Saturday, September 5, 2020

#IfWeDoNotRise: Gauri Lankesh’s Legacy Lives On

This article is by

Share this article

Image of Gauri Lankesh | Source: Twitter

In the late evening hours of 5th September, 2017, journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was unlocking the door to her house after a long day at work. However, she was never destined to set foot inside again, as armed assailants fired seven shots before fleeing, some of which hit Lankesh and led to her death at the scene.

Lankesh was an outspoken critic of right-wing and Hindutva ideologies, and it is widely believed that this was the reason she was targeted. This corresponds with a lot of the arrests that have been made in the case, most of whom—including the people who shot her—were people who belonged to Hindutva groups.

Lankesh was one of three children born to poet and journalist Palya Lankesh who established the weekly Kannada-language Lankesh Patrike. Lankesh followed in her father’s footsteps, starting out in the Times Of India and then working with Sunday magazine for close to a decade. She married, and later divorced, opinion columnist Chidanand Rajghatta, after which she remained single.

Lankesh had been a journalist for 16 years when her father passed away. She and her brother Indrajit initially planned on ceasing the publication of Lankesh Patrike, but was convinced by the publisher to continue. Gauri became the editor, while Indrajit handled the business side of things. However, due to creative and ideological differences, the siblings had a falling out, leading to Gauri establishing her own Kannada weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike.

In the last few days before her death, Lankesh and her team were in the process of reshaping her magazine, Gauri Lankesh Patrike. After her death, the staff of Gauri Lankesh Patrike published the last edition of the magazine before shutting it down for a few months.

A year after her death, the staff released the first edition of Nyaya Patha (Way Of Justice), a weekly Kannada-language tabloid. Currently, they also run two websites, Gauri Lankesh News in English and Naanu Gauri in Kannada.

Lankesh’s death was described by the BBC as the most high-profile journalist murdered in recent years. A Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed in 2018 to probe the murder case. The charge sheet for the 18 arrested for their involvement in the case runs thousands of pages long and supposedly provides damning evidence, but similar to cases of other murdered journalists, the case is slow to move forward in court, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lankesh’s family, along with the families of journalists like M.M. Kalburgi have been appealing to the state government for a special fast-track court to be set up to ensure speedy justice, especially after special measures such as SITs and length investigations to ensure an in-depth probe into the cases.

In light of the third anniversary of Lankesh’s death, activists all over the country are organising a campaign by the name of #IfWeDoNotRise, to speak out against the crackdown on dissenting journalists and activists. Many journalists have been murdered in manners similar to Lankesh and others are arrested under laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which has been accused of being misused to clamp down on freedom of speech.

Those protesting against rightward shift in governance look up to figures like Gauri Lankesh who paid for their activism with their life, but are also raising their voices to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Forgetting Lankesh and the circumstances of her death means forgetting the constant threat of Hindutva indoctrination and its violence, which is only increasing under the present ruling dispensation.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

Read More