The bloody murder of journalist –activist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru recently has confounded the police in quite the same way as those of Maharashtra rationalist Narayan Dabholkar in 2013, activist Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in 2015 and rationalist M.M. Kalburgi also in 2015 in Dharwad, Karnataka. As time passes by, there is apprehension that Gauri Lankesh’s murder may join the list of unsolved cases. There are uncanny similarities between the killings of Gauri and Kalburgi but there is no knowing who plotted the killings and who carried them out.
Both were shot at close range, at their residences, by unidentified men on motorbikes. While all four of these deceased were opposed to Hindu rightwing groups, there is no evidence to show that their murders were the handiwork of Hindutva forces. In Gauri’s case, while she was anathema to ultra-rightists, her relations with a section of the Maoist left were also believed to be strained. It is said that she was instrumental in some Maoists coming overground and surrendering to the authorities and this was resented by hardcore Maoists. While bits of evidence are being pieced together, there is nothing to suggest a clear line that the police is following.
With Assembly elections in Karnataka only a few months away, the Congress which is in power would be only too happy if activist of the Sangh Parivar are implicated in the murder. But the BJP is watching with a hawk eye and would vehemently question any attempt to embarrass it. In the immediate aftermath of Gauri’s murder the family of the killed journalist, especially her brother, had said that they had no faith in the Siddaramaiah government in the conduct of investigations. But later they acquiesced in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe. All this makes the whole scenario murky.
The longer it takes for the police to nab Gauri’s suspected killers, the better would be their chance to destroy evidence and perhaps even to flee out of the country or to a place within the country where it is difficult to trace them. It is debatable whether the Gauri murder investigation should have been handed over to the CBI but it is now perhaps too late to pick up the lost threads. With three unsolved murders of rationalists and a fourth set to join their ranks, there is understandable fear among thinkers with strong views. There is no denying that bodes ill for free speech and democracy in the country.