Under the weight of the pressures of political intimidation and accusations of being “anti-national”, Gauri Lankesh refused to bend. A fearless and uncompromising journalist, Lankesh – who was gunned down outside her Bangalore home on 5 September – was at the helm of Indian tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, one of the few newspapers in the country to sport a female publisher’s name on its masthead.
For Lankesh, the newspaper was a conduit for speaking truth to power at a time when many other news outlets in India felt condemned to self-censorship after the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 saw a rising tide of Hindu nationalist sentiments. The outspoken writer was proud to call herself an activist and a fierce critic of Modi’s government, nationalist organisations and India’s deeply rooted caste system.
If the motive behind her murder was to silence her, news of Lankesh’s death seems only to have amplified her voice around the world. Her death sparked outrage across the country, with as many as 15,000 people, including writers, journalists and academics, joining a protest condemning her murder. Many held placards reading “I am Gauri”, while others spoke about the need to protect free speech.
More than a month after the murder, the perpetrators have not been found. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged police in Bangalore to investigate “whether journalism was a motive” in Lankesh’s murder. The organisation ranks India as a country with a poor record of safeguarding media and said in its statement: “India needs to address the problem of impunity in journalist murders an ensure the press can work freely.” The CPJ estimates as many as 27 journalists have been murdered in relation to their work since 1992.
Lankesh was born in 1962 to a prominent family in the Karnataka state. Her father, P Lankesh, was a celebrated writer who launched the Lankesh Patrike paper as a daring…