On the evening of 5 September, Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist who edited and published a self-titled weekly, the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was murdered outside her residence in Bengaluru. Lankesh was known for her criticism of the Hindutva politics in Karnataka through her activism and editorials, as well as her reporting on the dubious practices of powerful businesses and organisations in the state. Shortly after the news of Lankesh’s murder broke, many in the media began to note the similarity between her assassination and those of three noted rationalists—Narendra Dhabolkar in 2013; and Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi, in 2015. Dhabolkar was shot dead during a morning walk in Pune. Pansare, a member of the Communist Party of India, was shot near his residence in Kolhapur, and the writer Kalburgi was gunned down inside his home in Dharwad.
On 7 September, Kedar Nagarajan, a web reporter at The Caravan, met Narendra Nayak, the president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Association—an apex body of rationalist organisations that promote scientific approaches and rational thought. Nayak worked closely with Kalburgi, Dhabolkar and Lankesh. During their conversations, which continued over the phone, Nayak spoke of his work with Lankesh, which included the pursuit for a resolution in the case of Vinayak Baliga, a right-to-information activist who was hacked to death near his house in Kodialbail in March 2016. He also discussed his views on the reasons behind the assassinations of rationalists and dissenters in the state of Karnataka, and across the country.
Kedar Nagarajan: When did you first meet Gauri Lankesh? Could you describe the work you did with her?