A special investigation team of the Karnataka Police is within striking distance of those involved in the September 5 killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh and the results of their investigation will be evident later this month, Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said here on Saturday. Reiterating that the team had identified the persons involved in the murder, he said further details would be revealed within a couple of weeks.
“Unlike in the murder cases of (Narendra) Dabholkar and (Govind) Pansare (in Maharashtra), the SIT has definite clues and knows the identities of the people behind the murder of Gauri Lankesh. Their identities will be revealed this month,’’ said Reddy.
Sources in the SIT confirmed that they had been able to identify key components of the case, and the individuals engaged for these tasks. As many as four persons have been identified and some technical data is awaited to clear all doubts, sources said.
Lankesh, 55, was shot dead outside her home in west Bengaluru on the evening of September 5, after she returned home from work. A CCTV camera in her front yard captured the killing.
The SIT has found that Lankesh’s killers studied her home and activities not just on the day of the murder, but also a few weeks prior to it.
Based on accounts of people who saw the suspects in the weeks before the killing, and using technical data like CCTV footage from the area, the SIT last month released some portraits of persons suspected to be involved in the killing and its conspiracy.
The SIT is of the view that those who shot Lankesh came to Bengaluru from another state, and returned after the murder. It has also been investigating the possibility that the killers were provided local assistance for their operations in Bengaluru.
The SIT has been trying to find the source of the 7.65 mm countrymade pistol and ammunition used to kill Lankesh. The SIT, with the help of police in Vijayapura district of Karnataka, carried out an extensive survey of the illegal arms racket in the region, on the basis of information that material for the murder was sourced from Vijayapura. This investigation provided some important leads, said sources.
Over the last month, the Vijayapura police have arrested 12 persons involved in the illegal gun market, and seized 20 countrymade weapons and 49 rounds of ammunition, even as the SIT has been trying to find the suppliers from whom Lankesh’s killers sourced their weaponry.
A key finding in the SIT’s investigation has been the forensic evidence that the 7.65 mm countrymade gun used to kill the journalist-activist was the same one used to kill Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwad on August 30, 2015. The finding has led to the theory that Lankesh and Kalburgi were killed by the same set of people.
With the analysis of bullets and cartridges in the Karnataka murders matching with the analysis of bullets and cartridges in the Maharashtra murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in 2013 and leftist thinker Govind Pansare in 2015, investigators feel the same group is involved in all the four shootings that have occurred since 2013.
Following investigations into Dabholkar’s murder, the CBI named an activist of the right wing Sanatan Sanstha outfit, Dr Virendrasingh Tawde, as a key conspirator and two missing members of the outfit, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, as the suspected shooters.