A democracy can survive and emerge stronger only if it learns to get along with differing ideologies in a symbiotic relationship where ideologies, too, understand the importance of coexistence, be it rightist, leftist or centrist or so on. That brings accountability in a system driven by people while a continued streak of an ideology and its dominance, on the other hand, is detrimental for a democratic set-up.
And that is why everyone must come forward to denounce the dastardly act of gruesome killing of Gauri Lankesh, a senior journalist who epitomized what journalism was conceived as and what it means – a pillar of democracy and thus our societies.
Journalism is meant to give voice to the millions of silent majority in a country like India; journalism is expected to be an effective check in the wheels of development in a democratic society like ours; and journalism is designed to be a tool to spread not just information but also ideas in a developing economic like ours where the majority is still quality illiterate and under developed.
So, a journalist can be a news gatherer, an information disseminator, an activist or a crusader. It all depends on interplay of circumstances and yes, personal choices. And the ideological environment that he or she dwells in plays a central role in this shaping up of role (and opinion).
Gauri Lankesh, who never accepted government advertisements for her eponymous periodical to maintain her independence, was a fearless journalist who would speak her mind, right or wrong we may go on debating. But she was busy doing the kind of journalism that journalism expected her to do….something that we can say cause based journalism…irrespective of her personal inclinations.
If she was killed for that, we should see this as an ominous sign for the health of our democracy, the signs that have been here for long – with killing of journalists, rationalists, activists and whistleblowers like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi Satyendra Dubey and S Manjunath and so on. The list is long.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 27 journalists have been killed in India in the line of duty in last 25 years. Half of them were working on corruption stories. And no one has been convicted in any of these killings.
The annual report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is even more disturbing. It presents more comprehensive data according to which between 1990 to 2016, 101 journalists and mediapersons were killed in India. Globally, 122 journalists were killed in 2016 including five in India. In 2017 so far, 25 journalists have been killed including Gauri Lankesh in India.
And the conviction rate has been nil or abysmally low, organizations like the Press Council of India and the Press Freedom have said in their detailed reports. The Press Council of India, in fact, has demanded that the government should enact a new law to ensure safety of journalists.
Yes, we have a robustly functional democracy that is surviving well for the past seven decades but it has its own inherent flaws that have put shackles in its stride to become a stronger, mature and model democracy like America, most of the European countries and other western nations are.
They could travel to achieve so much because they learnt to develop an ecosystem where different ideologies coexisted and thrived, something where we have been failing. And Gauri Lankesh’s murder, like every other such case, reminds us again that we are still suspended in that mode.
Being a rightist or a leftist or centrist is not an issue. Every ideology has its good and bad elements and followers. The question is of balance and interplay of ideologies in a democratic set-up that ensures accountability in every level of administration and governance.
The countries that progressed to become model democratic states saw healthy development of economy and society because ideologies respected each other when it came to change of guard. Something that in turn ensured accountability and thus their growth and development, minimizing democratic flaws and autocratic features like corruption, nepotism, one-party rule, opaque systems, administrative apathy and so on.