National News

Noted journalist Gauri Lankesh shot dead in her home in Bengaluru

Her brother Indrajit demanded that the case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, a report said.

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.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.