Dabholkar, (Govind) Pansare and (M.M.) Kalburgi, journalist Gauri Lankesh bravely writing against Sangh (Parivar), shot dead in Bengaluru,” tweeted Kavita Krishnan, the Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association.
“In India we bow to frauds like Ram Rahim and kill men and women of reason and inquiry like Pansare, Dabholkar, Kalburgi and now Gauri Lankesh,” tweeted senior journalist Barkha Dutt.
Lankesh, 55, was shot dead by three unidentified men who fired seven bullets at her when she returned home from her office in the city. Two hit her in the chest and one in the forehead.
The manner in which Lankesh was shot dead was reminiscent of the way Kannada progressive thinker and researcher M.M. Kalburgi was killed in August 2015 at his residence in Dharwad in the state’s northwest region, about 400 km from Bengaluru.
(Bhavana Akella can be contacted at [email protected])