I did not know Gauri Lankesh and I had never met her during my years of working in the media in India. But why does her death affect me so much as it does hundreds of others who are today protesting against the brutal death that she met with at the doorstep of her house?

The answer to this can be many. On a plain level, the loss of any life does not bring a smile on your face but immediately touches that familiar chord of loss and grief. You wonder how his/her loved ones are coping, you wonder what her/her last words or moments were. When these multitude of thoughts hover around the mind they are enough to push you into that realm of sadness.

Gauri, I soon realised over outpourings in social media, was a larger than life figure. Sadly, I came to know only in her death that I actually have met and known her former husband, who I had inadvertently removed from my Facebook account because I was at one point of time going through a weaning process where friends I hardly interacted with had no sense being there. I wish I hadn’t because I lost an opportunity to leave a genuine condolence message.

In going through news stories and articles and accounts of people, the one thing I get is that Gauri was a strong critic of communal politics and Hindutva. And one of the conspiracy theories doing the rounds is that she got bumped off (though I don’t like using such a term but that was what happened. Two armed motorcycle born assailants follow her and shoot her at the doorstep of her house as she gets off the car from a long day at work) because she was antagonising those in power by writing about them and voicing aloud her anti-establishment views. There have been other cases in the past where known critics of the system lost their lives in similar circumstances. You would’ve read and heard all about them too in the Indian media, especially TV, which has upped their histrionics as they do with any newsbreak and, well, even on mundane occasions.

When I posted on Facebook about Gauri, a friend commented “Rise of the Hindu Taliban”. The friend was voicing an apprehension based on the news he is getting from all around. Soon after this, I got a message from another friend, a pro Modi fan, asking me “What is Hindu Taliban?” I did not bother to answer. I could have taken the discussion further but I refuse to entertain people who, one, lack the balls to have a discussion in the open, and two, seem to have developed an extra sensibility to anything concerning the H word.

What is happening in India worries me. It’s an alarming situation when in a democracy you see people killed for airing their views or fighting for what they believe in. So much hate and vitriol is being spread, so much impunity on the part of killers, so much of intolerance. I shudder to think of a world where people are losing the ‘conscience to ache’ as someone rightly put. 

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