They say that a pen is mightier than the sword. However, according to The Press Freedom Index, India ranks as one of those places where journalists find themselves amidst life-threatening situations. Despite the upsurge in violence, journalists have continued to make their mark on the society.
Gauri Lankesh was one such journalist. Born on this very day in 1962, she worked as an editor at Lankesh Patrike, which happens to be a Kannada weekly which was started by her father P. Lankesh. Apart from this, she ran her own weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. She started her career with one of the most famous news dailies, The Times of India in Bengaluru.
A staunch critic of right-wing Hindutva politics, she was known for endorsing strong freedom for the press. Throughout her career, she wrote articles condemning the caste system and joined protests demanding a ban on communal groups in Mangalore. Even though she didn’t have any children of her own, when the press grew to overtly ridiculing students like Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mevani, Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid, she said that she considered them as her adopted children.
For her outstanding contribution to journalism, she was honoured with the Anna Politkovskaya Award, which is awarded by the UK based Reach All Women in WAR (RAW in WAR). The award recognized her contribution to speaking against right-wing Hindu extremism, campaigning for women’s rights and opposing caste-based discrimination.
Sadly, she was shot dead on September 5, 2017, by two unidentified assailants. Her death caused shock waves across the country with many journalists and activists coming forward to condemn what happened to her. In June 2018, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating the gruesome murder of the journalist stated that Parshuram Waghmore had confessed to killing Lankesh.
However, her death prompted the media to take a hard look at the nature of Indian society. In the days that followed her death, some newsrooms took their time to reflect upon the incident and how, the growing extremism would affect the country if it continues to grow. Even in her death, Gauri Lankesh stood testimony to the fact that weapons can’t do what words can.