During his training in the usage of guns under the tutelage of members of a radical Hindutva group in a forest near Belgaum on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border, 26-year-old Parashuram Waghmare, who is accused of shooting journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017, was told by at least one person to “shoot in the head’’ like they had done while shooting Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi.
The revelation by Waghmare, the alleged shooter in the Lankesh case, has provided the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Karnataka police an inkling that at least one of the persons involved in training Waghmare was also involved in the unsolved murder of Kalburgi on August 30, 2015.
The finding that some of Waghmare’s trainers were directly involved in the Kalburgi murder adds to forensic findings that a common group of assassins was involved in the two shootings.
A report from the Karnataka state forensic science laboratory of the analysis of ballistic evidence in the two cases — presented with a preliminary chargesheet filed by the SIT on May 30 in the Lankesh case — states that Kalburgi and Lankesh were killed with the exact same 7.65 mm country-made gun.
Kalburgi was killed at the doorstep of his Dharwad home by an unidentified gunman, who shot him in the head at almost point blank range after his wife opened the door to a stranger seeking to meet the scholar.
Lankesh was killed after four bullets were fired at her by a gunman while she was opening the gate to her home after returning from work on the evening of September 5, 2017. The SIT has identified Waghmare as the man who arrived wearing a helmet to shoot the journalist while his accomplice, identified as Ganesh Miskin, 27, waited on a motorcycle a few yards away.
The SIT probe has found that Waghmare trained in the usage of firearms with Miskin, who hails from Hubbali. The others allegedly involved in the training were Rajesh Bangera, 50, a government employee and owner of two licensed pistols, who served as the main arms trainer for youths recruited by the Hindutva group, and Amol Kale, 37, a former Pune coordinator of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti who led the operations of the secret group.
SIT sources said that Waghmare revealed during questioning that he was told during his training to “shoot in the head” as it was done in the Kalburgi murder to ensure a clean hit.
In remand applications since the arrest of Waghmare on June 11 and Miskin on July 22, the SIT has stated that the duo were together when Waghmare was trained. “The accused no A9 (Miskin) along with accused no A7 (Waghmare) trained in the usage of firearms — pistol shooting — in a forest region near Belagavi,’’ states an SIT remand application of July 23 seeking custody of Miskin and his Hubbali friend Amit Baddi.
The SIT arrested Waghmare last month for the Lankesh murder after finding clues leading to him in a diary belonging to Kale. Based on descriptions provided by Waghmare about his accomplice in the Lankesh shooting, and analysis of mobile phone usage by the group, the SIT arrested Miskin and Baddi, 28, on July 22.
Miskin was chosen by the secretive group to ride the motorcycle to take Waghmare to Lankesh’s home to carry out the shooting because of his possible involvement in an earlier murder of a similar nature, SIT sources said. The SIT probe has found that Miskin trained a few years earlier in the usage of firearms under Bangera — after he was recruited by Kale.
The probe has found that the group’s main arms trainer, Bangera, 50, who was a second division clerk in the state government, was also the main supplier of ammunition to the group for their assassination plots. “The accused no 11 (Bangera) used to buy ammunition for the licensed pistols in his possession and has supplied 20 bullets to A3 (Kale),” the SIT stated in a July 24 remand application seeking custody of Bangera.
Since the arrest of Bangera, the SIT has found that he bought hundreds of .32 or 7.65 mm bullets over the last six years from an ammunition store in Madikeri in the guise of using it for his licensed weapons and diverted many of the bullets to the Hindutva group.
Long before he trained Waghmare, Bangera is alleged to have trained Miskin in usage of firearms. Several other youths recruited by Kale and his aides for the group are alleged to have been trained by Bangera, sources said.
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