The shift in India’s rank in World Press Freedom Index (compiled by Reporters without Borders) from 133 to 136 has made it evident to the world that India’s media has become less free than it was before.
Freedom of speech and expression goes hand in hand with the media’s role. Even the makers of India’s Constitution ensured the freedom of press (indirectly) in Article 19(1)(a).
But, the heinous murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh certainly shows that while the media is free to express itself, it should be ready to bear extreme consequences.
Gauri Lankesh, a fearless and outspoken journalist, was an ardent critique of divisive politics and radical forces. She was shot dead by unidentified assailants when she returned back from her office, on the doorsteps of her home.
This is not the first time that strong, opinionated and rationalist writers and speakers have been subjected to brutal ends – as rewards for their instinct to change things or stand against what’s wrong in the society. Before Lankesh, the voices of the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, and MM Kalburgi were similarly eliminated.
The question is not of their rationality or opinions – but about how society perceives it. If India’s society has such constraints on the flexibility of the opinions, to the extent that an opinion celebrated by many can be discarded just because it counters the fundamental structure of the society – then India is far from becoming a progressive state yet.
People with different ideologies have perceived Lankesh’s death in different ways. For me, not only was an audacious lady murdered – her blatantly-strong opinions, desire to alter societal problems and willingness to be a change-maker were also taken away.
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