A murder on September 5th captured the attention of an entire nation. Gauri Lankesh, a lifelong journalist and activist, was shot outside her home by unidentified men before speeding away. In an orgy of media outpour, camps emerged, between those shocked at her violent end and those that celebrated it as the deserved demise of a vocal critic of the central government and it’s most fundamental ideals.
Gauri Lankesh was an unapologetic critic of the right-wing policies of the Modi government and the tenets of ‘Hindutva’ they embraced. She has repeatedly denounced Hinduism, for both it’s treatment of lower castes and women. She shed light on the vast propaganda machine run by the central government, pointing out it’s numerous untruths and distorted facts. The thuggery and intimidation followed by the Right-Wing was anathema to her (and many’s) idea of India, when the opposition is silenced, critics questioned on their patriotism and intellectual individuality suppressed. A fierce proponent of freedom of the press, she has nevertheless become one of those the Right Wing contemptuously deride as ‘Presstitutes’ , implying that only money and hidden interests promote her agenda.
These are the same tactics that has served some of the most famous ‘Nationalists’ of the 20th century. In the 1930’s, the National Socialist Party of Germany, universally known as the Nazi Party clamped down on individual freedoms of expression and the press’s ability to report news in the outlook they desired. The purpose of the press was to support the governments in charge, not challenge them. The big fly in their bonnet was Fritz Gerlich, editor of the ‘Munich Latest News’, who became a vocal critic of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. Gerlich, like Lankesh, advocated for the freedom of the press in a time of censorship, defying official government policies regarding the liberties of the media. Gerlich infuriated Hitler with constantly reviling Nazi tactics and flawed ideology, leading to his imprisonment at Dachau concentration camp and eventual execution in 1934.
There are many differences between the demise of Fritz Gerlich and Gauri Lankesh. While Gerlich was murdered by the government, in a prison cell, awaiting a trial that never came, Gauri was shot in her home by, for now, unidentified killers. While conspiracy theorists and BJP-detractors are quick to denounce the National Government, there is no actual evidence (as of yet) to suggest that the Central Government had anything to do with it. It’s far more plausible that some members of the political spectrum of Right Wing supporters went rogue and decided to eliminate this noisy critic of their specious logic and misinterpreted notion of our country.
Gerlich once gave a rousing editorial in his paper ‘Munich Latest News’ , drawing the ire of the Nazi Party, where he called upon the common people of Germany to reject the policy of hate. He sincerely believed in the goodness of humanity, and the principles of modern civilisation, in which criticism should not only be tolerated, but encouraged. For how can a person, an idea or a government become better than by continually trying to address shortcomings? Progress cannot occur with the notion that blind faith in one’s government is a measure of unity, nor is it a sign of a population’s ‘patriotism’.
For the one thing required of any successful Nation is criticism, not dogmatic faith. It is the suppression of the ability to criticise and denounce that has left many countries behind in the evolution of natural human rights. Almost all Muslim-majority countries have specific provisions prohibiting the criticism of theology, the Shariah and the Prophet Mohammed. This has resulted in the denigration of human rights and liberties in these countries, a jurisprudence rooted in the 6th century and the practice of punishments deemed barbaric the world over. It is extraordinarily ironic how the Right Wing brigade in India has jumped on this same bandwagon of thought, given their antipathy of Islam. Any thought of either disparaging or belittling the government or it’s policies have become ‘anti-national’, the proponents of such ‘pseudo-liberals’, ‘libtards’ and the media who help them monikered ‘presstitues’.
These dubiously clever witticisms aside, they expose a fundamental, childish truth of the Indian Right Wing i.e. you’re either with them or against them. Such a binary depiction to the complexities of a modern democracy only serves to create an ‘enemy within’, without whom the country would be more powerful and able to take on it’s ‘external foes’. You might be forgiven for wondering why there must be a foreign threat, but every Right Wing Government emphasises (or even creates) an ominous adversary, who, without them in charge to put the country right, will only destroy our society.
Before they do that however, their society must be cleansed of those secretly wanting it’s demise. Just as communists in Russia jailed and murdered ‘counter revolutionaries’ do Right Wing fanatics wish for those who don’t share their same view of the Nation. Unity is strength and homogenous perspectives are a precursor to this ideal of the perfect Nationalist population. Distinctions are meant to be eroded and individuality sacrificed upon the altar of patriotism. Those unaffected by the distinctions are encouraged to remain apathetic, for fear that they might well be next on the list of all right minded nationalists. As Martin Niemoller so eloquently elucidated during the dark era of Nazi rule :
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out
The jubilant celebrations of our Right Wing proponents as expressed on Twitter & social media encapsulate the feeling of intolerance currently afloat. Gauri Lankesh was pilloried as a communist, an anti-national who deserved her fate. Within hours of her demise, articles spread online about her Naxal ‘sympathies’, her ties to noted ‘anti-nationals’ like Kanhaiya Kumar and the slanderous nature of those who would point the accusatory finger at the Right for her murder.
Above everything else, the numerous justifications by her own peers and professionals disturbingly concluded that there were many who agreed with the actions of the vile cowards who gunned her down as she got home that fateful night. She had dared to take on the country’s patriots and got exactly what she deserved. Other journalists should take note, along with the ‘libtards’ and ‘pseudo-intellectuals’. They threaten to establish this as the new norm, as a misguided notion of patriotism envelops the ‘nationalists’ leading them to believe that any rabble-rouser must be silenced. There is power in submissive unity, and it’s a dark one at that.
The rest of the country has been jolted and it has everything to do with the future. When murderers are openly celebrated and victims are often derided as having ‘deserved it’, the moral fabric of the country is fraying at it’s edges. While it is a long journey from here to the total subjugation of the population in accordance with the wishes of the political few, this has been a wake up call to those who realise that they indeed may be next if they continue to defy, decry and denounce the policies at the centre. While many may be subdued into silence, and others into apathy, it is worth remembering the words of Fritz Gerlich, who wrote in his fatal editorial : ‘The worst thing we can do, the absolute worst, is to do nothing.’