Special police team to investigate threat letters to progressive thinkers, says Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah

At an event organised in memory of slain journalist Gauri Lankesh, former Kerala minister K K Shailaja criticised Sanatana Dharma and fascism.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Sep 06, 2023 | 12:40 PMUpdatedSep 06, 2023 | 12:40 PM

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah along with other dignitaries at the Gauri Memorial event on 5th September

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has tasked a special police team—led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) rank officer in Mysuru to investigate the threat letters that have been posted to addresses of progressive thinkers and writers in Karnataka off late.

Siddaramaiah, speaking at an event to mark the 6th death anniversary of slain journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, said, “We know that just one person is writing these letters without signing it off with their name— scared, and is instead signing off as ‘Sahishna Hindu’— claiming to be an activist.”

He further said, “We have directed the police to nab him, and I am hopeful that he will not be spared from legal consequences however influential or politically connected he may be,” he asserted to a packed audience at Town Hall, in Bengaluru.

‘Mindset that killed Gandhi, killed Gauri too’

Gauri Lankesh’s 6th death anniversary meeting, on Tuesday, 5 September was titled and themed— Re-imagining India in its Authoritarian Times— and was organised by the Gauri Memorial Trust.

Speaking about Gauri’s killers, the chief minister said, “The killers of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh have the same mentality as the killer who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.”

“They (killers) were all communal. Everyone knows that Mahatma Gandhi lived a secular and pious life, and the people who had a mentality of not tolerating him, killed him,” Siddaramaiah told the audience, adding “Gauri’s indomitable spirit is with us, and we should not fear them—our fear is their (communal elements’) courage.”

‘Everyone’s voice’

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah along with other dignitaries at the Gauri Memorial event on 5 September

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah at the Gauri Memorial event on 5 September

Siddaramaiah also recalled that Gauri had met him several times during his first tenure as Chief Minister of Karnataka. “She had met me several times, but all those times, she never once sought any personal favours for herself or her newspaper.”

“She only talked to me about communalism prevalent in society, the Adivasis in Kodagu, Naxals, farmers and the women folk and their upliftment,” Siddaramaiah stated.

He added, “She was everyone’s voice. Wherever there was injustice, she would question and bring justice to the underprivileged. Wherever a society doesn’t have a voice, she became the voice.”

“Her life was taken away by communal elements— the same way Mahatma Gandhi’s life was taken away. Gauri’s soul will rest in peace only when justice is served— when the accused who killed her are punished, and this is not a story of one person,” Siddaramaiah added.

Related: Dada, accused in Gauri Lankesh murder case, still absconding

Sixth anniversary of Gauri Lankesh

Gauri’s memorial was organised by the Gauri Memorial Trust on Tuesday, 5 September. It was commemorated with the release of a special issue magazine named “Nyaya Patha” by prominent citizen leaders from across the country who vociferously voiced their dissent against fascist forces.

Activists and dignitaries present on the dais were farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, the national spokesperson of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) from Uttar Pradesh, Angela Rangad, a Meghalaya-based rights activist, Teesta Setalvad, an Indian civil rights activist and journalist, Supriya Shrinate, national spokesperson for the Indian National Congress (INC) and former journalist, former Kerala minister KK Shailaja Teacher, multi-lingual actor Prakash Raj, and Muslim Union President from the Coastal belt of Karnataka Yasin Malpe— all of them expressed their thoughts at the event.

Gauri’s sister Kavitha Lankesh, mother Indira Lankesh, Deepu who heads the Gauri Memorial Trust, and former minister Anjaneya were also present at the event.

‘Need to protect our Constitution’

Former Kerala minister KK Shailaja congratulated Chief Minister Siddaramaiah for defeating the ideology of BJP and the RSS which divided the people on the basis of caste in the recently held Karnataka assembly elections.

