Is a life without conscience a pre-condition of a country’s security?

Garga Chatterjee


The forces of Hindi Hindu Hindustan have claimed their latest victim in the Indian Union. Gauri Lankesh, the famous Kannadiga journalist and freethinker was killed in cold blood by assassins in front of her house. She had been on the case of Hindutva forces and had been receiving death threats from these nefarious quarters. She joins the illustrious and sad list of free thinking martyrs like Gobind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and Kalburgi who have fallen to these forces.


Lankesh was an indefatigable fighter against communalism, especially the Hindi-Hindu majoritarian variety, Hindi imposition and anti-people superstition. What this shows is that somebody who was as famous and connected as her has no security whatsoever. This was in the so-called ‘high tech’ metropolis of Bengaluru. This was a CCTV guarded home. She had her own car. She was known to the Chief Minister of the state of Karnataka, whose capital is Bengaluru. The administration and the police is run by non BJP forces. This also shows that vigilantes can hit at will – whenever they want, wherever they want, whoever they want. This has a very dangerous foreboding for all urbane and elite free thinking citizens of the Indian Union.


In a warmly worded remembrance, Gauri Lankesh’s former husband Chidanand Rajghatta described her in these words – “Right now, between writing this, I am scrambling to get on a plane again, my mind a cauldron of fragmented memories. One phrase keeps repeating and resonating in my mind: Amazing Grace. Forget all other labels: leftist, radical, anti-Hindutva, secular etc. For me, there is just this: My friend, my first love, she was the epitome of Amazing Grace.”


It is this very kind person with her courageous journalism and her activism against the dark forces of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan that her assassins wanted to silence. One might think that such assassinations only increase protest or increase the number of dissenters but that is not always the case. It is not always true as it was not true when the slogan was raised after Bhutto’s hanging that “Har Ghar Se Bhutto Niklega”. They recoiled. They did not come out then. That takes time. That takes political organisation. That takes scheming. That takes tactics and, most importantly, that takes an assessment of the power of the enemy. In the Indian Union, except in some non Hindi States where Hindi Hindu Hindustani forces are being opposed at a mass scale, in the Hindi Hindu heart in the Hindi heartland itself there is hardly any such organised initiative except in Bihar to some extent.


She knows exactly what kind of forces she was up against. She wrote against them. She fought against them. She gathered people against them. Unlike many Anglo educated activists who are usually alienated from their own native culture, Gauri Lankesh knew the pitfalls of such alienation and knew how this was ultimately self-defeating for any principled person who loved her people.


She was not able to read Kannada very well even in college but was the editor of a Kannada newspaper at the time of death. That transformation is important and is a testament to her commitment to changing herself for the cause of the people while many others want to change people to make them fall in line with their own private fantasy.


She was also a staunch oppose of Hindi imposition and she said this in her inimitable style when she pointed out that Hindi is only 300 years old, English has less than 400 years history in her land while Kannada is way, way older. In her inimitable style, she showed that she was from Karnataka, which is at this point one of the epicentres of anti Hindi imposition movement in the Indian Union and being a person of the people that exciting turn in the possibilities of the anti-Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan politics must have also excited her.


Thus the radical left-wing student rally in Kolkata protesting her murder would have caused her immense sadness. Sadly in Kolkata, the capital of the Bengali people, radical-left students took out the procession and chanted slogans and sang songs in Hindi. This was an absolute embarrassment to all that Gauri Lankesh stood for.


This was unthinkable 10 years ago and that is what is dangerous. When Indian Union was formed in 1947 and Hindi was made its official language, a seed was planted. That seed got nourishment through the years and in 1992 during the Babri Masjid demolition episode, it got a huge boost. It is that process which culminated in the extension of the Hindi Hindu sphere and that also affects people who would like to believe that they are among its opposers. When power also defines and determines the form and contour of dissent and corrupts it to the core so that dissent becomes an extension of the power structure, then that sort of structure has to be gotten rid of, lock stock and barrel.


Among the other fallen free thinking martyrs mentioned above, the killers have not been prosecuted in a single case. This is a huge boost to the ideology of the assassins. When investigation does not lead to the prosecution of the actual assassins, it will add to the long line of free thinkers who will fall silent after such attacks on their friends and ideological fellow travellers. This almost always led to their widespread self censorship. Voices of love and understanding get weaker. Sometimes people shut up in fear; that is the most dangerous thing as Punjabi poet Avtar Singh Pash had written a long time ago.


“Jey desh di surakhya eho hondee hai
key be-zameeree zindagi lei shart ban javey
akh di putli vich han ton bina koi bhi shabd ashleel howe
tey man badkaar ghadiyan de samne
dandaut’t jhukiya rahe *
Tey saanu desh di surakhya ton khatra hai.”


(If a life without conscience is a pre-condition of the country’s security, if anything other than saying ‘yes’ in agreement is obscene, and the mind submits before the greedy times, then the security of our country is a danger to all).