The murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was an “organised crime” carried out by persons linked to the radical right-wing outfit, Sanatan Sanstha, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka Police stated in a 9,235-page chargesheet naming 18 persons Friday. Sixteen of those named as primary perpetrators have been arrested while two are absconding.
The chargesheet has named Amol Kale, 37, a former Pune convenor of the Sanstha-affiliated Hindu Janajagruti Samiti as the prime accused in the murder plot allegedly executed by Parashuram Waghmare, 26, a member of the Sri Rama Sena. It states that Waghmare was recruited, trained and funded by Kale with the assistance of a secretive group linked to the Sanstha.
“It is an act of organised crime. The Sanatan Sanstha has been named in the chargesheet as the group that carried out the killing with the help of members of other fringe groups. The murder was planned by a group involved in such killings for five years,’’ special public prosecutor S Balan said after the chargesheet was presented to the court of the principal sessions judge in Bengaluru.
“We have sought permission to investigate further,’’ the SIT’s chief investigating officer M N Anucheth said.
The chargesheet filed on Friday is the second in the case after the SIT on May 30 filed a preliminary chargesheet against K T Naveen Kumar, the first suspect who was arrested on March 2. In its first chargesheet, the SIT quoted Kumar as saying that Lankesh was killed for her “anti-Hindu views”. Kumar, 37, a member of the Hindu Yuva Sena, was allegedly told of the murder plot after he attended a convention of the Sanatan Sanstha and HJS in Goa in June 2017.
Eight of the accused in the second chargesheet are from Maharashtra, including four — Shrikant Pangarkar, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanva Gondhalekar and Vasudev Suryavanshi — who were arrested in August by the Maharashtra ATS for alleged links to a right-wing terror plot in the state. The two persons yet to be arrested are Vikas Patil alias Nihal alias Dada and Murali alias Shiva who are accused of supporting the plot to murder Lankesh.
The case against the 18 persons named in the chargesheet is based on forensic findings, including ballistics and DNA evidence, and digital evidence, including CCTV footage and gait analysis. The SIT has obtained confession statements from several of the arrested persons which are valid as evidence under the Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act, 2000.
The second chargesheet was filed on Friday since the mandated 180 day period for filing the chargesheet against four persons arrested on May 31 by the SIT — Amol Kale, Amit Degwekar, Manohar Edave and Sujeet Kumar — is set to lapse on November 30, the SPP Balan said.
Lankesh was killed on the evening of September 5, 2017 by Waghmare who fired four bullets at her while she was opening the gate to her home to park her car after returning from work, the SIT has said.
In its preliminary chargesheet, the SIT enclosed a ballistics report from the Karnataka Forensic Science Laboratory stating that Lankesh was killed with the same 7.65 mm country-made gun that was used to kill the Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwad in Karnataka on August 30, 2015.
Forensic analysis conducted in 2015 by the Karnataka FSL of bullets and cartridges in the Kalburgi case, with those recovered from the scene of the shooting of the Leftist thinker Govind Pansare, 81, and his wife in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015, showed that one of two 7.65 mm country-made guns was used in both cases.
The ballistics report says that the second 7.65 mm gun used in the Pansare murder was used to kill the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, in Pune on August 20, 2013.