Hours after senior Karnataka journalist Gauri Lankesh was murdered in cold blood outside her residence in Bengaluru on Tuesday, state DGP RK Dutta told the media that she had never expressed to him any threat to her life.
While Gauri may not have spoken about a direct threat to her life, in a speech she gave earlier this year - one of her last public talks - the noted journalist mentioned how "death threats have become a common factor in Karnataka".
Speaking at the National Convention of Human Rights Defenders on "Reclaiming Rights and Asserting Freedom", Gauri, among other things, spoke about people being silenced for voicing their opinions and how Karnataka had turned into a communal state over the years.
"We had Ananthamurthy, Kalaburgi, my own father P Lankesh, Poornachandra Tejaswi, all these people. The transformation is such that starting from Kuvempu to URA, Kalaburgi and my father, they were all trenchant critics of Jawaharlal Nehru, of Indira Gandhi, of Rajeev Gandhi. But none of them ever were physically attacked, let alone death threats," she said.
Continuing her talk, she stated, "But now death threats have become a common factor in Karnataka. Whether it is the attack on pubs and home stays in the name of protection of women, or it is the attacks on Dalits, let me say something very similar to Una happened in Karnataka also, which did not make much news, in the name of cow protection. Or attacks on Leftists and liberals in the name of Hindutva."
Gauri also listed instances where people who spoke against Hindu right-wing extremism had been allegedly threatened or attacked.
RTI activist Vinayaka Baliga was hacked to death near his house in Kodialbail on March 21, 2016. The prime accused Naresh Shenoy allegedly had close links to the RSS.
"The RTI activist," Gauri said, "had discovered that this great rashtrabhakth Naresh Shenoy had looted crores of money from a Hindu temple. And Naresh Shenoy is perhaps afraid that all his nationalistic, god-fearing activities would come to light."
In March this year, Kannada writer Yogesh Master was attending a book release function organised by Gauri's tabloid in Davangere when a few men approached the former and smeared his face with black oil.
The author later had told The Hindu that the gang, while attacking him, had "raised pro-Hindu and right-wing slogans, and threatened to kill me for writing against Hindu Gods".
Speaking about how free speech was being curtailed, Gauri said that Yogesh Master had not said anything which historians hadn't already said before. Rationalist free-thinker professor KS Bhagwan had to be given police protection after he received threats from self-proclaimed Hindu groups.
"Mahesh Chandraguru, a Mysore university professor spoke about Mahishasura. He was arrested and put in jail," she said.
She criticised the Karnataka government for filing sedition charges against members of Left student unions.
She also condemned the ban on student politics in Karnataka and criticised the Karnataka government for filing sedition charges against members of Left student unions.
"In Karnataka, today student unions are banned. But there is something happening in the coastal and Malnad colleges today. The students of those colleges don't care how many Rohiths kill themselves, don't care how many Kanhaiyas and Umars are jailed, don't care how many Najeebs disappear or Sri Krishnas die. They don't want Muslim girl students to wear burkhas. And they have started a revolution there- 'we'll wear saffron scarves' (if they wear burkhas). This is how they are communalising the next set of voters," she sated.
She concluded her speech by saying that what scared her was that Karnataka too would lost to a "corrupt", "communal" and "casteist" BJP government in the Assembly elections next year.
"Elections are next year and we have no dearth of Yogi Adityanaths in Karnataka... Tragically in Karnataka, abnormality has become the new normal. And I fear that like UP, Congress too will lose next year and we will be saddled again will a communal, casteist and corrupt BJP government," she said.