Five persons linked to the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha organisation, including four with Interpol red-corner notices against their names for their alleged involvement in a bomb blast in Madgaon in Goa in 2009, have emerged as key suspects in the murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bengaluru on September 5.
The five missing persons are: Praveen Limkar, 34, from Kolhapur; Jayaprakash alias Anna, 45, from Mangalore; Sarang Akolkar, 38, from Pune; Rudra Patil, 37, from Sangli and Vinay Pawar, 32, from Satara.
They are among the key suspects being investigated by a Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka police as part of its probe into the murder of Lankesh.
The names of Rudra Patil, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar had earlier emerged in the CBI investigation into the August 20, 2013 murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, at Kolhapur in Maharashtra; in the Maharashtra SIT’s probe into the February 16, 2015 shooting of leftist thinker and rationalist Govind Pansare, 81 in Pune; and in the probe into the August 30, 2015 murder of Kannada scholar and researcher M M Kalburgi, 77, in Dharwad, Karnataka. Hundreds from Lankesh’s home state march in capital for slain journalist
Limkar, Anna, Akolkar and Patil are also suspected to have played a major role in the October 19, 2009 bomb blast in Madgaon where two Sanatan Sanstha men were killed while transporting an IED that was to be planted at a Diwali program in Madgaon. The National Investigation Agency has listed these four men linked to the Sanstha among its most wanted suspects and a red-corner notice has been issued against their names by the Interpol.
Sources familiar with the investigation into the four murders of rationalists and activists said that the cracking of the Gauri Lankesh murder case hinges on the ability of the Karnataka SIT to track down the five missing Sanstha men. Gauri Lankesh to posthumously get Anna Politkovskaya Award
An advocate of the Sanatan Sanstha Sanjay Punalekar, at a recent press conference, claimed that some of its members may be absconding from the law because they were afraid of being wrongly accused in cases.
As first reported by The Indian Express, a forensic analysis of four empty cartridges and the four bullets fired to kill Lankesh had concluded that markings on the bullets and cartridges bear a close resemblance to those found on bullets and cartridges fired to kill Kalburgi. This confirmed preliminary findings suggesting that Lankesh and scholar Kalburgi were probably shot with the same 7.65-mm pistol. The ballistic finding suggests that one common group is behind the two killings, say sources.
Findings from a comparison of the ballistic evidence from the Lankesh and Kalburgi cases adds to existing forensic evidence from the shooting of Pansare where the same 7.65-mm countrymade gun used in the Kalburgi murder was found to have been used.
Govind Pansare and his wife Uma Pansare were shot with five bullets from two 7.65-mm country made guns. A comparison of the ballistic evidence found in the Pansare case with that of evidence in the shooting of Dabholkar revealed that a second gun used to shoot the Pansares was the one that was used to kill Dabholkar.
Sources in the Karnataka SIT probing the Lankesh case said “good progress” has been achieved in the probe. Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy also said this week that the SIT has conclusive evidence regarding the alleged perpetrators of Lankesh’s murder.