NEW DELHI: A senior Indian journalist was shot dead on Tuesday in the southern city of Bengaluru by unidentified assailants, police said.
The body of Gauri Lankesh, the editor of an Indian weekly newspaper, was found lying in a pool of blood outside her home.
“People in front of her house heard gunshots,” the city’s police commissioner, T Suneel Kumar, told reporters. “We found four empty cartridges from the scene.”
Lankesh was known as a fearless and outspoken journalist. She was a staunch critic of right-wing political ideology. Last year, she was convicted of criminal defamation for one of her articles.
While the motivation for the killing was not immediately clear, political leaders, journalists and activists took to Twitter to express their outrage and denounce intolerance and any threat to free speech.
Karnataka state’s chief minister Siddaramaiah called it an “assassination on democracy”.
In a statement on Tuesday, The Network of Women in Media said, “..we will not be prevented, silenced, outdone or shut down”.
The Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) expressed “deep shock and outrage at the brazen and dastardly killing”. It said the silencing of a journalist in this manner has dangerous portents for Indian democracy. “The IWPC demands that the government apprehend the perpetrators at the earliest and expose those behind this planned murder of a senior woman journalist,” it added.
According to the BBC, Lankesh was known for her secularist criticism of right-wing and Hindu nationalists, including members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
She worked for The Times of India and later ran an independent newspaper, Lankesh Patrike, along with her brother Indrajit for several years. The newspaper had been founded by her father, P Lankesh, a left-wing poet and writer.
Award-winning filmmaker Kavitha Lankesh was her sister.
Her killing follows several assassinations of outspoken secularists or rationalists in recent years, including scholar Malleshappa Kalburgi, anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, and author-politician Govind Pansare.
She was sympathetic to the Naxalites, or Maoist rebels who have been carrying out a bloody insurgency against the government, and was involved in the reintegration of former rebels.
Gauri was convicted of defamation last year for a report she published on local BJP leaders.
She was sentenced to six months in jail and was out on bail and appealing the conviction at the time of her death, the BBC stated.