FORUT strongly condemns the cold-blooded murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bangalore September 5th. The Norwegian aid organisation has two partner organisations, APSA and CWC, in Bangalore, and the violent death of Lankesh casts a long shadow over the work of civil society in India and Bangalore.
– Ms Gauri Lankesh was known as a fierce critic of Hindu nationalism, the caste system and discrimination against women. We are very concerned about a negative trend in India, where the space for dissent seems to be shrinking and violent extremism encouraged, says Morten Lønstad, Secretary General of FORUT. The BJP-led Government of India has Hindu nationalism as an important part of its ideology, and now carries a special responsibility for stepping in to prevent a further deterioration of the atmosphere in the country.
Gauri Lankesh was gunned down at her doorstep on the 5th of September, and it is likely that the murder was politically motivated. In recent years, journalists and human rights activists around the world have been increasingly targeted by politically motivated violence, when they have challenged vested interests in venal systems of corruption, power abuse and authoritarianism. India, which is often referred to as the world’s largest democracy, has not been immune to this, as civil society organisations and activists have been increasingly repressed and targeted.
– We would like to call the world’s attention to the current threat to India’s democracy, continues Morten Lønstad. He says the assassins must not enjoy impunity and that the Indian police must give the highest priority to investigating the murder and persecuting the perpetrators.
– When governments pursue divisive policies based on nationalism and religious extremism, this will inevitably fuel violence and repression of dissidents even if the state is not directly involved in the assassination, concludes Lønstad.
There are demonstrations planned on Wednesday next week in memory and recognition of Lankesh’s work. Civil society will protest and show resolve in the face of violent persecution.
– We stand for the right to peaceful dissent in a democracy and we condemn any form of violence at all times, says Kavita Ratna, Director Advocacy for Concerned for Working Children (CWC).
– The killing of Lankesh is an ominous portent for dissent for democracy and brutal assault on the freedom of individual. We condemn violence. The government must demonstrate the real sense of urgency and expedite the investigation, says Sheila Devaraj, Director for Association for Promoting Social Action (APSA).