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Newspost

September 13, 2017

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Shrinking space

Shrinking space

Gauri Lankesh, a well-known critic of growing violence by Hindu fundamentalists, was shot dead outside her home on September 05 in Bangalore, India. She had been receiving threats from extremist groups since the election of a right-wing government in 2014. In big cities and small towns across India, thousands of people are protesting the murder of a gutsy woman who fought for the rights of the marginalised communites in India. She called Dalit victims her sons.She courageously protested injustice and venal politics in the face of death threats. Lankesh was the recipient of endless hate mail from Hindu extremists. She was vilified on two fronts. She dared to take on the powerful Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), currently ruling most of India. She criticised them and their cohorts for attacking minority groups and creating a culture that enabled lynching, mob violence and hate crimes. She also defended Dalit rights, provoking the ire of many dominant-caste Indians across the political spectrum.

The killing of Lankesh has not only highlighted the shrinking space for free speech, but also the increasing threats that journalists in India face today. Ironically, as popular as the BJP is, its religiously-inflected brand of nationalism has raised concerns about government-backed sectarianism and low tolerance for dissent. Moreover, India encodes freedom of expression as a constitutional right under Article 19, though it is a heavily qualified prerogative. Laws classified in the constitution as ‘reasonable restrictions’ to freedom of expression are numerous, broad in scope, and, according to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report, ‘prone to misuse.’

Afia Ambreen (Rawalpindi)

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