If I didn’t speak in Gauri’s memory, my mother would have been ashamed of me: Arundhati Roy

India was not a democracy anymore, said Arundhati Roy, award winning author and activist who delivered the Gauri Lankesh Memorial Lecture in Bengaluru on Monday.

Roy, whose mother had passed away four days ago, said that her mother would have been ashamed if she had not attended this programme.

“I buried my mother three days ago but I had to come for this event because if I didn’t speak in Gauri’s memory, my mother would have been ashamed of me,” she said.

“Gauri used to call me whenever I wrote an article and we used to debate about issues,” she added.

“India has deteriorated so much, that from a country where a minister resigned over a railway accident, people are now benefiting from massacres,” said Roy.

“How is it possible that we live in a country where people go and vote for a person that represents a particular party and the day after tomorrow, that person doesn’t represent that party, and that is legal,” she said.

“What kind of system is this? How is — with what is going on — this country counted as a democracy? It is not a democracy anymore.”

She went on to say: “The question we have to ask ourselves is, what is it that brought us to a situation where people who are oppressed, people who have no employment, people who are suffering deeply, are voting for further hellishness upon themselves? What has brought people to believe propaganda more than the reality of their experience every day in their own homes and their kitchens? Why is it that people who have been oppressed by the caste system for centuries vote for those very people who uphold that system?”

The recorded speech of Teesta Setalvad, who recently got bail from Supreme Court in the Gujarat ‘conspiracy case’, was played at the event.

Setalvad said she believed that Gauri Lankesh would have asked her about the condition of prisoners in the women’s jail where she had been lodged.

“My experience in Sabarmati prison is extremely worrying because I was there from July 2 to September 3, 2022, and I saw the impact of the entire Covid paralysis on access to justice, which had impacted women’s ability to get bail and (led them to) be incarcerated,” she said.

Kavita Lankesh, Gauri’s sister said that if Gauri was alive, she would have been angry and anxious over the violence against Muslims in Shivamogga.

“I wonder how Gauri would have felt about the Bilkis Bano case, in which the accused got bail and celebrated outside the jail,” she added.

“Gauri has not been buried in the ground, but a seed called Gauri has been kept in the soil for the seedling of hope to bloom and that we will all get the spirit to fight back,” said veteran actor Prakash Raj.

Only a public movement will bring change in society, the actor pointed out.

Raj further said a movement is happening against governments, and it is not spearheaded by activists but by the common man including farmers, and women who are fighting to get their rights back through their protests.

Five years ago, on 5 September 2017,  Gauri Lankesh was shot down by two assailants, part of a larger conspiracy to take out anti-Hindutva voices, outside her home in Raja Rajeshwari Nagar in Bengaluru.