Hundreds of associates, friends, and admirers of Gauri Lankesh, the feisty English- and Kannada-language journalist who was killed by suspected Hindu right-wing activists in Bengaluru in 2017, commemorated her memory and life work in Bengaluru on September 5 on her fifth death anniversary.
The event was held at the Scouts and Guides Auditorium under the aegis of the Gauri Memorial Trust (GMT) to a packed house; those who turned up late crowded the aisles and even sat on the floor to listen to speakers who reminisced about Gauri’s personality and the issues she was concerned about. The auditorium frequently resounded with slogans such as “Naanu Gauri, naavellaru Gauri” (“I am Gauri, we are all Gauri”).
The chief speaker was the author Arundhati Roy, who recalled her association with the slain journalist. “I buried my mother [Mary Roy] three days ago but I had to come for this event because if I didn’t speak in Gauri’s memory, my mother would have been ashamed of me,” she said. She added: “Gauri was always keen on translating my writings into Kannada and whenever I published a new article, she would call me and ask me whether she could translate the article into Kannada and then say that she loved me.”
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Arundhati Roy also criticised the BJP’s regime over the past eight years. She said: “What we are seeing in India is the fusing of the State, the enforcement agencies, and a political party [BJP].” Drawing a connection between the political rise of the Hindu right-wing in India and global capitalism, she said: “Two locks were opened: one the lock to the [Babri] mosque and the other to the market. This led to the growth of two kinds of fundamentalisms: Hindu religious fundamentalism and economic fundamentalism.”
Speaking at the commemoration, Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri’s sister, said: “I am happy that so many people are gathered here who have been influenced by Gauri’s ideology. I wonder what Gauri would have thought about the developments in the country such as the release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists and her family’s murders.”
Actor Prakash Raj, who was a close friend of Gauri, said: “The killers of Gauri are in jail but the mentality that killed her is ruling the country but there is also reason to hope if you look at the work and courage of people like Gauri. When we buried Gauri, we did not bury her but planted the seeds of her courage and activism.”
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Teesta Setalvad, the founder of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, a human rights organisation, addressed the audience via a video message. She was released from the Sabarmati Women’s Central Jail in Ahmedabad after she was granted interim bail from the Supreme Court on September 2. She said: “I want to discuss the plight of women prisoners in the jail with Gauri. I wonder what she would have said when I would have told her that I met 17 women convicts in the jail who were waiting for remission after serving 14 years, but instead the rapists of Bilkis have been released from jail?”