The appalling murder of Gauri Lankesh, a feisty journalist known for her strident views, has sent online and offline circles into a shock. Many in Karnataka, especially in Bengaluru, were still grappling with the feeling of pervasive peril. This sinking feeling is, if a high-profile journalist could be killed with such impunity, then the state of the common people could be far worse.
Apart from the high-profile M M Kalburgi case, a number of suspicious deaths and possibly political murders have happened in Karnataka in the last few years. They convey a startling pattern of deteriorating situation in Karnataka with the state government seeming indifferent at best.
In a notable case, Deputy Superintendent of Police M K Ganapathy was found dead in a lodge, reportedly committing suicide, just hours after an interview in which he was seen accusing powerful Karnataka government minister K J George and two top police officials of harassing him. George was later cleared by the Crime Investigation Department (CID).
“Speaking to Express on Tuesday, Ganapathy’s brother M K Machaiah said from day after Ganapathy’s death, the family had been demanding that the case be handed over to CBI as Ganapathy himself had accused Minister K J George and senior IPS officers A M Prasad and Pronab Mohanty of harassing him. Machaiah said the family was opposed to state government agencies handling the case. He said CID officers had visited their house and promised to ensure justice if they cooperated with the probe. “However, later they destroyed all evidence to give a clean chit to George and the IPS officers,” he alleged. He said that police had even refused to register an FIR despite a complaint being lodged.”
The very day that Lankesh was shot to death, reports came out that the Supreme Court asked the Ganapathy case probe to be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “In the interest of justice, the matter should be investigated by the CBI. There are certain startling facts in the case. An investigation is a fair manner in required to decide whether it is a case of murder or suicide”, the Supreme Court is quoted as saying according to various reports.
Earlier in March this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Dalit leader Srinivas Prasad, also called Kithaganahalli Vasu, was hacked to death. Five people, including a town municipality president, Sarojamma of the Congress party, were reportedly arrested for the murder.
In May, a BJP Minority Morcha leader Mohammad Hussain was hacked in his office. He later succumbed to his injuries. Hussain’s family members reportedly said that he was killed because he had joined the BJP despite being a Muslim.
In June, the BJP leader Harish was hacked to death near Bengaluru and a BJP ST Morcha leader Bandi Ramesh too met the same fate.
In October last year, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Mandal president, Rudresh, was hacked to death in broad daylight in one of the busiest areas in Bengaluru in full public view.
Then, in November, a BJP activist, Sunil Dongre, was found murdered with multiple stab injuries in the Bidar district of Karnataka. In the same month, in Mysuru, RSS activist Magali Ravi was murdered. At the time, it was said to be the seventh murder of an RSS activist in the state.
Earlier, Prashant Poojary’s murder in Moodabidri had garnered attention, and many people who did not subscribe to Poojary’s Hindu activism were seen slyly justifying his murder.
D S Kuttappa of Kodagu, Kyatemaranahalli Raju of Mysuru, Pravin Poojary of Virajpet and Kartik Raj of Mangaluru were other Hindu activists who were murdered in the last few years in Karnataka.
Note that the list above is not exhaustive but only indicative. In fact, on the same day that Lankesh was killed, BJP workers were protesting against the Siddaramaiah government over the murders of Hindu activists. They were incensed by the Siddaramaiah government’s soft approach towards activists of the Social Democratic Party of India and the Popular Front of India – outfits that they claim are involved in the killing of these Hindu activists.
A report says:
“Former Karnataka home minister R Ashoka said that there were 175 cases against over 1,600 workers of PFI and SDPI when the Congress had come to power in 2013.”
“What did Siddaramaiah do when he came to power? He withdrew all these cases in 2015. This gave them (SDPI and PFI) a moral boost and from 2015, the organisation’s role is clear in at least eight murders of pro-Hindu activists. We demand that these cases be handed over to the NIA,” said Ashok.”
Clearly, whether one is a leftist like Lankesh, rationalist like Kalburgi, Hindu activist, or even a police officer, it does seem that the Karnataka government led by Siddaramaiah cannot be trusted to protect anyone. This collapse of law and order in Karnataka, a state known internationally for its information technology industry, can certainly not bode well. The Karnataka government needs to be asked tough questions, but those who pride themselves on asking such questions are busy casting aspersions on their pet opponents. So, there won’t be any headlines screaming, “Another rationalist murdered in Siddaramaiah’s Karnataka!”
Lankesh’s murder has sadly become a political slugfest with many journalists and politicians turning instant detectives and naming their favourite opponents as the killers. Such skills may come of use if they helped the Karnataka police in investigation. A woman with an independent mind such as Lankesh has sadly been reduced to a point-scoring pawn in her death.
In Lankesh’s case, two of her tweets from the day she was killed are garnering some attention too.
It does make one wonder who she was fighting, if at all, and if that is an angle to be investigated.
The only thing that can be said with certainty at this moment is that a gutsy journalist, Gauri Lankesh, has been murdered, and the Siddaramaiah government, given its incompetent law-and-order record, as well as its possibly dubious role in the investigation of police officer Ganapathy’s death, cannot be trusted with such a sensitive case.
A more efficient investigating agency may need to step in before, as police officer Ganapathy’s brother claims, the Siddaramaiah government’s agencies come in and have a chance at derailing the probe.