Gauri Lankesh

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At least three unidentified assailants fired at Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bangalore as she returned home from work on September 5, 2017, according to reports that cited witnesses. She was shot in the head and chest and died immediately, according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

Lankesh published and edited Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada-language weekly tabloid known for its criticism of right-wing extremism and the establishment, according to media reports. The newspaper covered issues including communal violence and the caste system.

Lankesh was part of a government panel involved in shaping a Maoist surrender to state police, according to reports. According to the BBC, the journalist was sympathetic to the Maoist rebels and was involved in the reintegration of former rebels.

K. Siddaramiah, the chief minister of Karnataka state, ordered a 21-member special investigation team from the police to investigate Lankesh’s killing, according to the Indian Express. 

Inderjit Lankesh, the journalist’s brother, said in an interview with NDTV that India’s national agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, should examine her case. He said that Gauri Lankesh received a lot of hate mail from those who sympathized with the Maoist rebels and said that the investigation should investigate whether Hindu extremists or Maoist rebels are behind the killing, according to India Today. B.T. Venkatesh, a lawyer who represented Gauri Lankesh, alleged in an interview with the media watchdog The Hoot that her murder “was a pre-planned and sinister attack by Hindu terror units.”

The special investigation team filed its initial charge sheet in May 2018, and filed an additional 9,325-page sheet in November 2018, accusing 18 people in connection with the killing, according to a report by NDTV. On January 10, 2020, police made their seventeenth arrest, according to news reports. One suspect remained in hiding as of January 11, according to NDTV.  

Police allege that the killers were members of a criminal syndicate with links to the right-wing Hindu organization Sanatan Sanstha and its offshoot Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, that the suspects were also behind the killings of scholars Narendra Dabholkar and M. M. Kalburgi, and that the syndicate targeted people because of their ideology, according to news reports,

A Sanatan Sanstha representative condemned Lankesh’s killing, according to reports. The group said that the journalist was a Maoist sympathizer who it had nothing to do with, according to reports.

Lankesh started her career in the 1980s, working as a reporter for English-language dailies including Mid-Day and The Times of India, and the weekly magazine, Sunday. In 2000, after the death of their father, P. Lankesh, Gauri and Indrajit ran Lankesh Patrike, the Kannada-language tabloid their father founded in 1980, according to a profile in Mint. In 2004, she started Gauri Lankesh Patrike.

Lankesh said in an interview with the website NewsLaundry in November 2016, that she had been criticized for her reporting and work. Lankesh said, “Unfortunately, today anybody talking in support of human rights and against fake encounters is branded a Maoist supporter … Along with that, my criticism of Hindutva politics and the caste system, which is part and parcel of what is considered ‘Hindu dharma’ [Hindu duty] makes my critics brand me as a ‘Hindu hater.’”

Lankesh had previously faced legal action over her critical reporting. At the time of her death, she was appealing a six-month prison sentence and fine of 10,000 Indian rupee (US$155) for criminal defamation. The November 2016 conviction was over a 2008 article, according to a report on The Wire. A magistrate granted Lankesh bail and allowed her to appeal the sentence in a higher court, according to a report in The Indian ExpressHer lawyer said he didn’t think the killing was related to a defamation case, according to reports.