By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Indian Church leaders have condemned the killing of one of India’s leading journalists and activists who publicly criticized what she saw as the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the mainly Hindu nation.
Gauri Lankesh, a senior editor at the weekly tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was reportedly shot dead this week by three unidentified assailants outside her home in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar area of the southwestern city of Bangalore. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the murder, but it followed a series of attacks by Hindu militants against Christians and critics of hardline Hindu nationalism, or ‘Hindutva.’
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KRCBC) and Karnataka United Christian Forum for Human Rights (KUCFHR) suggested in statements that she was murdered for standing up for the voiceless, including Christians and other minorities.
Gauri, the eldest daughter of the well-known Kannada poet-turned-journalist P Lankesh, had signed a petition against the detention of seven Christians who have been languishing in jail since 2008 on suspicion of murdering a Hindu leader – whose death sparked the worst anti-Christian violence in India’s history.
The detained Christians Bijay Kumar Sanseth, Durjo Sunamajhi, Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Budhadeb Nayak, Munda Badamajhi, Sanatan Badamajhi and Chalanseth, six of whom are illiterate, continue to maintain their innocence. Some 100 Christians were killed and 300 churches and 6,000 Christian homes damaged in the Kandhamal district of the eastern state of Odisha, following the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008.
Lankesh, known for investigating these and other cases, believed in secular principles and wanted to bring oppressed groups to the mainstream, according to Christians familiar with her thinking. “She was a person brave and courageous, ready to express her views regarding the social situations,” said Bangalore Archbishop Bernard Moras. “She wrote convincingly risking her life for the truth she held as proper and just.”
He added that she joins others killed for their views, including renowned scholar M.M. Kalburgi, who was reportedly shot dead by two bikers outside Bangalore and whose killing has remained unsolved.
Church leaders and activists have urged the government to prosecute those responsible for her death and end what they view as a “culture of impunity” that has seen the murders of other journalists and activists such as M.M Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
The killing of Lankesh was expected to increase concerns among devoted Christians publicly expressing their faith in areas with influential Hindu groups.
However earlier this year six Protestant pastors, who were reportedly detained for holding house prayer in a northern Indian village, thanked God for the opportunity to speak about their faith in Jesus Christ behind bars.
“We got a rare opportunity to witness Christ among jail inmates,” said Pastor Bala Lakhandar, one of the pastors who was released on bail on May 20 after nine days in prison, in published remarks.
The Mattersindia.com website said Pastors Chandan, Mangaleswar Prasad, Ram Hari, Nand Lall, Ranjeet Prasad and Bala Lakhandar were detained on May 10 from the house of a believer at Salempur, a village in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh state while attending a healing prayer session.
Christians comprise just over 2 percent of India’s roughly 1.3 billion mainly Hindu population, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).