Who was Gauri Lankesh?

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 06, 2017 11:05 hrs
Gauri Lankesh

Bengaluru: Gauri Lankesh was born in 1962 to the poet-journalist P. Lankesh, who established the weekly Kannada language tabloid Lankesh Patrike. She had two siblings, Kavitha and Indrajit.

Gauri began her career with the The Times of India in Bengaluru. Later, she moved to Delhi. Later she returned to Bengaluru, where she worked as a correspondent for The Sunday magazine for nine years. At the time of her father's death in 2000, she was working for the Eenadu's Telugu television channel in Delhi. She had spent 16 years as a journalist by this time.

When her father passed away, she and her brother Indrajit visited Mani, the publisher of Lankesh Patrike, and told him that they wanted to cease the publication. Mani convinced them against the idea. Gauri then became the editor of the Lankesh Patrike, while her brother Indrajit handled the publication's business affairs.

In 2001, differences developed between Gauri and Indrajit over the paper's ideology. These differences became public in February 2005, when a report about a Naxalite attack on policemen, approved by Gauri, was published in the magazine. On 13 February, Indrajit, withdrew the report, alleging that it favoured the Naxals. On 14 February, Indrajit filed a police complaint against Gauri, accusing her of stealing a computer, printer and scanner from the publication's office.

Gauri filed a counter complaint, accusing Indrajit of threatening her with a revolver. On 15 February, Indrajit held a press conference, where he accused her of promoting Naxalism through the paper. Gauri held a separate press conference, where she denied the accusation, and stated that her brother was opposed to her social activism. Gauri subsequently started her own Kannada weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike.

Gauri had criticised the right-wing Hindutva politics. In 2003, she opposed the Sangh Parivar's alleged attempts to Hinduise the Sufi shrine Guru Dattatreya Baba Budan Dargah, located at Baba Budan giri. In 2012, while participating in a protest demanding ban on communal groups in Mangalore, she stated that Hinduism was not a religon, but a "system of heirarchy in society", in which "women are treated as second class creatures".

She endorsed minority religion tag for the Lingayat community and headed the Komu Souharda Vedike, a communal harmony platform for the oppressed communities. She was also of the view that the followers of philosopher Basavanna were not Hindus.

In November 2014, the Congress-led Karnataka government appointed Gauri as a member of a committee aimed at convincing the Naxalites to give up violence and surrender. A delegation of BJP leaders accused her of being a Naxalite sympathiser, and demanded her removal from the committee. However, the chief minister Siddaramaiah rejected the demand.

On 23 January 2008, Gauri published an article titled Darodegilada BJP galu in her tabloid. The article criticised the BJP leaders Pralhad Joshi, Umesh , Shivanand Bhat and Venkatesh Mestry. The article claimed that the three BJP workers had cheated a jeweller of Rs 100000. It further alleged that the jeweller sought justice from the Member of Parliament Joshi, and threatened to approach police in case Joshi refused to help him.

Gauri later claimed that the article was based on "sources within the BJP". Joshi and Umesh filed separate defamation suits against Gauri. In Umesh's case, she was a co-accused with Devanand Jagapur, the writer of the article. Gauri alleged that she was being targeted for her left-leaning political views, as the BJP leaders did not sue other local dailies who had published the allegations. Gauri moved the High Court, seeking dismissal of the case against her.

However, in 2016, the High Court refused to dismiss the case, and asked the hearing to be continued in the lower court. The High Court granted a four-week stay on the case, and directed the lower court to complete the trial within six months. In October 2016, the second Judicial Magistrate First Class Court at Hubli issued an arrest warrant for Gauri, after she failed to appear before the court and did not respond to the earlier warrants. The police detained her and produced her before the court on 1 October 2016.

She was released on bail after furnishing a personal bond of Rs 25,000. On 27 November 2016, the second JMFC court concluded that she had failed to provide any substantial evidence for her criticism of the BJP leaders, and found her guilty of defamation. 

On 5 September 2017, three unidentified men on motorbikes shot her to death at her house in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, Bangalore.

More from Sify: