Senior Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead at her residence in the city on Tuesday evening, sending shockwaves across the country. The outspoken journalist is reported to have been shot at point-blank range at her house in Ideal Homes Layout in Raja Rajeshwari Nagar. Unidentified men are reported to have fired several bullets at her, killing her instantly.
Her cold-blooded murder has evoked reactions of shock, despair and anger among journalists and activists who have known her for several years.
Speaking to The News Minute just after the news of her murder broke, journalist Ammu Joseph said, â€śWhat can one say, I am extremely shocked. It is shocking and tragic. There is a lot of speculation and I do not want to get into any of it right now. She had a lot of enemies, but did they hate her so much that they would get into her home and shoot her? I donâ€™t know."
Journalist Prem Panicker says that while it is not clear who killed her, the general environment in the country for dissenters is worsening.
â€śAt this point of time, we donâ€™t know who is responsible, whether it was a political organization or otherwise. One thing is obvious, the climate that we are living in, any dissent is met with gaslighting. We are called naxals or anti-nationals or whatever. This is equally true for all political parties. There are a lot of people who just want to defend their political leaders,â€ť he said.
â€śI have followed her work for a long time. She was a strong, opinionated person. She never flew off the handle, she was an old school journalist. She was a mature and balanced journalist, and it is sad that there is no space for such people now,â€ť Panicker added.
Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah also tweeted about the incident. "Absolutely shocked to learn about the murder of renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh. I have no words to condemn this heinous crime," he said.
Absolutely shocked to learn about the murder of renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh. I have no words to condemn this heinous crime.â€” Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) September 5, 2017
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also expressed shock at Gauri's murder, and implied that such acts were a threat to democracy.
"The murder of Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru has stunned the world of media. It is very serious that she has been murdered in her own house. It is undemocratic that you eliminate people who raise their voices against you. If it has happened in Karnataka today, it could happen anywhere tomorrow. It will be the end of democracy if people do not have the right to express," he said in a Facebook post.
â€śI am very shocked and shaken,â€ť said Rajeev Gowda, an MP from Karnataka. â€śI've known Gauri from my college days and we were close friends. She has always been someone who has stood up against injustice and corruption. She stood up for rationality and communal harmony, and rehabilitation of Naxals. And has always stood her ground very boldly and forcefully against communalism and divisive forces. I am wondering if this is just like Kalburgi, Pansare and others. If so, it is very tragic to see our country going down this path where people are killed for their opinions and this is a very worrisome trend. If outspoken journalists, people like Gauri who are out there crusading for free speech and communal harmony and rationality, are killed, what sort of signal does it send to the world?â€ť asked an emotional Gowda.
"This is absolutely shocking and tragic," said Kiran M Shaw, entrepreneur and managing director Biocon Limited. "The police must act quickly and bring the criminals to book extremely fast." Kiran said that while she did not want to jump the gun, if at all this murder was a result of Gauri's outspokenness and her writing, it was extremely saddening. "These are the murderers of the worst kind," Kiran said.
Sashi Kumar, a senior journalist and Chairman at Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, said, â€śThis is terribly sad and terribly worrying for the future of freedom of expression in this country.â€ť
There have been strong reactions pouring in online as well.
Gauri Lankesh shocking murder. A progressive, free thinking journalist, who always fought for the rights of poor & weak. A terrible tragedy.â€” Dinesh Gundu Rao (@dineshgrao) September 5, 2017
Saddened at the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru. Most unfortunate. Very alarming. We want justiceâ€” Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) September 5, 2017
Shocked & angry - after Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, journalist @gaurilankesh bravely writing against Sangh, shot dead in Bengaluruâ€” Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) September 5, 2017
Numbed by news of Gauri Lankesh's murder. She was gutsy, level-headed, defiantâ€”everything we need in a journalist in these troubled times.â€” Siddharth (@svaradarajan) September 5, 2017
Simply shocking. A brave journalist, the kind becoming rare nowadays https://t.co/KSkuIq2eFxâ€” Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) September 5, 2017
Unbelievable reports coming in: Journalist-Activist Gauri Lankesh shot dead in Bangalore. pic.twitter.com/ohnNMNnMpTâ€” Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) September 5, 2017
Shocked & deeply distressed at the murder of senior journalist @gaurilankesh . Shot dead in her own house in Bangalore.â€” MadhuPurnima Kishwar (@madhukishwar) September 5, 2017
Veteran journalist Gauri Lankesh shot dead in cold blood at her Bangalore home. Awaiting details. Horrific newsâ€” Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) September 5, 2017
If first reports that three hit men came to her home in a car & shot Gauri Lankesh dead are true, this is a professional hit on a journalist https://t.co/yljvAgCP5dâ€” vir sanghvi (@virsanghvi) September 5, 2017
Journalism is nothing without courage. Democracy is nothing without dissent. You had plenty of both #GauriLankesh You live on as inspirationâ€” Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) September 5, 2017
In India we bow to frauds like Ram Rahim and kill men and women of reason & inquiry like Pansare, Dabholkar, Kalburgi & now #gaurilankeshâ€” barkha dutt (@BDUTT) September 5, 2017
Saddened by the murder of #GauriLankesh. India wasn't supposed to be a country where journalists are silenced by bullets. Her voice rings onâ€” Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 5, 2017
Just can't believe that you are not there. Who will call me 'my switie' now? Miss you today and forever... pic.twitter.com/6pJxY8Ig2uâ€” Jignesh Mevani (@jigneshmevani80) September 5, 2017
Gauri was the daughter of writer, translator and journalist P Lankesh. She was a veteran editor and columnist in both Kannada and English, and was a vocal critic of the right wing.
The manner in which Gauri was killed was eerily similar to the way in which rationalist MM Kalburgi was killed two years ago. The former Vice Chancellor of Kannada University, Hampi, known for his outspoken criticism of the right wing, had also been shot at his residence.
Last year, Lankesh was convicted of criminal defamation in two cases by the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) Court in Hubballi on Monday.
Dharwad BJP MP Prahallad Joshi and BJP leader Umesh Dhushi had filed individual defamation cases against Lankesh in objection to a report on BJP leaders she had published in her periodical on January 23, 2008.