Media bodies and human rights organisations across the country on Wednesday condemned the murder of activist and senior journalist Gauri Lankesh. An outspoken critic of Hindutva groups, Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar on Tuesday evening. Her last rites will take place at the Chamrajpet crematorium later on Wednesday.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said a Special Investigation Team has been set up to look into the case. Lankesh edited and published a Kannada newspaper called Gauri Lankesh Patrike and also wrote widely in the English press.

The Editor’s Guild of India said it was deeply shocked with the murder of Lankesh, who had fearlessly voiced her opinions and was a known critic of the Centre. “Her killing is an ominous portent for dissent in democracy and brutal assault on freedom of the press,” it said in a statement. “The Editors Guild of India demands that the Karnataka Government acts with alacrity to bring the culprits to justice, apart from instituting a judicial probe into the killing.”

Amnesty International India also demanded a thorough investigation of the activist’s murder. “Gauri Lankesh was never afraid of speaking truth to power,” said Asmita Basu, programmes director at Amnesty International India. “The police must investigate whether she was killed because of her journalism.”

Basu further said the incident raises questions on the state of freedom of expression in the country. “Critical journalists and activists have increasingly faced threats and attacks across India in recent years,” she said, adding that state governments must take steps to protect the voices of dissent. “Investigations into these killings have been ineffective for too long.”

Greenpeace India said her assassination will not suppress voices of dissent. “Such attempts to silence and browbeat voices of dissent with impunity will fail miserably,” said Dr Ravi Chellam, executive director, Greenpeace India.

The Indian Cultural Forum condemned the murder and said it would continue Lankesh’s fight against haters of free speech and for a plural India. “We will continue to speak on her behalf and ours,” it said. “They cannot silence us all.”

Once again, a voice of dissent and reason has been silenced with guns in a continuation of the murders of rationalists and scholars like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, the forum said, highlighting that none of the attackers had been punished. “The forum condemns the continued unmaking of India in which writers, artists, scholars, rationalists – and indeed any citizen who exercises her right to speak freely – is no longer safe.”

The National Fishworkers Forum, too, condemned her brutal murder. “The fishworkers’ movement in India owes it to Gauri and many other such courageous journalists and supporters of people’s movements across India for keeping up the history and trajectory of the battle for democracy, peace and human rights,” Chairperson Narendra R Patil and General Secretary T Peter said.

They believe Lankesh was killed “not just to muzzle the truth that reflects in her writings and her work”, but that it was “also an attack on her ideological beliefs, which is anti-thesis to the current regimes’ ideology”.

The Network for Women in Media, India said despite adversity, threats and political opposition, it was more important than ever to now power on and do the job. “We want to declare to ourselves and to everyone that is watching with and without malice: we will not be prevented, silenced, outdone or shut down,” it said.

Writers allege ‘climate of intolerance’ in the country

Tamil writer Perumal Murugan said he had thought that this kind of sentiment had died down. “This incident proves that the climate of hatred and intolerance seems to be alive,” he said, according to The Indian Express.

Historian Ramachandra Guha said the “climate of hate and intolerance promoted by the current government” is complicit in this murder. “We are becoming mirror images of Bangladesh and Pakistan, where writers are killed for what they say,” he said. “This is an attempt to silence all of us, all those who believe in democracy and decency.”

Others like Malayalam poet K Satchidanandan said this was a “murder of democracy” and a takeover of fascist forces.

Journalists of Latehar in Jharkhand, too, condemned the murder. “For her fearless writing and bold thoughts, the beloved senior journalist and editor Gauri Lankesh was shot and murdered,” they said, adding that they had sumitted a demand for a CBI investigation to the governor via the district collector of Latehar. “We will also meet every Wednesday to mark this as a black day,” they said.