The death anniversary of assassinated journalist Gauri Lankesh on Tuesday evening became a platform for fighting the fear that communalists are trying to spread.
Karnataka chief minister and Congress veteran Siddaramaiah alluded to a statement by Prakash Raj, the actor and Sangh parivar critic who has refused to be cowed down by concerted backlashes from the Right wing, that “our fear is their strength”.
“The strength of these communal forces is our fear. So no one should fear them,” the chief minister said to loud applause. Prakash Raj was present on the dais.
Siddaramaiah told the people of Karnataka not to fear the communal forces, pointing out that he had instructed police to take strict action against anyone taking the law into their hands.
Siddaramaiah, Prakash Raj and others were participating in a conversation titled “Reimagining India in Authoritarian Times” to mark the sixth death anniversary of Gauri.
At the event, a clarion call was given to resist — so as to prevent the nation from slipping into communal free fall — any attempt by the BJP-led government at the Centre to dilute the Constitution.
“Our democracy and Constitution are both in danger today. We will survive if democracy and the Constitution survive,” Siddaramaiah said.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah with actor Prakash Raj at an event to pay tribute to journalist Gauri Lankesh on her death anniversary, in Bengaluru, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. PTI picture
He cited the Congress’s victory in the May state elections as an example of how the people stood up to be counted. “We are back in power with your blessings and support. Whoever wanted democracy and the Constitution to survive supported us. So, it is our responsibility to ensure that the dreams of all those who supported us are realised,” the chief minister said, promising to do everything to ensure that the communal forces are defeated.
He drew attention to the background of those who are accused of killing Gauri and rationalists M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dhabolkar. “They were killed by the same ideology that killed Mahatma Gandhi,” Siddaramaiah said.
“This is not about any one individual. They target anyone who raises their voice against communal forces. Then they write letters to threaten them and try to drive the fear of death into them,” the chief minister said.
He said the best tribute for Gauri would be conviction and appropriate punishment to those who had been arrested and named in the voluminous chargesheet. “I have already discussed with the investigating team about the chargesheet. There is no way the culprits will be allowed to escape punishment,” he said.
Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait recalled how the BJP had tried to whip up communal passions during the Karnataka elections. “Since Ram doesn’t work here, they used Hanumanji.”
“They use the names of different gods in different states. The BJP and Nagpur decide which God to be used in which state,” Tikait said, lampooning the BJP’s communal agenda.
But he noted how the people of Karnataka had defeated the BJP. “The people of Karnataka gave a very important message to the entire country,” he said.
The CPM lawmaker and former health minister of Kerala, K.K. Shailaja, said: “Fear, obscurantism and intolerance are ruling India. We have to fight it.”
She highlighted the Sanatana Dharma controversy, saying the BJP and the Sangh were merely working for upper-caste supremacy. “They threaten to kill anyone who criticises Sanatana Dharma. But the Sanatana Dharma propagated by the Sangh parivar is merely upper-caste supremacy,” said Shailaja.