"I am Gauri, you are Gauri" chants reverberated in the heart of Bengaluru on Tuesday. More than 20,000 people marched condemning the brutal killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Writers, artists, activists, rationalists, progressive thinkers including seers, journalists, students, political outfits and common citizens from across the country took part in the rally and resistance meeting that followed.
People started gathering by the dozens first near Bengaluru city railway station, slowly and steadily the crowds swelled to hundreds and by 11 AM, close to 10,000 people had gathered at the railway station from where the rally began. Folk artists, student organizations, Dalit organizations, farmers unions, women self-help groups, political outfits like Social Democratic Party of India, Aam Aadmi Party, Welfare Party of India took part in the rally. Some groups did not blink an eye while shouting slogans against the RSS and its ideology, accusing the Sangh of violence in India.
"Anger, sorrow and solidarity bring me here. We all believe that from this horrendous murder, a cohesive resistance will emerge against the politics of majoritarian fascism. Majoritarian fascism can have different forms and colours. I believe that Gauri Lankesh was a victim of majoritarian fascism," said activist Teesta Setalvad. Prominent names like Medha Patkar, Ashish Khetan, Sitaram Yechury, Rakesh Sharma, P Sainath, Swami Agnivesh were part of the rally making it the biggest yet resistance rally and meet over Gauri Lankesh's murder.
"Diversity cannot exist if felled by bullets," said Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) addressing the public meeting post the rally. While the rally saw many politicians cutting across party lines take part, each of them attended in their individual capacity or claimed to. "I am here in solidarity, not as my party's representative. We have a lot of things to do. Fight caste oppression, bring equality to minorities, build a better India," Yechury added.
Protests take an artistic form
Thousands of protestors from across the country accompanied by folk artists repeated lines from revolutionary songs, shouted slogans, displayed art- all to demand justice for Gauri. The rally took on a life of its own with artists beating the drums, carrying flags, placards, huge masks etc. At Bengaluru's Central College grounds where the rally culminated, artists, cartoonists had set up installations condemning the brutal death.
Prabhakar, a young man, walked around dressed all in black, draped in a black satin cloth with a massive cardboard pen atop his head at the ground. He protested the "death of journalism due to hatred" as part of the "I am Gauri" protests. Raghu, another young man, draped in a white cloth, walked the entire stretch of the rally covering his face out of "shame". "I am ashamed that we live in a society where people are murdered over dissent. Everybody should hang their heads in shame," Raghu told media persons.
Special edition of Gauri Lankesh Patrike
"My voice won't be stifled," screamed the headline of Gauri Lankesh Patrike's special edition. The staff released a special edition in memory of Gauri, her work, thoughts and spirit. The rally saw her family and friends sit side by side consoling each other but also assuring each other that the fight will continue. "My Gauri is your Gauri. You are all Gauri," Indra Lankesh, Gauri's mother's choked voice thanked the crowd at Central college grounds.
140 organisations came together to make "I am Gauri" protest a reality under the umbrella front, 'Forum against Gauri Lankesh's assassination'. While leaders of many organisations claimed that the rally was against intolerance and dissent, the sloganeering was directed against the BJP and RSS. The Congress-governed Karnataka witnessed a massive gathering of people to protest against Gauri Lankesh's death.