Pansare. Dhabolkar. Kalburgi. Gauri.
It may sound insensitive to even mention this. But even at the risk of sounding inappropriate, it is important to realise that - if you thought violent forces working against rational and free thinking would spare women for some reason, you're definitely wrong.
Three men were killed in the last few years in Maharashtra and Karnataka. The fiercely outspoken Gauri Lankesh today lies buried. Tragically and ironically, as the only woman who was on the hit list of killers who snubbed off lives of people for believing in an ideology that’s different from theirs.
Many close friends of Gauri who participated in her last journey couldn’t help but think how she would have hated the fanfare of flowers, bouquets and probably would have gone off to get her dose of tobacco, if she could wake up from her death.
When she was alive, Gauri told her friends that she’d rather speak her mind than stay silent and die a thousand deaths. At 5 ft ½ inch, Gauri stood tall in her death.
A lone crusader that she was, Gauri did what she believed was ‘interventional’ journalism, that was more activism than just sitting and writing reports. Her journalism had a different kind of sting. Her crusade was not compartmentalised into activism and journalism. Both the professions existed in the same space and complemented each other.
She had the gift of the gab and the road was never easy. Her father had a great deal of reputation through his brand of journalism, ‘Lankesh Patrike’, that reigned supreme in Kannada for two decades ever since it started in the 1980s, and continued to shine till his death in 2000. Gauri took over after that and went with it till a split with her brother, who retained the original paper, while she had to start another version of it: ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’ in 2005. But by then, she had turned into a totally committed activist-journalist who believed she had a more proactive role to play in addressing socially relevant issues.
She stood in extremes, friends would remember that. Not everyone agreed with her line of thought. But everyone listened to her intently when she said something. From someone who didn’t know life beyond Bangalore and Delhi, she had turned into an activist who went into forests, directly speaking to naxals and maoists, engaging them in dialogues and aiding their return to mainstream.
So in more ways than one, Gauri was more hands-on on social issues when compared to all the other men who were killed for having tried to change the order.
In her death, the message is clear: Women are seen as an equal threat to a different ideology and narrative that is beginning to build.
Kalaburgi’s speeches were scathing and insightful, Dhabolkar and Pansare took fringe elements and made them uncomfortable with their measures to make society a better place. They were confrontational and vocal.
If there is one word that would describe Gauri, it would be ‘scathing’.
She was no fence-sitter and minced no words when she said, “I know who started Islam dharma, Christianity, Jainism or Lingayata dharma. Do you know who started Hindu dharma? This has no claimants!”
A sensible mind would see this as a question, but alas, these are not the times where questions are met with answers or more questions. They are met with bullets, and nothing less.
At 55, she is the youngest of the crusaders who were killed. Way too early to go.
But in her death, she has probably lit the fire for millions of paurakarmikas, ASHA workers, garment industry workers and unorganised sector employees, along with scores of other voiceless men and women, to continue with their fight.