Belagavi Police have named Bharat Kurne (28), Sudhanva Gondhalekar (42), and Sharad Kalaskar (26), who were arrested last year in the Lankesh murder case by a Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka Police, in the Padmaavat theatre attack case and have sought their custody from prisons in Maharashtra and Bengaluru.
Belagavi Police were permitted by a magistrate’s court in January this year to re-open investigations into the January 25, 2018 petrol bomb attack on Prakash theatre on the basis of findings in the Lankesh murder case.
Bharat Kurne, a small time dhaba owner from Belagavi is accused of driving a getaway car after Lankesh’s murder; Gondhalekar, a businessman from Satara, is accused of retrieving the guns used for the murder from Bengaluru, and Kalaskar, who is also accused by the CBI of shooting the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, is accused of providing logistical support.
Kurne and Gondhalekar are linked to Shiv Prathishtan Hindustan and were also closely associated with the Goa-based radical group Sanatan Sanstha. Kalaskar is linked to the Sanatan Sanstha.
Two petrol bombs were hurled on the premises of Prakash theatre while people were queuing up to watch Padmaavat. The attack created panic and resulted in the cancellation of shows.
Belagavi Police initially arrested three local residents — Sambhaji Maruti Patil, Prathik alias Pandit Prakash Ogale and Santosh Tulajappa Gurav — and chargesheeted them for their alleged involvement in the crime.
However, the SIT probe into the Lankesh murder case revealed a new set of suspects in the theatre attack case.
Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanva Gondhalekar told investigators that their leader Amol Kale, a former convenor of the
Sanatan Sanstha’s Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, used their services to attack theatres screening Padmaavat since the film was deemed to be projecting Hindu kings in a bad light. The SIT investigation has also found that Sudhanva Gondhalekar, accused of involvement in terrorism by the Maharashtra ATS, played a central role in the attack on the Prakash theatre.