Not for the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s responses to a tragic event have included condemnation from ministers in government even as others from within the party and its base try to justify the actual events. The disturbing murder of reputed journalist Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bengaluru on Tuesday prompted a range of reactions from the BJP’s senior leadership. On Wednesday morning, Union ministers like Smriti Irani were offering straightforward condemnation of the killing. By afternoon, Union Minister Ananth Kumar was blaming the Congress government in Karnataka for permitting such violence. But even as these leaders were speaking against Lankesh’s death, Right-Wing supporters were offering justifications for the reputed journalist’s murder.
At the top leadership level, the government offered the sort of condemnations that people had accused them of waiting too long to issue. Irani, for example, as the Information & Broadcasting minister, was criticised for waiting until Wednesday morning to put out a statement. Nevertheless, a few senior ministers did indeed condemn Lankesh’s murder.
Lankesh was a well-known journalist who was known for being extremely critical of Right-Wing politics and had even been convicted of criminal defamation, based on a petition by two BJP leaders who she had written about. The case was being appealed when she was killed.
By Wednesday afternoon, the BJP’s other line had solidified and the party took out a press conference to lay the blame for Lankesh’s death squarely at the feet of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Union Minister Ananth Kumar, a former president of the BJP’s Karnataka unit, called on the Congress government in the state to ensure Lankesh’s killers are found and punished. “Siddaramaiah government failed in expediting the investigation of previous sensitive criminal cases as well as reaching the conclusion during inquiry as expected,” Kumar said.
Former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, the party’s state president and chief ministerial face for the upcoming elections, also took the opportunity to point out the Congress’ government’s failures.
But even as these senior politicians were expressing shock at Lankesh’s death, other parts of the broader BJP family were finding it hard to hide their glee at the journalist’s death and also unearthing justifications for why she should not be condemned.
As AltNews pointed out, several Twitter accounts that proudly say they are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handle, expressed joy or offered justifications for Lankesh’s murder. Nikhil Dadhich, who describes himself as a businessman and a Hindu nationalist who is “honored to be followed by PM” tweeted out in Hindi saying “a bitch has died a dog’s death and all the puppies are whimpering in the same tone”.
When called out for it, Dadhich insisted that his comment had nothing to do about Lankesh. Another account by the name of Ashish Mishra pune, whose bio connects him to India272, Modi’s campaign platform, and who is followed by the prime minister as well as other Union ministers, tweeted, “As she sows, so she reaps.”
Mishra also retweeted a number of other handles that chose the moment of Lankesh’s death to justify it, pointing out that she was often stridently critical of the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Right-Wing in general. A handle by the name of Rita, who is also followed by the prime minister’s account and describes herself as a former All India Radio presenter, tweeted the following (and retweeted the reply pictured).
She also retweeted another post that said, “Heard that there is one less burden today, God should give peace to her soul and wisdom to those of her ideology.”
Others had similar reactions.
The editor of Sudarshan TV, a channel that unabashedly seeks to provoke Hindu Nationalist sentiments, said one post of Gauri Lankesh would be a full introduction to her.
Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, meanwhile, offered a different theory on Twitter, quoting a 12-year-old news story about a rift between Lankesh and her brother Indrajit to suggest that it may have something to do with her death. Another right-wing supporter, Sonam Mahajan, questioned those protesting Lankesh’s death, suggesting their response to the tragedy somehow might be a clue for investigators.
The Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindu organisation that is under the scanner for the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and communist leader Govind Pansare, also chose the moment after her death to insist that she was an extortionist with clear links to the Naxalites, although they considered her murder to be wrong.
Another handle claiming to be that of a former Zee News journalist had the most blatantly gleeful response to Lankesh’s death, though the account-holder also claimed later that she had received death and rape threats for tweeting her opinions.