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  • People hold placards and candles during a vigil for Gauri Lankesh in New Delhi.

    People hold placards and candles during a vigil for Gauri Lankesh in New Delhi. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 September 2017

Social media users protesting Lankesh's death have launched an online campaign against the Prime Minister on Twitter with hashtag #Block Narendra Modi. 

Several parts of India have erupted in protests following the death of the Indian journalist and critic, Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead on her doorstep by gunmen. 

Indian Journalist's Murder Spark Nationwide Protests

"100 events are taking place just in Delhi and the neighboring areas. These protests are happening at community spaces, in colonies, and are being led by ordinary citizens," Saba Dewan, an Indian film maker, also one of the demonstration organizers told teleSUR.

One protest took place in the heart of the country's capital to raise awareness against hate crimes. It was attended by over 800 people who condemned the widespread violence carried out by the extremists as well as the government's silence over Tuesday's killing of the Bengaluru-based journalist.

Rallies are also being held in Mumbai, Kolkata, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Dharwad, Kerala to protest the authorities efforts to suppress the voice of dissent in the world's largest democracy. 

"These events are taking place to demand action against the perpetrators," Dewan said. 

"These protests are spaces of solidarity, people are rising and mobilizing against hate and bigotry. We are talking about politics based on hate and violence, that's the only language they (ruling party) know," Dewan added. 

"What greater evidence of an admission of guilt than to not publically condemn the murder?" 

There has been a spate of violent communal incidents in the country, mostly led by the Hindu extremists in the form of lynchings, Dalit murders, and media workers' killings. 

Lankesh, known to be an editor of the anti-establishment weekly, Lankesh Patrike, was extremely vocal about the government's complicity in spreading caste-based discrimination.

She appears to have been targeted for her progressive ideology and critical stance towards members of the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party, BJP. 

Lankesh is known to have been involved in investigations against several prominent figures. Reports say she may have had evidence implicating some in corruption scandals.

In November 2016, Lankesh was found guilty of defamation for an article she published in 2008 on local BJP leaders.

She was sentenced to 6 months but was later released on bail.

Condemning the death of the senior journalist, the writers' campaign group Pen International called for a full and impartial investigation into Lankesh's killing. 

"We are deeply concerned at the ways in which the right to free speech is increasingly coming under threat in India, and at how violence is being used with impunity… to silence voices of dissent. We call for an immediate and proper investigation into this murder and demand that the authorities act with all speed and arrest the killers."   

A poster for the protest held Thursday in New Delhi | Courtesy: Saba Dewan

Since her death, several activists and journalists have been using social media to express their grief, shock, and despair at the plight of those who voice their dissent against the communal violence in the country. 

Neither the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi nor the regional ministers of the ruling  BJP, have publicly condemned or expressed their condolences to the friends and family of the deceased journalist. 

"What will you call people who support assassination and killing and then gloat over the killing?" Dewan said. 

Some of the Twitter users followed by Modi and several regional ministers hurled insults after Lankesh's death, justifying her murder.

They posted comments such as "Jaisi karni vaisi bharni" that translates to "As you sow, so shall you reap" and “Hame chahiye azadi jihadiyose Jai Shree Ram, Jai Shree Ram" meaning "We need freedom from 'Jihadis,'" with a chant of a Hindu god's name.

Calling the esteemed journalist a derogatory term, another Twitter user also followed by Modi and a union minister tweeted, "A bitch died a dog’s death and all of her litter is crying in the same voice" in Hindi. 

"These paid right-wing drones followed by the prime minister are gloating over her murder in public" Dewan told teleSUR.

In response, social media users protesting Lankesh's death have launched an online campaign against the Prime Minister on Twitter with  the hashtag #Block Narendra Modi. 

Karnataka’s chief minister, Siddaramaiah, of Indian National Congress, condemned Lankesh’s murder as "an assassination of democracy" and has called for an investigation into her murder. 

Three investigative units have been set up, including a Special Investigations Team under the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief Minister of Karnataka posted on Twitter. He said the police protection teams will also safeguard progressive thinkers and activists in the southern state. 

Since 1991, at least 27 Indian journalists have been killed “in direct retaliation for their work,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists noted. And only one of the killers has been convicted.

"This Modi myth is beginning to unravel," Dewan said, "The politics of violence, farmers' protest against staggering debts accumulated, the busting of demonetization, show the lies the government has been manufacturing to show its progress." 

"The most appalling is the lack of governance that is hitting people," she said. 

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