Bengaluru, Sep 6: Senior Kannada journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, known for her left-leaning outlook and forthright views against Hindutva politics, was shot dead by unidentified assailants at her residence here today, police said.
Gauri, aged 55, had returned home in her car and was opening the gate when motorcycle-borne assailants fired at her indiscriminately with two bullets hitting her in the chest and one on her forehead, police officials said.
She died instantaneously.
Four bullets hit the compound wall of her building in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, the officials said.
Gauri edited Kannada tabloid 'Gauri Lankesh Patrike' besides owning some other publications, and was known for her forthright views against hardline Hindutva politics.
Bengaluru police commissioner T Sunil Kumar, along with senior police officers, rushed to the spot and officials said it was not immediately known who carried out the attack and the motive behind it.
Police suspected that she was under surveillance of the assailants who must have trailed her closely.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah termed her death shocking.
The chief minister said three police teams have been constituted to probe the killing. Instructions have been issued to crack the case and bring the culprits to book at the earliest, he said.
He said recently Gauri had been instrumental in bringing Naxalites into the mainstream and they had surrendered.
"It's shocking news for me. No one who has faith in humanity will ever kill anyone. Gauri Lankesh was secular and helped government bring the Naxals back to the mainstream," said Siddaramaiah.
He wondered why Gauri didn't tell the government about the threat to her life though she had met him many times.
Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy drew parallels between the gunning down of Gauri and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and M M Kalburgi, allegedly by fringe Hindu groups. Dabholkar was shot dead in August 2013, while Kalburgi was gunned down in August 2015.
"Who is behind the incident, is it the Naxals or any other ideological fringe parties were behind the incident will be known only after investigation. It is very premature to hold anybody responsible for the incident," Reddy said.
Siddaramaiah also said he has asked police to get in touch with their Maharashtra counterparts probing the murder of Dabholkar.
Police have cordoned off the area around her house.
Senior police officials, including Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) M N Anucheth, rushed to the spot to supervise investigation.
Karnataka police chief R K Dutta said Gauri had not voiced apprehension about any threat to her life during a couple of meetings he had with her.
Asked about who could be the possible suspects in the killing, the officer refused to hazard any guess, saying "let the investigation proceed first."
"I do not know how to react. The assailants should be brought to the book. The case should be handed over to CBI," Gauri's brother Indrajit Lankesh said.
In a statement, RSS state unit expressed deep sorrow over the "heinous" murder of Gauri. "RSS appeals to the state government to act soon on the criminals responsible and bring them to the book," it said.
Veteran BJP Leader K S Eshwarappa rapped the Siddaramaiah government for "failing" to protect the lives of people, including those of noted writers like Kalburgi and Gauri.
Gauri was last year convicted in a defamation case filed by BJP MP Prahlad Joshi over a report published in her tabloid against some saffron party leaders.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore took to Twitter to denounce the incident.
"Terrible news from Bengaluru about the heinous murder of Gauri Lankesh. I condemn all acts of violence against journalists," he said.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said "truth cannot be silenced" and demanded that the culprits be tracked down and punished.
"The truth will never be silenced. Gauri Lankesh lives on in our hearts. My condolences &love to her family. The culprits have to be punished," his office said in a twitter post.
BJP national general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said, "The murder of #GauriLankesh is condemnable outright. Onus is on Sh.Siddaramaiah to ensure proper investigation."
"If it is BJP ruled state, Liberals would have cried for emergency, Intolerance, Fascism," tweeted National Conference leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.