Monday, September 25, 2017
BANGALORE: More than the act itself, the celebration, the abuse and the complete vilification of Gauri Lankesh by groups of goons---most of them unwilling to even disclose their identities on the social media they patrol---turned the Bangalore protest into a mammoth show of solidarity laced with visible anger. It is also the primary reason why the people who poured out on the streets, from all over the city, the state of Karnataka, and from all over India had no hesitation in pointing a finger at the right wing forces for the assassination of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Whosever killed her obviously did so to strike terror, to silence voices like hers, and to send out a message as many of the trolls declaring themselves BJP supporters themselves stated on the social media, that this fate would befall those who insisted on questioning the government, and taking on the RSS and the BJP. A senior BJP legislator in fact, said as much in his initial comments after Lankesh was felled by cowardly gunmen at her residence.
If this was the intention then clearly her assassins and their supporters have not succeeded. While the assassination clearly shocked India, it did not silence Indians. In fact, protests broke out across India---even in BJP ruled states---against the crime with citizens making it clear through articles, interviews, programs, slogans, speeches, that they were not prepared to accept the message and retreat indoors in fear.
This was palpable in the huge demonstration today, with speaker after speaker, slogan after slogan, pointing fingers at her killers, warning the ruling party at the centre that no one would keep silent, with people of all ages, and all walks of life pledging not to remain silent, but to speak out, not to be fearful, but to act. Swami Agnivesh, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury were amongst those who called out the RSS, pointing at the celebration within the right wing outfits after Lankesh/s murder.
Kannada was also on full display, with speeches and placards in the home language. This is a simmering just under-the-surface issue with local groups and even the ruling Congress party campaigning against the imposition of Hindi. As demonstrators said, if the intention was to just strike fear those who killed the journalist have not succeeded. “We have not seen such a huge demonstration here in a long while,” was the voiced consensus.
Most did not know Lankesh, had not even read her but were part of the demonstration to raise their voice against the assassination and as they said,to warn those who killed her “we will not be silenced.” A young social activist said she has ‘goosebumps’ just to see so many people coming together to protest and warn the right wing forces. “We will not tolerate this, we cannot,”she said angrily.
The image of the frail woman lying felled by bullets, said many in the demonstration has stayed with them. The anger was directed against the BJP/RSS supporters on the social media and perhaps a group of students spoke for many more when they said, “how dare they celebrate, this is our India, we will not allow this to happen.”
It was clear from the emotions that ran high, that the fear if any after her assassination had long since been replaced by anger. Putting together all the demands that came from individual protestors the people want immediate arrest of the killers, speedy trial, action against those who celebrated her murder, apology from them, but above everything it was a march of solidarity for each other, for democracy, for rights and for justice.