Media Is Scared To Talk About Hindu Fundamentalism After Gauri’s Death: Kavitha Lankesh

Gauri Lankesh was murdered by three gunmen outside her residence in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017, after she had returned home from work. She was the editor of the Kannada weekly ‘Lankesh Patrike’.

Over a year after the eminent journalist’s death, Titas Biswas interviewed Gauri Lankesh’s sister Kavitha Lankesh who talks about life after her sister’s death, the looming threat of Hindu fundamentalism, and the Prime Minister’s stoic silence over the issue.

Kavitha Lankesh

Titas Biswas (TB): What do you think of Chidanand Rajghatta’s ‘Illiberal India’?

Kavitha Lankesh (KL): He sent me the draft when he was writing it, to check if it required any corrections, or if there were any factual errors or anything. It’s an immensely readable book, with the journey – their political journey interwoven very well. But I personally feel like some things might have been left out because there were personal lives involved, otherwise it is a very good book.

TB: The last one of the 17 men was arrested on September 9. With sources now confirming that the murder was the work of Hindu fundamentalists, what do you have to say about that?

KL: Well, we always suspected that was the one. We didn’t think anybody else had such an extent of enmity that would otherwise have led to murder. We knew the people who were trolling her, who were against her, but we couldn’t make a statement until the investigations confirmed it. I was in touch with the officers who were investigating the case the entire time, I kept visiting them since the first week when Gauri was murdered – in order to know what kind of investigations were going on. Of course, they investigated personal motives, if there were any in order to filter people out and they were doing the right things, going in the right direction.

It was not shocking that we knew who the murderers were, it is shocking to realise the stage that Hindu fundamentalism has reached today in our country. How are they different from the Taliban or ISIS? They’re getting trained with how to operate various kinds of ammunition – gun shooting being only a part of it. So, what kind of Hinduism is this is what we would question, what I would like to question. This is not what we ever thought would materialise. No religion is supposed to kill. Now, of course, some of them have crossed their limits over time…because they’re very traditional…

TB: The majoritarian element in this country given the numbers…

KL: What is even more amusing is the way society is apparently choosing to react about it. The one who had pulled the trigger, Parshuram – when he was caught, and the news was in the media for the first time, there were people who were openly supporting him! They were showering him with appreciation, quoting that the murder had been the right thing to do in order to save Hinduism. What kind of Hindus are these people?

TB: And what about the Prime Minister? Has he made a public statement, as of yet?

KL: Nothing, nothing as of yet. He doesn’t utter a word in press conferences, doesn’t mind avoiding them (questions) in case he finds it a necessity. He doesn’t make a single proper statement about the entire issue, all in all. His silence in itself is an answer to several questions. It exposes the malignant nature of the media. He doesn’t answer a single question, there are no people to question and it is not just about my sister. Maybe she is not great enough or good enough to be, you know…whereas the French government is honoring her.

TB: It isn’t limited to national boundaries anymore. It almost is sort of a global trend, isn’t it? Last week, a Bulgarian journalist (Viktoria Marinova) was raped and murdered. Earlier this year, a car bomb was planted on Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, an active contributor to the investigation of the Panama papers scandal.

KL: Her name too was inscribed on the pillar. Daphne’s sister and son were present there. But I am not saying the Prime Minister has to be prompt enough about Gauri’s murder. My sister doesn’t necessarily have to be important enough to him. But as a Prime Minister of this country, why doesn’t he ever care enough to answer anything important, anything that counts to the press? Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had called the entire response of the jurisprudence pretty much a hoax…how would you revert back to that? What was this guy called, yes…Sree Ram Sene Chief Pramod Muthalik denied acknowledging the existence of Gauri! He simply stated he didn’t know anyone by this name. Then, he went on to make some very stupid statements about Parshuram.

Actually, he isn’t even supposed to make a statement. He stays in prison half the time and when he’s out, the press hovers around him to get their TRPs shot up in an instant. He claimed that the cops paid him Rs.25 lakhs in order to make him say what he had been saying and then Pramod Muthalik comes back and calls the entire thing a hoax. Even Sanatan Samste, if you observe keenly, they’ve always preferred calling the entire incident a hoax – makes them a big favour, indeed. They’re on the board, they’ve been in touch with the big leaders, they’ve been involved in this whole thing and now their lawyers are defending them of murder This is what the media would not write about.

TB: Last year, when we got this interview done, you had asked us not to utter the ‘Sanatan Samste’ phrase very much. By this time, they’ve already been mentioned in a prominent news daily. Do you know who is actually funding them? Where does this organization run from? Who are providing the incentives?

KL: These days, they’ve got nothing to do with RSS, and RSS has got to do nothing with them.

TB: Why is the Shiv Sena defending their actions, in that case?

KL: You see, they’re all a part of the conglomerate. They’re all fringe elements of the same group. None of them are going to come forward and claim that they’re funding directly, and that might not even be the case, to be honest. They’re putting this venom into people all around, re-creating “the Hindu dream”.  They’re tight-lipped about anything concerned with women’s rights, with rape cases taking place, about freedom of the press – they’re talking of building Ayodhya. This is the medium of their funding. The BJP’s doing the same thing, Mohan Bhagwat’s doing the same thing. They’re talking about building a new Hindu Rashtra. Sanatan Samste is a part of this philosophy. They’re talking about being exclusive in contrast to Hinduism being an inclusive religion for a very long time.

TB: Where is Sanatan Samste geographically functioning from?

