Journalists at Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad on Monday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Oct. 2: Several journalists and a few students, teachers and activists today marked Gandhi Jayanti by forming a human chain around the Press Club of India and later marching to the Indian Women's Press Corps office, demanding action against the killing of journalists.
More than 300 journalists signed a memorandum to be submitted to the Union home ministry, demanding a status report on the murder cases relating to journalists killed in the recent past.
The protest had been called after the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, known for her anti-Hindutva writings, in Bangalore last month. Her killing followed the murders of rationalists Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi in Karnataka and Maharashtra between 2013 and 2015.
Academic Nandita Narain, president of the Federation of Central University Teachers Associations, and former JNU students' union president Mohit Pandey too stood in the human chain around the Press Club, located near Parliament House.
The protesters later marched to the Indian Women's Press Corps, holding a large photo of Mahatma Gandhi and placards that carried slogans in favour of press freedom.
"The reason so many have come out is the overwhelming sense of helplessness among journalists who are facing overt and covert kinds of violence, directly or on social media and the telephone, including the trolling of women," Women's Press Corps vice-president T.K. Rajalakshmi told this newspaper.
A reporter, Shantanu Bhowmik, too was beaten to death last month in Tripura while covering a clash between the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura and the CPM-backed Tripura Rajyer Upajati Ganamukti Parishad. Several People's Front cadres have been arrested on suspicion of involvement; no arrests have been made in Gauri's murder yet.
Three journalists have complained to Delhi police and one to Uttar Pradesh police against threatening WhatsApp messages sent to them from unknown numbers.
Gauri was killed "because she used to write against the Modi government, the RSS and the BJP," the messages, written in Hindi, say.
"Now, if anyone in this country dares write anything against Modiji, the RSS or the BJP, that person will not be spared."
A Facebook group called "Unfair Web" that reported the threat messages has been mysteriously deleted by the social networking site.
PM silence 'chilling'
National award-winning actor Prakash Raj today said in Bangalore that Narendra Modi's silence on those "celebrating" Gauri's killing, including people the Prime Minister "follows" on Twitter, was "chilling", PTI adds.
Raj said: "If such people are being followed by the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister is not taking a stand on them or not commenting on them... I am disturbed, hurt. I am afraid of the silence of my Prime Minister.... I am saying your silence is chilling."