Angarika Gogoi | Sep 5, 2018 | 6 min read
Bengaluru: The Bangalore Central University's auditorium was already hustling with people and policemen in khaki uniforms as the Chief Minister had just attended an event commemorating teacher's day. As the clock struck one, scores of people flooded into the Bangalore Central University’s auditorium - to commemorate journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot outside her home in September, 2017. People from all walks of life were visible in the room -- activists, journalists, students, and friends.
“It is a very difficult day for us. This is the day we lost Gauri. I remember the day she took on the role. She slipped into it so beautifully,” said professor V S Sridhar, a member of the Gauri Memorial Trust, addressing the people in the auditorium.
She fought for communal harmony in the country, he said - emphasizing that more than a journalist, she was an activist as she always tried to give a voice to the rights of those who needed to be represented.
In an attempt to draw a positive narrative to the day when Gauri was assassinated, her namesake tabloid was given a second chance - relaunched as ‘Nyaya Patha’, which translates to ‘The path of justice’.
Wednesday’s cover story focussed on Gauri’s role in building the Gauri Lankesh Patrike and her plans for the future. The paper carried other stories that focussed on subjects like violence, freedom of expression, the state of the governance, the death of M M Kalburgi, and demonetization, among other shorter pieces.
Vaasu H V, a member of the editorial team, said, “Since the intention of people who killed Gauri was to silence her, we have decided to never let that silence set in.”
Recalling the first time he came across Gauri when she joined her father’s paper -- Lankesh Patrike -- Vaasu said, “Initially, when we realised that she was going to be taking control of the paper, we were unhappy. I even stopped buying the Lankesh Patrike, but she really proved herself by embracing the role.”
He was initially dismissive because he never thought an English writing journalist would be able to handle a Kannada tabloid, but, she proved everyone wrong, said Vaasu.
Road to Resurrection wasn’t Rosy
The tabloid faced several hindrances after Gauri’s death. Vaasu says that their office was seized by the police by 6 September last year, a day after her murder, but that did not deter them from working towards their goal of releasing a special edition commemorating their editor. The last edition of the paper that Gauri had worked on was released on September 12, 2017 and was aptly titled ‘Nanna Davi Adaguvudilla’, which meant ‘My voice cannot be silenced’.
After dealing with ownership issues of the paper, which involved Gauri’s family members, the team decided to launch an online version of the tabloid titled ‘Naanu Gauri’, but could not get it registered, as the RNI (Registrar of Newspapers for India) rejected the title. However, the spirited team continued to publish pieces online and in tabloid form, the latter being available only for private circulation.
Vaasu asserted that the idea of going online was already discussed in June, 2017, when Gauri was still alive. The Naanu Gauri website was launched in April, 2018. He said that they had initially thought of launching the website on her birthday in January, but couldn’t. However, they celebrated her birthday as a day of resistance and emphasised the plurality of the nation. People close to Gauri and others who identify with and support her work gathered together to discuss what Gauri stood for.
Girish Thalikatte, another journalist in the seven member editorial team, was quick on his feet as he was actively involved in the event premises. He had been working with Gauri since she took charge of the Kannada tabloid. “The aspirations and intentions of the paper remain the same as before,” he said when asked about the tone that the new paper would embody.
Vaasu added that this time, however, they would focus on the youth, as this is what Gauri had planned for the paper. He said that they would focus less on district-wise reports and focus more on issues of the people. The team also plans to extend their online operations and explore different ways to reach the audience.
The team constantly struggled with the RNI to settle on a name for the tabloid. It was at this time that Ashok Murthy, an activist and journalist from Sagara, Karnataka, decided to provide the already registered title of his paper - Nyaya Patha - which was discontinued two years ago. The paper’s ownership would be shifted to the Gauri Media Trust in two month’s time and a formal deliberation would be made on the editor, said Vaasu. The Gauri Media Trust also plans on providing fellowships to journalists in the future.
A news website & a weekly tabloid
Now, Naanu Gauri would continue as a news website that would be updated on a daily basis, along with a print edition for private circulation. Nyaya Pratha, on the other hand, would be a weekly tabloid, explained Vaasu.
Vaasu said that the support from people all over has been massive and overwhelming. “Naanu Gauri has had 104 people contributing in 21 issues of the weekly paper which was started in April this year. In total, we have over 500 writers,” he said.
Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire who was present at the relaunch, said, “Last year when we met under very tragic circumstances, we took an important decision to carry on the work she had started. This becomes very relevant now. In light of recent events, the voices of those who speak against oppression are silenced in every which way.” Varadarajan also emphasised on the challenges that freedom of speech faces in the present socio-political climate addressing the recent arrest of journalists and human rights activists.
Indu Krishna, a documentary filmmaker, was also one of the people who attended the event. Admitting that she did not know Gauri directly, but believed in what the journalist stood for, Krishna emphasised on the freedom of speech and dissent, and how it is being curbed in the country. “The things that Gauri stood for become very relevant in these dangerous times,” she said.
The investigation in to Gauri’s murder has led the Karnataka and Maharashtra police to arrest several suspects related to right-wing Hindu groups and unearth links with past killings of other activists - Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra and M M Kalburgi in Dharwad, Karnataka.
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