Noted journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in her home in Rajarajeshwarinagar area in Bengaluru on Tuesday night. Unidentified men fired at least four shots at her before escaping by motorbike, Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy told journalists.
Lankesh, an outspoken critic of Hindutva groups, edited and published a Kannda newspaper called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. She also wrote widely in the English press.
Reddy said that she had parked her car outside her home at 8.20 pm. He said that there were two CCTV cameras in Lankesh’s home that may hold clues to the incident.
When Reddy visited Lankesh’s home late on Tuesday night, he had to face questioning and protests from local residents. Some brought up the murder of scholar MM Kalburgi, which occurred in similar circumstances two years ago, but has yet to be solved. Kalburgi was also a critic of Hindutva groups. “There are similarities to Kalburgi murder. But at this stage I cannot comment on it,” Reddy said.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Suneel Kumar, who also visited the crime scene, said that four cartridges were found and that a neighbour reported the incident. He added that there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting itself, and criticised the media for not vacating the crime scene before the forensic team had a chance to examine it.
Lankesh’s brother Indrajit demanded that the case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, India Today reported. Later, speaking to the media outside her house, he said, “As her brother all I want is just for the government to investigate this as fast as possible. She was a fighter, fiercely independent and a outspoken journalist.” Indrajit said he had met her last week, when she did not speak of any threat to her life.
Professor Chandan Gowda, who knew Lankesh, told reporters outside her house that she was familiar with death threats. “Close to 15 years ago, she got the first threat letter. Then she got used to it.” Neverthless, he said, there was some sense that Karnataka was safe, despite the right-wing Hindutva forces vocally opposing her.
CM condemns murder
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah condemned her murder and described it as an assassination of democracy. “Absolutely shocked to learn about the murder of renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh,” Siddaramaiah tweeted. “I have no words to condemn this heinous crime.”
“In her passing, Karnataka has lost a strong progressive voice, and I have lost a friend,” the chief minister said.
Karnataka Congress chief G Parameshwara said Lankesh’s death was a great loss to the field of journalism, The Hindu reported. “Lost a dear friend, an accomplished journalist and a wonderful human being. Miscreants will be brought to book very soon,” he said.
Lankesh was the daughter of journalist and writer P Lankesh.
In November, Lankesh was convicted in two separate defamation cases for an article published in Gauri Lankesh Patrike in January 2008 criticising leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party. She was out on bail in the case. The article alleged that BJP MP from Dharwad, Prahalad Joshi, had been directly involved in criminal activities.
Lankesh was a known critic of the right, telling Newslaundry in an interview in 2016 after her conviction that “Modi Bhakts and the Hindutva Brigade” are “keen to somehow shut me up,” adding that they would like to see her behind bars.