SHILLONG, Sep 07: Freedom – the power or right to act, think and speak against political oppression and religious fanaticism was the call of hundreds of people who paid tribute at the candle light vigil and signature campaign held in honor of late senior Kannada journalist, Gauri Lankesh in Shillong on Thursday.
The attempt to silence the free thinkers by adopting violent measures has only added volume to the voices screaming out for the right to freedom of expression as many vented out their dismay over the series of attacks on journalist - the latest being Gauri’s murder in Bengaluru.
Gauri Lankesh, a critic of Hindu extremism, was shot dead at her house in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening.
Journalists, members of civil society, NGO’s and the public gathered at Police Bazaar or Khyndailad junction and lit candles in solidarity to the victim of what many have termed as political oppression and religious fanaticism.
Stating that the murder only shows that there is an attempt made to curtail freedom of speech and expression, the president of the Meghalaya Electronic Media Association (MEMA), Kyrmen Uriah said, “I urge the media fraternity not to back down from issues relating to corruption or freedom of expression and go all out to expose the ugly truth”.
Meanwhile, MEMA also voiced its concern about the growing violence against journalists. Uriah said that criminal intimidation of journalists and preventing them from performing their duties were violations of the freedoms enshrined in and guaranteed by the Constitution.
“We reiterate our demand for the implementing of the Risk Insurance Scheme for working journalist in the state of Meghalaya,” said Uriah.
Thma U Rangli Juki (TUR) member Tarun Bhatia said, “Attack on free press in the country has been there in all regimes through various methods, but under the new regime it is much more ideological and people are paying through their lives”.
Pointing out that Gauri Lanksh was a voice of reason and rationality in Kanadiga and that she was opposed to religious superstition, caste oppression, Bhatia said, “If you are not critical of the regime nothing is going to happen but if you are critical this is what happens”.
“We have the right to be critical,” he added.
“She was killed for what she was saying and we should not confine our thoughts to the murder of a journalist only but also listen to what she was saying that cost her live,” Bhatia added.
“It is very sad that while the rest of India looks and says that the country is progressing while the fact is that we are regressing if we cannot allow our fellow Indians to express their opinions, especially a journalist as enshrined in the constitution and as granted by their rights,” another participant in the candle light vigil said.
“If a journalist in this country who is the voice of the people cannot live a free life to practice and write what he believes, what about the citizens?” he questioned.
“Free India needs freedom of speech,” he stressed.