KL: They’re based in Goa. There’s a 200 man committee here and they’re growing stronger in both Maharashtra and Karnataka. It’s not local anymore, they’re probably functioning all over the nation. You can find it out on the Internet that they have a huge ashram in Ponda. They’re training them with several kinds of ammunition, they’re teaching them hypnotism – a lot of things are happening.

People stage a protest against the killing of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh, at Town Hall on September 6, 2017, in Bengaluru.

TB: But if they are practicing it along with ammunition training and stuff like that, there must be huge funding behind the entire phenomenon taking place.

KL: Even the BJP is in it. A month before Dabholkar had been murdered, they had published a photograph of him in the Sanatan magazine with a mark on his head. They took it down two weeks later. Now, they have figured out a guy making eighty bombs in their terrain – you must have read about it.

TB: No, but I definitely did read about the claims regarding Ericksonian hypnosis being practiced.

KL: And the people in the media, including lawyers, were busy saying the number of bombs were twenty and not eighty. These people should be questioned on exactly how the intensity of statistical enumeration has to do with the notion of crime in the modern world! Of course it does, on the other hand. In a non-linear manner, to be specific. Had there been a Muslim boy owning a gun, one gun, he would have been jailed for fifteen years. They were even planning to conduct a sort of firing during the Muslim festivals so that the blame could have been laid on their shoulders. Now tell me, what kind of Hindus are these people?

TB: Ow, that’s not surprisingly new. We’ve seen things happen during the Babri Masjid controversy.

KL: Same thing, yes. On the Dabholkar case, they were pretty clear. On the Pansare or Kalburgi case, it was pretty clear who were behind the murders.

TB: So, all of these murders were conducted, planned and performed by them?

KL: Yes. Yes, they were.

TB: What is Sanatan Samste? The militant wing of the entire orthodox Hindu conglomerate or something?

KL: Yes, and they are training other factions to be a tad bit more on the militant side to remain “effective”. Like in Dervan, they got two or three people there and subsequently they gathered around forty to fifty people – all of them fairly young. That is how they are multiplying. You see, even Parshuram belongs from a family that is not too well off, is not very well educated and when he was caught, he had been openly saying that he needed to commit the murder in order to protect Hinduism, because Gauri, according to him, was “anti-Hindu”. Later, he was pressured to embrace a Pakistani flag. You see, why would a brainwashed youngster do something as sinister all of a sudden? The entire game is being played to ensure violence and hatred continue to survive as an outcome.

TB: Why is this Hindu dream being so widely accepted among youngsters, millennials specifically?

KL: It wasn’t like that. These people are making things work that way. They’re polarizing everything.

TB: So, it’s happening in Bangalore as well?

KL: Everywhere. It’s happening everywhere. And the very people who are inciting it would probably send their children to study abroad – maybe to the Gulf countries or the United States or elsewhere. We ask them the same question and they’re left devoid of answers – What if their children are treated the same way once they end up abroad? What if the real differences the world demarcates between a white man and a black man starts exposing itself? They’re reaching out for an extremely secluded version of freedom, but what kind of hypocrisy is this, in the end?

TB: Going by the number of honour killings, crimes committed against women, against Muslims, other individuals belonging to minority communities or Dalits, as a matter of fact – the numbers have risen substantially in the last few years. It is as if they’re increasing in geometric progression with every coming year.

KL: It is extremely disturbing. And people do not seem to care, nobody seems to care. How come nobody is bothered? The ministers have to say nothing about these incidents in contrast to saying loads of nasty things about who will be permitted to enter a temple and who wouldn’t be. And isn’t it sinister that the ones who defy to accept these are being marked villains. Thankfully, there is a certain majority of people who are supporting Gauri’s work. They’re showing solidarity with her voice.

TB: What can we possibly presume regarding the coming five to ten years? Do these series of events mark the rise of a certain fascist tendency?

KL: I hope it’s not but it does look like it is. A couple of months ago, five noted activists were arrested without a proper statement. If that can happen in this country, the near future isn’t possibly too bright. Girish Karnad had come to attend one of these events regarding Gauri wearing #MeTooUrbanNaxal. That is the case with me, as well. If that be the case, then my father would have been the first to be arrested thirty years ago. Because journalism is supposed to be anti-government in nature. It is not supposed to be like the government hands out all of this information to you and you take them down. But ninety percent of the media is sold out to the government now.

TB: So, even if they’re portraying Sanatan Samste, it’s not deep enough – they’re basically name dropping, is it that?

KL: It is like an open secret now, a lot of people who are in the media know about it but wouldn’t talk about it. They are scared, especially about what happened in Gauri’s case. At least the criminals were caught and punished. But a part of the middle class is still quite baffled by the idea of going counter-current, of not being pro-Hindu.

TB: It almost is a brand by now – the Hindu brand.

KL: But this wasn’t the case when we were kids. They never said, even in the school textbooks that “Hinduism” was a religion. They said it was a way to live. This generation has been conditioned to believe it is a counter-religion religion or something. They’re trying to create a box known as the Hindu way of life, and are marking themselves radicals under the umbrella. This has happened gradually and has been getting worse in the present times, will be worsening in the next few years at the very least. And when somebody is in trouble, if a Dalit man is being beaten down to death, if somebody is being burnt alive, people shoot the incident instead of lending a helping hand!

TB: Everybody knows the country has perhaps turned into “Lynchistan” by now.

KL: Yes, nobody is bothered when somebody is getting lynched, nobody is bothered when a person is drowning. They will shoot the incident rather than taking an active part in it. It is humanity that is sinking, being erased away actually. Even the communal violence at the time the partition happened was better than this. People at least knew that they had an inherent urge to live in harmony, even if the situation demanded otherwise.

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below