Bengaluru: Hundreds gathered to pay their respects to senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, who was buried on Wednesday evening with full state honours at a cemetery in Bengaluru's Chamarajpet. The police gave a gun salute to Ms Lankesh, 55, who was shot dead at point-blank range at her home yesterday. Amid outrage, editors and others have condemned the murder, also expressing concern over what they described as a growing intolerance to dissent.
- Journalist Gauri Lankesh shot at her home in Bengaluru
- Wrote against divisive politics, was critical of right-wing ideology
- Across India, protests over her killing, calls to protect free speech
There have been protests across the country and since dusk, candlelight vigils are being held in the heart of Bengaluru, Mumbai and in Kolkata, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee participated. "Namma Gauri" (I Am Gauri) said large posters in Bengaluru as attendees denounced intolerance and any threat to free speech.
There were chants of "Gauri Lankesh Amar Rahe (Long live Gauri Lankesh)" as the journalist's body was lowered into the grave. There were no religious rituals at the funeral. "She was a rationalist and we do not want to go against her ideologies," said Ms Lankesh's brother.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah along with several ministers was present at the cemetery. He also visited the Ravindra Kalakshetra cultural centre where Ms Lankesh's body was kept in a coffin for a few hours this afternoon to allow people to pay tribute. Mr Siddaramaiah, who has called the murder an "assassination on democracy", order a Special Investigation Team probe into the killing.
On footage from CCTVs installed at Ms Lankesh's house in the western part of the IT hub, a man in a helmet is seen walking up to Ms Lankesh as she parked her car and firing at her, sources said. Gauri Lankesh tried to run into her house but collapsed outside. The police suspect the man seen on camera was accompanied by two others on a motorcycle.
At meetings and protest marches organised across the country by journalists, thinkers and activists, many alleged that Ms Lankesh's murder was in retaliation to her anti-establishment voice, her criticism of those in power ignoring those on the margins.
"This shows dissent will not be tolerated," said BT Venkatesh, a lawyer who represented Ms Lankesh in a defamation case brought against her a few years ago by a BJP parliamentarian.
"Gauri Lankesh's murder drills a hole in the heart of the journalist community. Are we sliding into the heart of darkness?" said editor Nalini Singh. The Editors' Guild has called the murder a "brutal assault on the freedom of the press."
Ms Lankesh, whose father P Lankesh was one of Karnataka's best known journalists, ran a weekly Kannada paper in which she often wrote in support of the rehabilitation of Naxals and against divisive politics. Frequently, she contested right-wing ideology.
Gauri Lankesh lived alone. Last night she had just returned from work when she was attacked. Seven shots were fired at her. Three bullets hit her, including one on the head.
Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra said there could be links between the murder of Ms Lankesh and that of rationalist and scholar MM Kalburgi who was killed in 2015 at his home in Dharwad, around 400 km from Bengaluru. When the 77-year-old Sahitya Akademi award winner opened his door, the attackers shot him twice at point blank range. His case has yet to be solved.