Intolerant Voices Find Strength in our Silence

Chaitanya K.M

Be careful about what you post on social media. We live in dangerous times, I told Gauri Lankeshlast week. Shereplied saying We cant be so dead. It is human to express and react. What we feel impulsively is usually our most honest response.

On Tuesday night,she was shot and killed in cold blood. The killing was not impulsive. It was well thought and carefully planned, like the murders in Maharashtra and Karnataka of the rationalists and thinkers Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi that she had herself condemned and protested.

I grew up in a family of writers. My father, K. Marulasiddappa, and P. Lankesh, Gauris father, were colleagues and close friends. Lankesh was an English lecturer. My father taught Kannada.

We livedin the same neighbourhood. My mother often left me in the care of the Lankesh household. Whenever I argued with Gauri, she used to joke saying Magane (child), I used to babysit you before you learned how to speak.

But the best quality in Gauri was that one could always argue with her, dispute her and tell her she was wrong. And no matter how fierce our arguments, she respected our right to say what we did. We were close friends because we could disagree. It was a quality that she inherited from her father.

Gauris father was a firebrand writer and thinker. In 1980 he launched theLankesh Patrike, a tabloid in black and white. It carried no advertisements. Lankesh believed that publications succumb to favouring rich corporations or powerful government officials and politicialsbecause they sponsor ads that are a crucial to a newspapers survival. Lankesh believed this wouldkill journalistic integrity. He decided thatLankesh Patrikewas to run purely on circulation.

It was a different era for the media in India. Print was powerful. Doordarshan television and All India Radio were state owned andbroadcast sterile government versions of news. Print was the only independent space.

A socialist and rational thinker, Lankesh became a torchbearer for liberal thought. He exposed casteism and communalism where he saw it. He spotted and patronised rebellious and outspoken young thinkers like the scholar D.R. Nagaraj and the poet Siddalingaiah who went on to become important voices in Kannada culture and political thought. But he never groomed his children to step into his shoes.

Gauri Lankesh once said that she wanted to be a doctor. When that didnt happen, she took to journalism. She started her career in the English press, working with reputed publicationslike theTimes of India,SundayandIndia Today,before her foray into electronic media with Eenaadu TV.

Her siblings Indrajit and Kavitha forayed into cinema. OnJanuary24, 2000, P. Lankesh wrote his column for that weeksLankesh Patrikeand put the edition to bed. The next morning, he was dead. It was sudden and unexpected. He was no more but he left behind what wasa respected and revered brand in journalism.

The siblings went to Mani, publisher ofSanje VaniandDina Sudar, who was also publishing Lankesh Patrike and told him that they wanted to close their fathers tabloid. Gauri felt that her father did not groom his children to take over the tabloid. She did not think they were its natural heirs. To those close to her, she said We cant fit into his shoes.

Mani is said to have chided them. Hetold them that they should give the tabloid a fighting chance.

Her brother Indrajit decided to continue the newspaper in his fathers name. Gauri started her own tabloid, naming itGauri Lankesh Patrike. By the time she started it, she had already been a journalist for 16 years. The electronic side of the media was booming. The circulation of most Kannada tabloids waswaning. She was embarkingon a venturethat was going to be financially downhill from day one.

Gauri held true to her fathers ideals. Her tabloid was vocal on secularism, the rights of Dalits, the downtrodden and women. And she kept her fathersfirebrand nature alivein her writing. She minced no words while criticising right wing and caste-based politics. When social media became the in-thing, she was all over it. Her Facebook wall and Twitter handles reflect her fearless and frank view on various political issues. She wasnt embarrassed about becoming emotional about people or ideas that she cherished. Last year, after hearing Kanhaiya Kumars speech, she invited him to Bangalore. She wrote on social media, calling him her son.

Gauri Lankeshhas been trolled and called names. There are those who belittled her, saying she was just basking in her fathers glory. She has been called a naxal sympathiser, anti-national, anti-Hindu and a host of other names. But none of thiscould faze her.

Last week, I jokingly told her that she doesnt understand social media and technology. She replied Those who understand technology are silent. I will do what I can and I will say what I should. These intolerant voices find strength in our silence. Let them learn to argue using words instead of threats.

Courtesy: The Wire