A week has passed since the killing of senior journalist and editor of Kannada language tabloid Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru. But an eerie silence continues on the otherwise active Twitter handle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Quick to condemn acts of terror (especially in foreign countries), greet people and advertise his government's achievements, Modi's silence on Lankesh's murder has left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fending off allegations- on itself and the Sangh Parivaar- of condoning hatred and giving a free hand to fundamentalists.
Gauri Lankesh was killed by unidentified persons in Bengaluru on September 5. Though a special investigation team (SIT) is yet to make any headway in the case, activists, academicians and political opponents have been quick to point that the senior journalist- a vocal critic of right wing ideology- was silenced by those associated with the Sangh Parivar, a term used to refer to a collection of Hindus Nationalist organisations.
Though the BJP unit in Karnataka was quick to make a non-partisan statement on the Lankesh's death, the silence of Modi made opposition voices grow louder, albeit rhetorically as well.
"I am not saying that pin the blame for the murder right now. But this (protest) is against this totally uncouth, uncivilized violent culture that has been bred by essentially the Sangh and in particular by Mr Modi and Mr Amit Shah," said senior Supreme Court advocate and activist, Prashant Bhushan at the "I am Gauri" protests in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
The inability to control abusive trolls and rewarding hate spewing politicians with cabinet posts is not doing the BJP nor its ideological parent any good. Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) continues to follow 1,778 people on Twitter, many of whom are chronic abusers. Some even making derogatory references to Lankesh.
"He (Modi) believes in freedom of speech and has never blocked or unfollowed anyone on Twitter," Amit Malviya, chief of BJP's IT wing said in a statement. The hate and abuse, conveniently disguised as freedom of speech, is the irony. Freethinkers and rationalists, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and now Lankesh, have been killed (allegedly) for exercising their right to free speech and dissent.
"Who else do you blame for such incidents? All those killed were critics of the RSS and workers of the Sangh celebrated their deaths," Brijesh Kalappa, Congress spokesperson and senior advocate said.
Political analysts say that vague statements, days after such a ghastly incident, can be best termed 'whataboutery' and can do little to quell outrage or change fast cementing perceptions.
"Such killings should have been condemned univocally but what we saw was whataboutery. The fact that 'if' and 'but' along with comparisons are being used to condemn a brutal killing is an indication of polarisation in the country," said Dr Sandeep Shastri, political researcher, and analyst.
Malavika Avinash, Karnataka BJP spokesperson said that her party does not believe in politicisation issues like this. "Politicization of Gauri's death was initiated by the Congress and BJP had no option but to defend itself," she said while adding that it was forced to defend the Sangh after the Congress indulged in RSS/BJP bashing.
Not the first time though as the Sangh, or those associated with it, have been named by protesters and political parties alike after almost every incident of atrocities against Dalits, minorities and mob lynching by self-styled cow vigilantes since Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri (Uttar Pradesh) in September 2015.
The hatred following Gauri's death from right wing supporters, analysts believe, is a dangerous trend. "One must condemn killing no matter what color it is. This (celebration over Gauri's death) is a dangerous kind of polarisation that threatens the very idea of India," said Harish Ramaswamy, Psephologist and professor of political science at Karnatak University.