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Gauri Lankesh murder: slain journo laid to rest, but political battle has just begun

Ramakrishna Upadhya | Updated on: 6 September 2017, 20:37 IST
(PTI )

The mortal remains of murdered journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh were buried as per Lingayat tradition, with full state honours in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah paid his last respects to Lankesh at the Chamarajpet burial ground, even as the ritual-free ceremony – as an agnostic Lankesh would have preferred – was marked by a 21-gun salute and presence of the police band.

But to the disappointment of a multitude of Lankesh supporters, the police remained clueless about the identity of the culprits even 24 hours after the gruesome murder.

Lankesh’s brother Inderjit donated her eyes as per her wish.

Addressing the media earlier, Siddaramaiah announced that the murder would be investigated exclusively by a Special Investigation Team headed by an officer of the rank of IG of police. He said the team would work round the clock to identify and catch the perpetrators of the crime.

Gauri Lankesh, 55, was shot dead by some unknown assailants near her home in south Bengaluru on Tuesday night, sending shockwaves through the state.

On persistent questioning from the media, Siddaramaiah said his government would not hesitate to hand over the case to the CBI, “if the family members are particular about it and make a demand”.

Lankesh’s younger brother and film producer, Inderjit Lankesh had in the morning sought a CBI inquiry, but there was no word from Lankesh’s mother and sister Kavitha Lankesh, who has made a couple of award-winning Kannada films.

The chief minister admitted that there had been a long delay in solving the murder of rationalist thinker, writer Prof MM Kalburgi, who was similarly gunned down two years ago, but claimed that “we can’t link (Lankesh’s murder) with that of Kalburgi or Dabholkar.”

He said the successive killing of Govind Pansare, Dabolkar, Kalburgi and now Lankesh was an assault on the freedom of expression, but the governments and people could not be cowed down by such senseless murders.

He said the state CID officials had been diligently working on catching Kalburgi’s killers and they had been coordinating with the CBI to investigate whether the three murders were linked.

Asked about lack to security to Lankesh, though she faced regular threats and abuses on social media platforms, Siddaramaiah said she had met him just a week ago, “but she never mentioned about any threats”. Besides, she was a victim of an organised crime and it was difficult to identify the source of conspiracy, he added.

He said after Tuesday’s killing of Lankesh, the state government had decided to offer police protection to thinkers and social activists who might be vulnerable to attacks by hoodlums.

Fortunately for the investigators, Gauri Lankesh’s home had been fitted with 4 CCTV cameras and the two cameras at the main gate had captured the killing incident. But Siddaramaiah said that the face of the attacker was not clear as he was wearing a helmet.

Throughout the day, the social media was abuzz with pro and anti-Gauri Lankesh posts and the police took into custody two persons who had put up provocative statements.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was among those who condoled the death of Gauri Lankesh and put the blame on “the communal hatred spread across the country by the RSS”.

He said even Prime Minister Narendra Modi should share the blame as during such incidents of violence, “he always has two types of messages” one for Hindutva supporters and another one for others.

The Karnataka BJP, led by state president BS Yeddyurappa condemned the killing and urged the state government to arrest the culprits as quickly as possible. He said under Siddaramaiah’s leadership over the last four years, the law and order “had completely collapsed in the state”.

With the BJP targeting former home minister and current Bengaluru development minister KJ George and demanding his resignation after the Supreme Court ordered a CBI inquiry into the death of police officer MK Ganapathy, the political temperature in the state has gone up.

As the Assembly elections are less than eight months away, both Congress and the BJP leaders are working out strategies to win over the electorate.

A fortnight ago, national BJP president Amit Shah stayed for three days in Bengaluru and blamed his partymen in the state for being ‘docile’ in their campaign against the Siddaramaiah government. He took them to task for not highlighting the ‘corruption cases’ against minister DK Shivakumar who had recently been raided by the IT department.

As the coastal districts of Dashina Kannada and Udupi have turned into a communal cauldron after a spate of murders, the BJP decided to target in-charge minister Ramanath Rai and also take out a bike rally as part of its ‘Mangaluru chalo’ programme. But the state government refused to give permission to the BJP workers to enter the trouble-torn districts.

Independent observers hope that journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder case also does not become a ‘game’ for BJP and Congress to beat each other with as she was a known critic of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP.

They are hoping that the Siddaramaiah government will go for meticulous investigation to find the identity of the real killers and not try to use it for ‘political gain’. The state government is under great pressure to solve the murder at the earliest after failing for two years to nab the killers of Prof Kalburgi.

First published: 6 September 2017, 20:39 IST
Ramakrishna Upadhya @rkupadhya9

Ramakrishna Upadhya is a senior journalist based in Bangalore, currently working with TV9. Earlier, he was with Deccan Herald, The Telegraph and The Indian Express.