A prominent Indian journalist critical of Hindu nationalist politics has been shot dead in the south-western state of Karnataka. Gauri Lankesh, 55, was found lying in a pool of blood outside her home in the city of Bangalore.
She was shot in the head and chest by gunmen who arrived in a motorcycle. The motive for the crime was not clear.
Gauri Lankesh, a strong writer who never shied away from criticising the Right-wing ideology.
She was an Indian journalist-turned-activist from Bangalore, Karnataka. She worked as an editor in Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly started by her father P. Lankesh, and ran her own weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrika.
She was known to be a notable social and political commentator and acclaimed for her lifelong support for free speech and strong journalistic ethics.
Ms. Lankesh was convicted of defamation in 2016 for a report she published on local BJP leaders. She was sentenced to six months in jail, and was out on bail and appealing the conviction at the time of her death.
In an interview with Narada News last year shortly after her conviction, she criticised BJP's "fascist and communal politics" and added: "My Constitution teaches me to be a secular citizen, not communal. It is my right to fight against these communal elements."
"I believe in democracy and freedom of expression, and hence, am open to criticism too. People are welcome to call me anti-BJP or anti-Modi, if they want to. They are free to have their own opinion, just as I am free to have my opinion." She added.
Indian journalists are being increasingly targeted by the radical Hindu nationalists. Ms. Lankesh, who edited a weekly newspaper, was known as a fearless and outspoken journalist. She had returned home in her car on Tuesday night and was opening the gate when the attackers shot her. She died on the spot.
Officials said they suspected she had been under surveillance by the gunmen. An investigation has started. Her death has been widely condemned, with Karnataka state's Chief Minister Siddaramaiah calling it an "assassination on democracy".
“Absolutely shocked to learn about the murder of renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh. I have no words to condemn this heinous crime.” – Mr. Siddaramaiah.
Her killing follows several assassinations of outspoken secularists or rationalists in recent years, including scholar Malleshappa Kalburgi, anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, and politician Govind Pansare.
Renowned writer K Marulasiddappa said, "The attack on the selected writers is obviously happening because they are able to mold public opinion... there is a pattern in the way assailants come on motorbikes, kill, and vanish." "There cannot be any personal reasons attributed to her death because she had no personal enemies. So, the possibility is only political.'' He added.
Our assessment is that the open bold murder of a senior journalist shook the country. People who are raising up and voicing out their opinions against certain wrong doings are being killed mercilessly these days. India has a low ranking in Press Freedom Index. India is ranked 136 in a list of 180 countries which is bad. We are barely above Pakistan and Sri Lanka.