I can’t think of a more appropriate way of remembering Praful Bidwai on the third anniversary of his death tomorrow than posting these photos of two utterly fearless, remarkable women, both journalists, both shot by the mafias of their respective ruling establishments: Anna Politkovskaya (1958–2006) and Gauri Lankesh (1962–2017). Amol Kale, the Pune resident who is said to have masterminded the Lankesh murder, is described as a ‘hardcore believer in Hindutva’; but then so is the current Prime Minister of India, thus dissipating the illusion that these killings (like all the other communal atrocities) are the work of a “fringe”. And two months before her death Politkovskaya wrote, ‘Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s deputy chief of staff, explained that there were people who were enemies but whom you could talk sense into, and there were incorrigible enemies who simply needed to be “cleansed” from the political arena. So they are trying to cleanse it [the political arena] of me and others like me’. Sumana Nandy who quit her job at Republic TV in disgust at the way they were spinning the story of Lankesh’s assassination (by blaming the Maoists), wrote on facebook (6 Sept., 2017), ‘A journalist is murdered in cold blood days after receiving death threats from the BJP-RSS cadre. And instead of questioning these murderers, you question the opposition?’
Gauri Lankesh was given the Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2017, posthumously. And everyone who knew him and read him knows that the one feature Praful shared with both women (and with other women journalists like Rana Ayyub) was his own indomitable courage as a journalist and his passion for investigative reporting. (In India eleven journalists were murdered in 2017. That is almost 25% of the total number murdered worldwide last year.)
For a sample of Praful’s own hard-hitting journalism, see http://www.prafulbidwai.org/index.php?post/2010/08/27/A-tightening-noose, as relevant as ever today when SC benches have actually been fixed to make sure the Court fails to order a proper probe into the murder of Justice Loya, the last in a chain of murders that leads back, of course, to the ‘fake encounters’ that Praful discusses in this piece.