Gauri Lankesh and 10 other Indian journalists who paid the ultimate price for doing their job

Gauri Lankesh brutal murder underlines how vulnerable journalists are in India

Journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead by unidentified assailants on Tuesday evening at her home in Bengaluru. The 55-year-old scribe came under attack after she stepped out of her car and went to open the gates of her house. Seven bullets were fired on her of which three hit her while four bullets missed the target and hit the wall of her house.

She was one of the most vocal critics of Hindutva and right-wing politics in Karnataka. In November 2016, Gauri was convicted in two cases of criminal defamation filed against a story her magazine published in 2008.

Her death underlines how vulnerable journalists are in India. A report by New York-based non-profit organisation Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in 2016 had ranked India at the 10th spot noting that two journalists were killed for doing their jobs in that year. The report said that since 1992, 40 journalists have been confirmed to have been killed for their work in India, while the motive for the 27 other deaths was not certain. Half of those murdered since 1992 covered politics or corruption, sometimes both. Nearly a quarter of them were reporting on business.

Here are 10 journalists who were killed for doing their job:

1) Rajdeo Ranjan: He was the bureau chief for Hindi daily Hindustan in Siwan and was shot dead on May 13, 2016 by a group of five criminals near the Siwan Railway station. His articles were highly critical of gangster turned politician Shahabuddin. The CBI last month filed a charge sheet against the RJD leader accusing him of criminal conspiracy and murder in the killing of the scribe.

2) Akshay Singh: Singh was an investigative journalist with Aaj Tak channel. He died under mysterious circumstances while reporting on the infamous Vyapam scam. The 36-year-old journalist died shortly after he finished interviewing the parents of a girl who had been found dead near railway tracks after her name figured in the scam.

3) Sandeep Kothari: Kothari was a freelance journalist who was killed for exposing illegal mining and land grabbing in Madhya Pradesh. Kothari had a list of over 19 false accusations on record in various police stations in his home state, including common goat theft and rape, but none of the cases led to his conviction. On June 20, 2015, the perpetrators first abducted Kothari then strangled him, dumped him next to a railroad track and thereafter burned him alive. His autopsy showed he had been alive when he was burned but also lists strangulation as a cause of death. During the investigation, police rounded up three local youth who confessed to have murdered him. They said Kothari was set afire, murdered and buried in the forest area of Maharashtra’s Nagpur district.

4) Jagendra Singh: Kothari was not the only journalist to face the wrath of the mining mafia. Jagendra Singh, another freelance journalist in UP’s Shahjahanpur, was set on fire on June 1, 2015. He wrote about the plight of an Aganwadi worker who had alleged that she had been gang-raped by then UP minister Ram Murti Verma. On June 1, 2015, Singh was set on fire allegedly by cops and goons at his home in Shahjahanpur. The minister was booked for murder, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy following Singh’s death.

5) Hemant Yadav: The 35-year-old journalist working with a local news channel was shot by bike-borne assailants in October 2015 in UP’s Chandauli district. The deceased was reportedly quite active socially and used to take up various causes of locals which could have antagonized someone and may have led to his murder. Police also said that his death could have been a case of revenge.

6) MVN Shankar: Shankar was a senior journalist for the Telugu-language daily Andhra Prabha. He was allegedly targeted by the “oil mafia,”, a common term for criminals who intercept shipments of kerosene oil and gas and thin it down with much cheaper oil. He had written extensively against alleged large scale corruption in the public distribution system. He was attacked by unidentified assailants with iron rods on November 25, 2014, and died a day later.

7) Tarun Kumar Acharya: Acharya, who worked as a stringer for a local Oriya-language TV channel, was found with his throat slit and injuries to his chest in a desolate area of Khallikote town on May 27, 2014 in Odisha. According to a Report in The Hindu, the journalist was in possession of a footage showing child laborers working under hazardous conditions at a cashew processing plant in Khallikote. Police arrested the owner Shyam Sundar Prusty who later confessed to the murder.

8) Sai Reddy: Reddy was a rural scribe who reported on rural topics, as well as on corruption cases. His writings on Naxal violence are known to have angered both the security forces and Maoists. He was attacked by a group of men with sharp edged weapons near a market in Basguda on December 6, 2013. Maoists officially took responsibility more than a month after the Reddy’s murder.

9) Rajesh Mishra: Mishra was attacked by two assailants with iron rods while he was at a tea stall in MP’s Rewa in March 2012. The scribe was writing for a local Hindi language weekly Media Raj. He had written several articles on alleged financial irregularities in local schools. His family members said that he had been threatened during the week leading up to the attack. Police arrested at least four men for carrying out the murder, including Rajneesh Banerjee, who owned the schools. Banerjee was convicted of murder by a court in Rewa and was sentenced to life.

10) Dharmendra Singh: Singh was a journalist with Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar. He was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Bihar’s Rohtas in November 2016. He was standing at a tea stall near his house early in morning when three bike-borne assailants opened  fire at him resulting in his death. His death is attributed to anger his reports had caused in the local stone chips mafia. “He was writing frequently on the illegal stone chips units operated by a powerful local mafia. This could be the motive to bump him off.”  police said.