Union minister Nitin Gadkari has sharply rejected what he called Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s “baseless allegations,” asserting that the BJP or groups affiliated to it “have nothing to do” with the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Ms Lankesh, 55, known for her Leftist views and anti-establishment writing, was shot dead at the doorstep of her Bengaluru home last evening.
Rahul Gandhi has made a scathing attack on the BJP, accusing it of smothering dissent. “Anybody who speaks against the RSS/BJP is attacked & even killed. They want to impose only one ideology which is against the nature of India,” Rahul Gandhi has tweeted, also attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he said, “Sometimes the PM speaks under pressure but the entire idea is to crush dissent and this is resulting in a very serious problem in India.”
“The allegations are baseless and false. We have nothing to do with the Gauri Lankesh incident…the BJP’s, the central government or any of our organisations have no relation to this incident… we condemn this,” Mr Gadkari said.
He said Mr Gandhi’s comments against PM Modi were “unfortunate. PM is not of any party, he is PM of the nation.” The minister also said it is the responsibility of the Congress government in Karnataka to ensure law and order.
MG Vaidya of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological mentor said the murder was a “hateful and condemnable deed” and the killers “should be hanged.”
“This is my stand. If someone argues or puts up an arguement…the same should be an answer…killing someone for putting up their views will not be acceptable to any true Hindutva organisation,” Mr Vaidya said.
The union home ministry has sought a report from the Karnataka government on Ms Lankesh’s death.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah announced today that a special team headed by a top officer would investigate Gauri Lankesh’s murder and said “all rationalists and progressive thinkers in the state will be provided protection.”
The Chief Minister has been criticised for the state police’s handling of the murder two years ago of rationalist and scholar MM Kalburgi, who too was shot dead at his home. No arrests have been made in the case and Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra said today that links between Mr Kalburgi’s murder and that of Ms Lankesh “cannot be ruled out.”
Both Mr Gandhi and his mother and Congress president Sonia Gandhi said they had spoken to the Karnataka Chief Minister and urged him to act swiftly to apprehend Gauri Lankesh’s killers.
“The series of killings of rationalists, free thinkers and journalists in the country has created an atmosphere that dissent, ideological differences and divergence of views can endanger our lives. This cannot be and should not be tolerated,” Sonia Gandhi said.
Ms Lankesh, who ran a weekly Kannada paper, wrote in support of rehabilitating Naxals and against divisive politics and the need for communal harmony. She was found guilty last year of defamation in a case involving BJP lawmaker Prahlad Joshi and had been sentenced to six months in jail. She was out on bail.