The last edition of the ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’ edited by the slain journalist Gauri Lankesh was compiled on September 5 2017, the same day the firebrand editor was killed by bullets outside her home in Bengaluru.
The edition of the weekly newspaper never went to print as news of Gauri’s assassination reached staff members working for the Patrike. “We heard the news even before we reached home that night,” says Girish Talikatt, a member of the staff at the newspaper. “Less than an hour before that, we were talking to her in the office,” he recalls, cupping his fingers in the air searching for the right words to describe the sequence of events.
In the days following the incident, the shock of the loss of Gauri Lankesh reverberated around the country and thousands took to the streets in protest against the cold-blooded killing. The pain was acutely felt by Girish and his colleagues at the Patrike as Gauri was not only the editorial voice of the Patrike but also the driving force in bringing out the paper each week in spite of financial troubles. “There were times when she has paid our salaries with her personal money when her LIC funds matured. She never considered any one of us as a junior or a senior. She respected the work done by everyone in the office,” says Girish.
Girish Talikatt worked with Gauri Lankesh at the Gauri Lankesh Patrike
A week after her demise, Girish and his fellow staff members at the Patrike compiled what they described as their ‘toughest’ edition yet - the edition in memory of their fallen editor. The memorial edition was published on September 20 2017 with articles from family members, academicians, activists and journalists recounting their personal experiences of working with Gauri. The list included her sister Kavita Lankesh, her ex-husband and journalist Chidanand Raj Ghatta, woman rights activist KS Vimala, journalist Dinesh Aminmattu, writer G Rajashekhar among several others.
It remains the last published edition of the newspaper, following which Gauri Lankesh Patrike was discontinued. “We worked out of an office space in Gandhi Bazaar and the property belonged to Gauri madam. After her death, we vacated the office since the property went to her family,” says Girish.
The last edition of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike edited by Gauri Lankesh
But amid the outpouring of grief and the fury of the protests against her death, one thing became clear - those who associated themselves with Gauri in her lifetime were eager to keep the newspaper, and the ideals it stood for, alive. “Everyone who attended the protests at the time urged us to bring back the newspaper. She stood with constitutional values and chose to write about causes that did not have mass appeal. Only those who understood its value would read the paper,” says Girish.
Memorial edition of 'Gauri Lankesh Patrike' released on September 20.
Several academicians, activists and journalists close to Gauri came together to form the Gauri Memorial Trust on December 4, 2017 with the aim of reviving the newspaper and ensuring that the kind of journalism practiced by Gauri survived. “Just like how Gauri took over her father’s Lankesh Patrike after his death, we have now come together to continue her legacy,” says Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy, an activist close to Gauri who regularly contributed to the newspaper.
Archived editions of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike
How Gauri ‘the outsider’ followed her father’s footsteps
In 2000, Gauri, who was then an outsider to Kannada journalism, decided to take charge of Lankesh Patrike, a trailblazing newspaper launched by her father P Lankesh in the 1980s. She was 38 at the time and was working for media houses in New Delhi but decided to uproot her life and settle in Bengaluru after her father’s death. Five years later, after a family dispute with the proprietor of the newspaper and her younger brother Indrajit Lankesh, Gauri decided to build a new team from scratch and launch the Gauri Lankesh Patrike in 2005 alongside her brother’s Lankesh Patrike. “While there were two newspapers on the market by the Lankesh family, everyone who was close to P Lankesh agrees that the legacy of his newspaper was carried forward by his daughter,” says Narasimha, who is also a secretary of the Gauri Memorial Trust.
According to him, Gauri studied her father’s writings diligently as she transformed into a seasoned Kannada journalist immersing herself in several social and political causes affecting the state. “Whether it was in representing pourakarmikas or ASHA workers or naxals questioned by the government, she was ideologically tough and sharp with her response. It is true what people have said about her - she was fearless,” Narasimha adds.
Doddipalya Narasimha Murthy, an activist close to Gauri regularly contributed to the Gauri Lankesh Patrike
“Nanoo Gauri” weekly newspaper launched in Gauri’s honour
Inspired by her fearlessness, Narasimha along with several members of the Gauri Memorial Trust got together to launch a new weekly newspaper “Naanu Gauri” (I am Gauri) in her honour. The paper was initially slated to be launched on March 8, International Women’s Day but was later launched on April 10 on the 100th birthday of freedom fighter HS Doreswamy, who is also part of the Gauri Memorial Trust. The newspaper is currently only available for subscribers. “The paper is yet to be registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI). The first application was rejected for technical reasons and that delayed its launch.” says Girish before adding that the newspaper will be available in the market soon.
Editorially, the newspaper is run by a sub-committee of journalists, who are a part of the Gauri Memorial Trust. The committee sits together every week and decides the topics it will take up in the next issue of the paper. The articles are written by contributors from across the state, many of whom were closely associated with Gauri in her lifetime. The whole process is coordinated by Narasimha Murthy and four other staff members - Girish, Raju, Laksman and Prasad - who remain with the newspaper.
In a little over two months, the newspaper has seen contributions from over 100 authors. “There are more people willing to write. We do not have space for so many people,” says Narasimha. The newspaper is also available online and is promoted on social media, a clear departure from the times of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, which was only available offline. There have been eight editions of the newspaper so far and Narasimha hopes that it will be registered soon and will be available to be sold in the market.
Articles appearing in "Naanu Gauri" are also uploaded online on www.naanugauri.com
The subjects covered in the new paper are not too different from prior editions of the Patrike when Gauri was in-charge. A similar no-holds barred, anti-establishment slant is still visible in the writings published in the newspaper. The first edition of the newspaper carried a cartoon of BJP leader Yeddyurappa on its cover and had two stories centred around him. The headline of one of the stories reads: “Yeddyurappa’s face has the lines of a tragic leader”. Further, the newspaper is brazenly against communal violence. In one instance, RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat is described as a ‘don’ for allegedly fuelling communal tension in Dakshina Kannada.
The paper also publishes sharp political analyses and in-depth reports of select events around the country. The farmer agitation in Karnataka, student protests against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and the investigation into the alleged communal death of a cattle trader in Udupi found space in the newspaper. “There was little difference between Gauri Lankesh’s activism and journalism and we want to continue the paper just like it was. Nothing can ever stay the same but we are determined to pick important causes to write about,” says Narasimha.
"Naanu Gauri" (I am Gauri) was launched in April 2018.
Writing in the first edition of the paper, Narasimha Murthy references a quote that originated in the Egyptian revolution - “The power of the people is stronger than the people in power” - and urges readers to come together to generate the kind of power that speaks out against injustice. It is a sentiment shared by everyone working for the newly launched paper, who are determined to give a new voice to the causes Gauri Lankesh relentlessly worked for in her lifetime.
Photographs Courtesy: Dhruv Khanna