"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

This book on Gauri Lankesh shows the illiberal side of India Featured

 

Yoga and Ahimsa aren’t the only elements of the world’s so-called largest democracy. It’s time for those enamoured by India’s tolerance and diversity to open their eyes and get familiar with the growing religious bigotry under a right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
 
Illiberal India: Gauri Lankesh and the Age of Unreason by Chidanand Rajghatta can help in understanding this ugly reality. Based on the life and murder of a Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh on September 5, 2017, by Hindu extremists, the book is authored by none other than the deceased’s ex-husband.
 
Rajghatta, who himself is a journalist reveals that though the couple had divorced they remained good friends. So much so, his current wife Mary Breeding and their children also adored her. That Mary chose to write an obituary for Gauri that is included in the postscript of the book shows how open and generous she was.

It was this liberalism both in her personal and journalistic life that led to her assassination.
 
Gauri was the Editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike that gave voice to the minorities and the oppressed communities. She remained a vocal critic of the Hindu Right that has gained currency ever since the BJP came to power in India with a brute majority in 2014. The attacks on Muslims and other minority communities by those who wish to turn India into Hindu theocracy have intensified.
 
Gauri who was also an activist was agitated by the rapid growth of Hindu fanaticism in her home state of Karnataka that has always been known for its pluralism. She was influenced by her late father who was a progressive journalist and writer and denounced superstition and sectarianism. Though she had begun her journalistic career in the mainstream English press, she gave it up to join her father’s publication Lankesh Patrike that mastered in Kannada journalism. Only after she fell apart with her brother for ideological reasons, she started a publication under her name. 

Gauri who had no inclination towards religion and had scientific temperament ensured that no rituals were observed at the funeral of her father.
 
She was a defender of the Indian constitution that is based on the principles of secularism and democracy and guarantees religious freedom. She remained a staunch opponent of the caste system that stratifies Indian society and supports untouchability and therefore openly challenged Hindu orthodoxy for practising it. Though she was equally critical of the opposition Congress party for pandering religious groups and fanaticism of every shade, she had come under constant attack from the supporters of BJP and Hindu right-wing groups during the months preceding her death. Some active on social media had rejoiced her murder. 

In private gatherings too, nothing stopped her from challenging those, including family friends who blinded by majoritarianism said nasty things about Muslims or the depressed classes. Rajghatta mentions how she once recommended him to hire a single mother as domestic help and take care of her daughters. 

The author offers so many details that a reader can take away not only the memories of Gauri as a hero of the underdog but a deeper understanding of how India is heading to become a monolithic and closed society. 
 
The book isn’t just the story of Gauri, it rather situates her story in the broader context of the current situation of India where freethinkers and rationalists are being targeted for questioning the power and challenging the myths with impunity.

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