Indian journalist’s killing provokes outrage, anguish

NEW DELHI (AP) — The killing of an Indian journalist provoked outrage and anguish across the country on Wednesday, with thousands protesting what they saw as an effort to silence a critic of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Even as police promise to hunt down the assailants who gunned down Gauri Lankesh outside her Bangalore home Tuesday night, many said they feared the perpetrators of the attack – like so many others – would get away with impunity.

Spontaneous rallies erupted in cities and towns across India on Wednesday. Protesters demanded the government do more to protect free speech in the secular, South Asian democracy.

In the southern city of Bangalore, thousands gathered for a public vigil and viewing of Lankesh’s body at Town Hall.

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Weeping, they filed slowly past her glass-covered coffin. Some carried placards that read “I am also Gauri.”

Others held banners that said: “You can kill the person; but not her ideas,” and “Voices of dissent cannot be stifled by the barrel of the gun.”

Lankesh, 55, was the editor of the independent Kannada-language magazine “Lankesh Patrike.” In November, she was found guilty of defaming lawmakers from the governing Bharatiya Janata Party in a 2008 story. She said the case was politically motivated and vowed to challenge her conviction in a higher court.

Her killing was the latest in a string of similar attacks in recent years targeting writers, artists and scholars who faced a backlash for criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government or the BJP.

“The silencing of a journalist in this manner has dangerous portents for Indian democracy,” said Shobhana Jain, the president of Indian Women’s Press Corps.

In 2015, scholar Malleshappa M. Kalburgi was shot dead at his Bangalore home, following death threats from right-wing Hindu groups after he criticized idol worship and superstitious beliefs by Hindus.

Earlier that year, Indian writer and anti-superstition crusader Govind Pansare was shot dead while taking a walk with his wife near their home in western Maharashtra state. And in another daytime attack in 2013, two assailants shot anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar dead while he was out for a walk in the Maharashtra city of Pune.

On Wednesday, the Indian Writer’s Forum called Lankesh’s murder “a chilling continuation” of the killings of Dabholkar, Pansare…

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