She said, “Secularism is the backbone of our constitution and our country. There are more than six religions in India, more than 6,400 castes, and more than 1,700 languages spoken in India. We are different, and we cannot get rid of that diversity.”

Elaborating further she said, “Our slogan is Unity in Diversity, but the communal forces, the fascist government, led by the Sangh Parivar, do not agree with this. Fear of vigilantism and intolerance is ruling India. We have to fight against it.”

The former minister said, “Now we are struggling to protect our constitution. The very preamble of our constitution says India is Sovereign, Democratic, Secular, and Socialist.”

“But the communal and fascist forces are driving the hierarchical structure of Sanathan Dharma with Brahmins, who say they are made from the head and Shudras are made from the legs. This is not our ideology,” Shailaja Teacher told the audience questioning which God would say that.

Related: ‘Democrat who wished for a society our Constitution aspires to build’

‘Double engine = Double oppression, double violence’

Activist Angela Rangad, highlighting the plight of Manipur, said that the double-engine government has meant a replication of the divisive politics and hate that is on exhibition at the Centre. Double-engine is a term used by BJP to push for same party government at State and Union levels with an assurance of faster development.

Speaking about Manipur, the activist said, “What is happening in Manipur today for instance is precisely this— a double-engine government that is twice complicating the already complex history and strenuous relationship among the people in the state.”

She added, “The double-engine government has doubled the oppression, doubled the violence, and doubled the mistrust. The failure to contain the violence in Manipur for the last five months now clearly shows not only the complicity of the double-engine government, but a glaring undermining of the federal guarantees of our constitution.”

She further added, “With our recent visits there, many of us feel Manipur is a major experimentation in our region, a project to have a nation of majoritarian hate-filled cartels that can pave the way for easy access and exploitation of whatever resources our region may have by pitting communities against each other rather than allowing us to settle with negotiations.”

‘BJP chooses which God to take up in which state’

Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait in his address said that farmers from various states in the country, including Karnataka had approached him with concerns and complaints about an organised design that would not let their farm produce sell at profitable rates.

Speaking about the hate campaign, he said, “The Union government has tried it in all states, both in the North and the South. If Ram does not work in a state, then they would go with Hanuman.”

“The BJP chooses which God to take up in which state, and Nagpur will identify who should be given the responsibility to carry out the task,” Tikait stated. Nagpur is where the headquarters of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is situated. BJP is the political wing of RSS.

“We are also Hindus, and if such tactics are used against us, then we also might have to use the same tactics back on them. However, many people will have to sacrifice themselves,” Tikait added.

Related: ‘Bharat’ replaces ‘India’ in G20 dinner invite by President Murmu

Renaming the country

National Spokesperson of INC Supriya Shrinate tore into the Centre’s “hint” at replacing ‘India’ with ‘Bharat’.

Mentioning the official invitation for the G20 Summit from the Rashtrapathi Bhavan using the term—The President of Bharat instead of The President of India, Shrinate questioned the Centre’s audacity on attempting to rename the country, deeming it unconstitutional.

Our identity is under threat. “I call my mother Ma, some call Mayi, others call Amma, Maata, Maataji etc., and I respect that. India is my motherland. I would call it India, and how dare anyone force me to call my mother with another name,” Shrinate questioned.

She added that the Modi government is in jitters after the INDIA Bloc alliance has been formed. The recent assembly election in Karnataka was also a blow to the Modi government which effectively removed BJP from government in the whole of South.

Actor Prakash Raj recited a poem for the late Gauri Lankesh and later shared with the audience the recent skirmishes he had on social media with the right-wingers where he was threatened with dire consequences and threat to life.

He said he has brought this matter to the notice of the state Home Minister G Parameshwara. “Only the weak and feeble will be armed with a weapon,” Prakash Raj remarked.

Civil rights activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad said, “everyone knows that a megalomaniac is in power. In the upcoming elections, from the Gram Sabha to Sansad, one needs to ensure that communal elements should not be voted to power at any level.”