Widespread protests by journalists, writers, politicians and civil society erupted on Wednesday in several cities, including Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, to condemn the killing of senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh.
The Union Home Ministry has sought a report from the Karanataka government on the killing even as Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the Kannada journalist’s murder on Tuesday night at her house in Bengaluru.
Journalists, activists, writers, thinkers and women’s organisations participated in Bengaluru and across the state in protests condemning the killing of Lankesh, the editor of Kannada tabloid ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’.
People gathered at the Town Hall in Bengaluru for a silent protest, holding placards. “You can kill a person but not their ideas,” read one placard. A silent demonstration was also staged by journalist groups at the Victoria Hospital grounds, where the autopsy was being conducted.
Across the state, protests were witnessed in Mangaluru, Kalaburagi, Dharwad and Koppal, among other regions, where citizens took to the streets.
Journalists in Mysuru, wearing black ribbons around their shoulders, also held a protest in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office.
In New Delhi, the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) expressed deep shock and outrage at the incident.
In a statement, it said: “The silencing of a journalist in this manner has dangerous portents for Indian democracy.”
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Vice President Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Union Minister Smriti Irani and Bollywood lyricist Javed Akhter were among those who condemned Lankesh’s killing.
The US Embassy too condemned the murder.
“The US Mission in India joins advocates of press freedom in India and worldwide in condemning the murder of respected journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru,” the US Embassy said in a statement.
Lankesh, 55, was shot dead by three unidentified men who opened fire at her when she returned home from her office in the city.
In November 2016, she was sentenced to six months in jail after a defamation case was filed against her for a report against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders. She was out on bail pending an appeal.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah cancelled all his engagements, including a day-long trip to Kerala, and ordered an SIT probe into the assassination.
“An SIT has been formed, headed by an Inspector-General-level officer, to investigate the journalist’s killing,” the Chief Minister told the media after meeting top police officers at the state assembly Vidhan Soudha.
Asked if the investigation could be handed over to a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team, Siddaramaiah said: “Have left it to the Director General of Police (R.K. Dutta) who will speak to the state Home Minister (Ramalinga Reddy) and decide.”
The Karnataka Police has formed three special teams to nab the killers.
The BJP blamed the Congress-led Karnataka government for the incident. Union Ministers H.N. Ananth Kumar and Nitin Gadkari said it was for the Karnataka government to “seriously” probe the case and nab the culprits.