It was bad, but never as bad as it is today. Imagine a secular and democratic nation hounding, threatening, bullying, and silencing with guns its precious and courageous voices of reason and dissent. The murder of the brave and fiery journalist Gauri Lankesh in the state capital of Kerala in India is chilling and stokes worries about the future of South Asian democracies where extremism and intolerance are on an unprecedented rise.
It is not for the first time that a rationalist has been murdered in India. Gauri Lankesh, an ardent advocate of communal harmony, was just another name in a chilling continuation of a series of unsolved murders and the eerie similarity of her murder with that of Kalburgi, Pansare, and Dabholkar pointing towards a deeper scarier design.
But, it is not just the Indian democracy that is under threat; the murder of the critics of the state is fast becoming a reproachable feature of South Asia.
Can you imagine the consequences of a state becoming a predator instead of being a protector? The trend is upsetting.
According to a report released by The International Federation of Journalists, Afghanistan has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, bloggers, and media workers.
In Pakistan, where 34 journalists have been murdered since March 2008, the mob lynching of a journalism student on unfounded allegations of blasphemous blog-writing and the grisly murder of K. Zaki, who spent years denouncing Islamic extremists, have shown that the situation is deteriorating very fast.
Similarly, blogger Y. Rasheed was brutally murdered in Maldives some time ago.
In Bangladesh, 5 secular bloggers (like Avijit Roy) were murdered in the year 2015 alone by Islamic extremists – and all for their writings!
Likewise, ever since the Modi led BJP government stormed to power in 2014, India has slipped 3 places on the World Press Freedom Index. With 142 attacks on journalists, the last 2 years have proved to be deadly for free speech in India that is now one of the 3 most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.
The spontaneous protests swelling day by day in these dark times are a ray of hope. “I am Gauri” protest rallies in which thousands took part to challenge the right wing by saying “Kill Me!” has shown to the world that the battle is tough but not lost!