In 2020, Reporters Without Borders assessed the world press freedom index, and out of 180 countries, India was at the 142nd position. That raises a red flag not just on the state of journalism in the country but also on the state of our democracy as a whole. A large section of the Indian media have given in to regressive, majoritarian ideals that often promotes unscientific ideas, discourages rational thinking and questioning the ones in power . However there are independent journalists, rationalists and free- thinking citizens who are fighting against this rising tide of ultra- nationalist and unquestioning journalism .
One such journalist who questioned the dominance of bigoted, ultra-nationalist and autocratic right wing ideals in the media was Gauri Lankesh. Born and brought up in Karnataka, she would have turned 60 this 29th had she not been shot dead by assailants on 5th September, 2017. Gauri Lankesh had been a forerunner of rationalism and sound judgment which in many cases have triggered the ones in power to censure her work. Several defamation suits had been filed against her by the reactionary, and ultra-conservative faction of the country.
“I’ll do what I can and I’ll say what I should. These intolerant voices find strength on our silence. Let them learn to argue with words instead of threats. – Gauri Lankesh”
Gauri Lankesh started her career as a journalist with The Times of India, and after 16 years ended up running her own Kannada weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. She was a staunch critic of right-wing politics, supported student leaders fighting for human rights and raised her voice repeatedly against Brahmanical patriarchy and the historical injustices done to the people from oppressed castes in this country. She was also celebrated among rationalists.
But the assassination of Gauri Lankesh dawned as yet another example of the power imbalance between the different sections of our society. It has not been the first. Free thinkers like Narendra Dabholkar, M.M. Kalburgi, and Govind Pansare had been assassinated for similar reasons. So much hatred has been spewing across the nations that thumps its chest of freedom of speech as a constitutional right. Hope still remains as with every revulsion, there is revolution.