Following the murder of Gauri Lankesh, the Bengaluru-based senior journalist and activist who was killed by unidentified men at her residence on 5th September 2017, citizens and activists came together to protest unanimously against oppression of dissent. Over 300 supporters gathered at Carter Road Amphitheatre, Bandra, with banners and placards, on September 6, from 6 pm onwards, to ‘fight the good fight’ of freedom of speech and expression.

Shot at point blank, the outspoken journalist, who was left liberal and anti-establishment, ran an article exposing three BJP leaders in her Kannada weekly Lankesh Patrike, last year. Protests in Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune and Mangalore were observed to condemn the oppression of free press.

The supporters at Carter Road demanded justice and were brazenly vocal about the government’s regressive steps. It criticised its rightist ideologies through chants, slogans, speeches and poetry. To support the cause, several independent journalists, opposition party members, activists and artists were present.

Remembering other journalists like M. M. Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, who were also killed for dissidence, actress Shabana Azmi critiqued the move and opined that nothing could be worse than oppressing the voice of truth and dissent. Terrorism shall not shut truth and citizens will not be silenced.

Youngsters who were part of the protest were indicated through a Facebook event. Mumbai based Joshua Thomas (29) and Komal Mohite (28) came to know about the gathering through Facebook. In the light of such subjugation, Mohite who’s pursuing her PhD from JNU said, “State repression is not new. It has happened even in the previous regimes. What is happening under the current regime is even more brazen. They are going after high-profile names and people who are even mildly critical about the current disposition.”

As the crowd increased, police protection was tightened. Bearing protocols in mind, the crowd did not hamper traffic and discipline was maintained to avoid an ugly turn. The aim of activists and journalists, at the gathering, was not to create a sporadic movement but mobilize it further to lend the nation’s press freedom of expression without being subject to taunts and subjugation.

Sharlene Lobo