Speak up now!
Our freedoms are under threat and no one seems safe anymore.
I didn't know Gauri Lankesh personally. But I do know what she stood for. Her fearlessness and ability to dissent against fundamentalist thoughts and action, have been inspiring, for many a journalist. I didn't know MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar either. But I saw meaning in their crusade against superstitions and a fight for rationalism. Nor did I know slain journalists such as Ram Chander Chhatrapati, Rajdev Ranjan, Sandeep Kothari, and Jagendra Singh. They were staying true to their profession of unearthing the truth and taking it to the people. The assassination of these fierce critics and investigators is the death knell of free thought and freedom of speech. Their murders have killed off intellectualism. And we should be very afraid to live and breathe in a clime where personal safety and freedoms are not assured.
Soon after the news of the dastardly act of Lankesh's murder, many of us have had sleepless nights; restless with the thought that no one who disagrees is safe in this country. If you choose to tread an unpopular path, if your thoughts don't match those of the majority, you're not safe. You must spend your time looking over your shoulder or better still, don't say anything at all and simply fall in line with the rest.
Lankesh and others are also victims of the crimes of hate. Their death is yet another indication of the growing levels of intolerance in India, where citizens are lynched for either carrying or consuming beef, or for belonging to a lower caste such as the Dalits. What is a larger concern, however, is the fact that the rest of us go about our daily lives ignoring this increasing malaise. We don't find enough reason to feel outraged as the very foundation of our Constitution and all that it stands for is shaken repeatedly by such cowardly acts. There is no place for debate, discussion or criticism.
Any government, whether at the Centre or the State, which falters in protecting its critics, has failed its people. The adage, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it," is the mark of a genuine democracy. Every incident of an activist or a critic or even a journalist being silenced irrevocably should scare us. As religious and ideological fanatics become more daring in their attacks, society as a whole has reason to fear. For today, they may have targetted a chosen few but tomorrow, they will come for you and me. If we are not protected, then India may as well stop calling herself a democracy.
What are we teaching our youth? To be socially engineered prototypes of each other with factory-produced ideologies and beliefs? One size fits all?! Are we blatantly accepting that there is no freedom of divergent views? Are we all to become cogs in a wheel, identical in our outlook, with our sole goal being to keep the engine running?
And are we finally repeating history where hardliners went first for the jugular of the intellectuals and rationalists? First, strangling their thoughts, before, eventually killing them too. Are we prepping to become that kind of a country where 'jungle raj' is kosher? If that is not your idea of your country, then don't stay silent.
I don't want to play the blame game because it matters not who is in power and who is not. Such shocking murders have been strewn across the tenures of various regimes. The truth is that this is not the India we want and we have to shout out from the roofs if need be. This is not the country "where the mind is without fear and the head is held high." But today, I hold my head down in shame because I am as much to blame, for keeping quiet in the past, as you.
So no matter what your political affiliation may be (you may be Leftist, Right Wing, or apolitical) but don't remain quiet. We may disagree in our ideologies but none of us believe in the politics of murder. Let's not brush this off as yet another incident because it is not. These attacks are aimed at the pillars of democracy.
Murders such as that of Gauri Lankesh cannot go unpunished if we must retain faith in our administration. Giving her full state honours doesn't mean anything; she is dead already. We need justice for Gauri Lankesh and others like her. Our freedoms are under threat and this time, let's pledge that we won't forget.
(The writer is a journalist and social media entrepreneur. Views expressed are strictly personal.)