Five days after Gauri Visarjan and on the day of Ganesh Visarjan, 5 September 2017, another visarjan took place. Gauri Lankesh, the firebrand, left-leaning, editor of the independent weekly Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was shot in the head and chest by assailants who killed her when she got out of her car and entered her house compound. This was an immersion in blood, one of many such immersions that have been happening around India in a wave of communal repression of free speech and informed dissent.
In Indian mythology, Gauri, the avatar of Parvati, embodies motherhood, prosperity, and well-being. But Parvati was also the one who stood up to Shiva when he killed her son who refused him entrance to the house, and her anger and wrath made a god cower and make amends for his arrogance.
Gauri Lankesh was a free-thinking liberal who was clearly anti-establishment and proud of it; her life and writings were a challenge to governments who, in India, have been long accustomed to riding rough-shod over the people in their feudal power games. She stood for the freedom that this country’s founders fought for, and she reminds us that in life, as well as in death, the struggle for that freedom must never stop.
The freedom to think, the freedom to eat what I choose, the freedom to express my opinions clearly and without malice, the freedom to believe: as long as these freedoms do not compromise another person’s life and freedom, they are values that must never be stifled.
In the current situation that India faces, we each have to ask ourselves the question that Gauri Lankesh probably answered a long time back: Is the struggle for freedom worth my life?
Whatever the answer might be, in Gauri Lankesh’s murder we are reminded that freedom never comes easily, and it always requires struggle and vigilance to preserve. The more voices raised for freedom, the more people standing together in solidarity, the more social anger and protests after such brutal murders, the better. In the spiral of violence, there is the ultimate hope of peace and true freedom; till then, we are all part of the struggle.
Gauri Lankesh’s death was a brutal shock. Let it not end there. Let it be the spark to keep the revolution for India’s freedom strong and committed.