On the death anniversary of journalist Gauri Lankesh, Amnesty International raised concerns over what it termed as government’s clampdown on freedom of speech and expression asserting that it’s a dangerous time to speak truth to authorities in India. The rights body went on to state that attacks on journalism not only stifle the constitutional rights but also have a silencing effect.
Citing the rights activists’ arrests as an example of the crackdown on free speech, the rights body highlighted the nationwide clampdown on human rights defenders.
“While it is heartening that the investigation into Gauri Lankesh’s murder seems to be progressing, investigations into several other attacks on journalists and whistle-blowers have yielded precious little. It is a dangerous time for anyone who speaks truth to power in India, “Aakar Patel of Amnesty India was quoted by The Indian Express as saying.
Patel, in his strong-worded statement, also cited the Global Impunity Index, wherein Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked India 12th in 2017. The index ranks the country where the murderers of journalists are least likely to be prosecuted.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, between 2014 and 2017 more than 204 attacks against media persons have been registered, Amnesty India said the statement.
Around 14 cases of attacks against whistle-blowers and RTI activists were recorded in 2017 according to National Crime Records Bureau data, apart from that activists say the actual number could be much higher. The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014 has not been operationalised and the Union government has proposed amendments that will dilute the protection provided by the Act, and drastically increase the risks for whistleblowers, the body added.
A year after the Lankesh’s murder, the SIT claims that it has cracked the case and has also unravelled the link between the killings of other rationalists in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
A major breakthrough in the case came when the forensic Gait Analysis by Gujarat FSL confirms that Parashuram Waghmore was the gunman who shot at Gauri.
Another twist in the tale was the arrest of Amol Kale who led the SIT to unravel an unnamed group that wanted to establish a Hindu Rashtra and the members were recruited from various pro-Hindutva outfits. Mastermind in Dhabolkar murder case Dr Virendrasinh Tawde is said to be the brain behind this idea and they decided to eliminate whoever was perceived as a roadblock to the formation of a Hindu Rashtra. Amol Kale was Tawde’s, right-hand man.