Gauri Lankesh: Called a ‘commie’, ‘naxal’, she was a democrat who wished for a society that our Constitution aspires to build

Her friend and lawyer remembers Gauri Lankesh, her fast speech with a nasal twang, and her boundless energy on the fifth anniversary of her killing.

ByBT Venkatesh

Published Sep 05, 2022 | 4:38 PM Updated Sep 13, 2022 | 6:26 PM

Dabholkar, Pansare, Lankesh, and Kalburgi

She always wore her heart on her sleeve. That’s how I remember Gauri Lankesh.

She has not been with us for the last five years. There are so many of us who treasure our memories of Gauri.

They have all framed her identity in rigid terms

There have been attempts to frame her identity in rigid terms by both those who like her and those who don’t. For me, Gauri was a friend who led a very simple life and held to her opinions that were humanist first.

Several thousand times, I have heard people labelling her a commie and a naxalite, as someone who supported the idea of overthrowing the government by force.

There are others who have said she was anarchic and one who had little control over language, someone who was provocative and went out of the way to please minorities, and an atheist (and someone who also smokes in public). These are also the memories and beliefs that many carry about Gauri.

Counsellor whose words she never heeded

The interesting part is Gauri never bothered about any of these opinions about her. She would instead head for a cup of coffee and to the subject she was focusing on at that time.

During the years of interaction as a friend and as her lawyer (and a counsellor whose words she never heeded), I knew Gauri as a passionate journalist, activist, and vocal critic of acts of impunity of the state.

She loved minorities, the underprivileged, marginalised, and stigmatised as though they were all her kin. Gauri shared her experiences with them and learnt about them, their lives, and their challenges. She not only empathised with the underprivileged, but made them part of her life. Thousands from LGBT and minority communities, farmers, workers, and some politicians too were part of her life.

She loved life, every instant of it

Gauri Lankesh

Though a charge sheet was filed by the SIT set up in 2018 to investigate the killing, the trial began only in June this year (Twitter/@KavithaLankesh)

Her voice, that fast speech with a nasal twang, that frown, that endearing smile, and that funny bone too. She lived her life — every moment of it — as though there was no other day.

I always wondered how she had that boundless energy in that small frail body. She was one who loved life. Every instant of it.

I believe that we need to understand Gauri as a lovely person who wished for a society that our Constitution aspires to build. Every word of it and to its every letter and spirit. She was a democrat. She lives with us as always.

(BT Venkatesh is the founder of ReachLawyer, a network of lawyers and activists fighting for the human rights of marginalised, excluded, and stigmatised communities. A former state public prosecutor, he was a friend and lawyer of Gauri Lankesh. These are the personal views of the author)