The Gauri Lankesh Saga: Erasing the Line between Kannada Literature and Politics

The Gauri Lankesh Saga: Erasing the Line between Kannada Literature and Politics

Read Part 1: The Murder of Gauri Lankesh: Lawlessness in Karnataka

When we trace the roots of Gauri Lankesh’s diehard love for Naxalism and Naxals, the journey takes us back in time to the world of Kannada literature located in the mid-1960s onwards. Known widely as the Navya (New) period (sic), it heralded the toxic phenomenon of erasing the boundary between literature and politics. Here’s an eyewitness account of the era in the words of Dr. S L Bhyrappa who was one of the most high-profile victims of the combined hounding of the Navya hyenas:

…I returned to Mysore in 1971…Back then, the web of the Navyas had spread everywhere. The magazine, “Sakshi,” published from Sagara [near Shimoga] under the banner of “Akshara Prakashana,” was their mouthpiece…students studying M.A. in the university…were aware of the fact that if they wanted their articles to be published in “Sakshi,” they had to praise the works of Gopala Krishna Adiga and U R Ananthamurthy…That magazine was the Church-like mouthpiece in which Gopala Krishna Adiga held monarchial sway over poetry and Ananthamurthy over prose without encroaching on each other’s territory…In this manner, with the financial muscle of the publishing house, the Adiga-Ananthamurthy duo exercised dictatorship over young and upcoming litterateurs. Folks like P. Lankesh who later broke away from them, earlier used to blow the trumpet of that magazine.

[…] …back then, the Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities were politically powerful…when they realized that their unique political identity would be subsumed by these two powerful communities, just as the Harijans began their own Ambedkar movement, they also gave birth to a new branch in Kannada literature named Dalita Sahitya (Dalit Literature) and broke out [of the Navyas]…a mindset developed among them which said that they needed to ignore the works of people from other Jatis. Separately addressing the Lingayat students at the Tiptur College, where Lingayats are powerful, P. Lankesh said, “None of you should buy the books of the Brahmin Bhyrappa. Don’t even read them. What will they contain? Only Brahmin problems!”  

[Dr. S L Bhyrappa: Bhitti. Emphasis added. Translation by Sandeep Balakrishna]

The Legacy of Palyada Lankeshappa

Or P. Lankesh who’s Gauri Lankesh’s father. Incurably indoctrinated at a very early age by a noxious mixture of the worst of Communism and vicious Brahmin-hatred sprinkled over with a garnishing of Lohia-ism, Lankesh abandoned the respectable position as an English lecturer in the Bangalore Central College to start a poisonous Kannada weekly tabloid titled Lankesh Patrike (later run by his son Indrajit).

P. Lankesh. Image Courtesy: Google Image Search

While Lankesh Patrike also holds the distinction of being the first ever Kannada tabloid, its real and wretched distinction is the fact that it singlehandedly inaugurated the precedent of dragging down Kannada journalism and mainstream writing right down to the sewers. For twenty long years, from 1980 to his death in 2000, this obnoxious rag relentlessly purveyed all-round filth week after week, leaving a destructive trail of unprovoked vilification and casteist slander with Brahmin-bashing as the underlying premise and purpose.

Lankesh Patrike also perhaps for the first time obliterated the innate value of restraint and linguistic decency in Kannada journalism, giving such headlines as “The Principal of X College is an Ass.” And that’s about the most decent headline I’m quoting.

Sure enough, all sorts of deplorables woke up to the potential in this virgin tabloid market that Lankesh had tapped into. By the mid-1990s, there was an explosion of tabloids on every street-corner — mainly in Bangalore — each competing with the other to descend deeper into the said sewer. Things reached such a head that tabloids became synonymous with blackmail and extortion journalism, a phenomenon which flourished with impunity and continues to this day although with extremely diminished power: corrupt bureaucrats and cops, planted stories to bring down a politician, glorification of rowdies, salacious calumny against actresses…every societal evil, misdemeanour, or crime was a goldmine for these gutter-miners.

Leading this pack was Lankesh’s former employee-cum-disciple-turned bete noire, Ravi Belagere, editor of Hai Bangalore who not only stole Lankesh’s vile thunder but severely damaged his circulation and business. Indeed, there’s greater motivation, zeal, and ferocity in the race to the abyss. If Lankesh called someone an ass, Ravi Belagere supplied headlines like “X Actress has Laid an Egg Again,” or that Y Actress is a Naati Koli (Country Hen).

But Ravi Belagere is one among the numerous, renowned, vulgar spawns of Lankesh’s degenerate legacy. Prakash Rai (Prakash Raj), a fine actor both on and off screen is another. Small wonder that he turned up at Gauri Lankesh’s funeral proclaiming, “not just Gauri, but all of us are Lankesh’s children,” and that Lankesh’s writings were “therapeutic.” Other names directly or obliquely include the actor Prakash Belawadi, a multi-forked eminence who, depending on the season, flirts with the BJP, gets unfriended by Gauri Lankesh on Facebook, and also simultaneously hates the RSS and related Hindu organizations.

This rather detailed backdrop is essential to understand and pierce apart the veil of cacophonous discourse aimed at awarding martyrdom to Gauri Lankesh.

Gauri Lankesh took over Lankesh Patrike after her father’s death in 2000 at a time when it had irreversibly declined in both circulation and revenue thanks largely to Hai Bangalore and Lankesh’s unceasing travel to attend various defamation suits filed against him across the length and breadth of Karnataka.

Cover Page of Gauri Lankesh Patrike. 

And so, when Gauri Lankesh took over the tabloid, she not only retained its patented anti-Brahmin bile, but radically transformed it into a monster spewing extreme Naxal ideology and unremitting hatred against anything remotely Hindu. Differences began almost immediately when in 2001, a quarrel surfaced between her and her brother Indrajit Lankesh (who handled the business side and was its proprietor and publisher) over the paper’s ideology.

But the exact nature, extent and intensity of these differences exploded in public when she published a report in Lankesh Patrike endorsing and sympathising a Naxal attack against policemen in February 2005. Here’s how the sordid saga unfolded:

Gauri said differences between her and Indrajit have been brewing for the past five yearsMatters reached a head on Sunday when a report on the Naxal attack on policemen, approved by Gauri, was withdrawn by Indrajit. …On Monday, while Indrajit filed a police complaint about a missing computer, printer and scanner, Gauri filed a counter complaint alleging that her brother had threatened her with a revolver..

Eventually, Indrajit threw her out of the tabloid after which she launched her own unvarnished Naxal rag, Gauri Lankesh Patrike. Just as the proof is in the pudding, one only needs to just cursorily peruse the vast corpus of her rag to know the precise nature of her ideology.

Which brings us to further questions: with a paltry circulation and without taking any advertisements, how exactly did she manage to run it week after toxic week? How did she fund her travel, her activism, her forays with Naxals, the whole Naxal-Comrade-seminar circus shows and so on? And this is exactly what the nationwide secular scavengers, now determined to bestow sainthood upon Gauri Lankesh, have hidden. Their confidence that it’ll go unchallenged rests on a notion that the general public is either ignorant or won’t verify their duplicitous claims about her if they drumbeat it loudly, repeatedly, and across platforms and media.

But we get ahead of ourselves.

What we need to examine next is the crucial question of the aforementioned report supporting the Naxalite attack against policemen, which led to her ouster from Lankesh Patrike. The attack, but more importantly, her decision to interview the mastermind of the attack, Comrade Saketh Rajan alias Saki alias Prem opens up an entirely different, deadly chapter.

Concluded in the next part

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