The Big Story: Protesting a murder

The murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening sparked nation-wide protests on Wednesday, as people from various walks of life – academics, journalists, activists, cinema stars and politicians – gathered in public places to demonstrate against what they perceive to be a serious threat to the idea of freedom of expression in India.

The motives for the murder are yet to be ascertained. Lankesh was a strident critic of Hindutva politics and had earned the ire of Hindutva right-wing groups over the years. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Wednesday that a special investigation team will inquire into the incident.

Wednesday’s protests were almost spontaneous. Demonstrations erupted across the country within hours of the murder. While it has long been known that India is among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, the shock was possibly accentuated by the very fact that violence which had previously been confined to smaller towns where policing is weak has now moved to a large cities like Bengaluru.

The most heartening development on Wednesday, though, was the fact that the murder evoked strong response of condemnation from ruling party figures such as Ravi Shankar Prasad.

But even as these protests were taking place on the streets, the online world of social media saw Right-Wing trolls gloating about the murder by pointing to Lankesh’s Left leanings. Some of the Twitter users who abused Lankesh on Wednesday are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a gesture that could easily be interpreted to be tacit approval of their behaviour. Modi, who is on an official trip in Myanmar, has also not reacted to the murder. Unless unequivocal condemnation comes from the top, a major change in attitude cannot be expected. Modi needs to demonstrate categorically that freedom of expression and press is a non-negotiable right.

The Big Scroll

  • Aarefa Johari reports on how the murder of Gauri Lankesh has brought back to focus other unsolved murders of activists and rationalists. 
  • Preethi Nagaraj writes this heart-felt tribute to the slain journalist. 


  1. Rakesh Sood in The Hindu says the old ideas of denuclearisation have to be set aside to solve the current North Korea crisis. 
  2. Rajmohan Gandhi in The Indian Express on why the Centre should take the lead in protecting fundamental rights. 
  3. Roger Cohen in New York Times on the complex relationship between Confederate statues and the Americal memory. 


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