An employee of the state government’s education department has been arrested by a Special Investigation Team of Karnataka police for allegedly providing training in the firing of guns to suspects involved in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh.
Rajesh Bangera, 50, a government employee based in Mangalore region of Karnataka, who was produced in court on Tuesday, has also been accused of supplying 20 cartridges to members of a covert group linked to the Hindutva outfit Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) who allegedly executed the murder of the journalist.
Special public prosecutor S V Vadavadagi told a magistrate’s court that Bangera was part of the group that carried out the killing of Lankesh. SIT sources said Bangera has long-standing links to groups like Sanatan Sanstha.
The SIT unearthed links to Bangera from a diary belonging to Amol Kale, 37, a former co-ordinator of HJS in Pune, who is alleged to have been the head of operations of the covert group to kill Lankesh. Bangera was referred to as “Sir” in the diary.
Bangera, the owner of two licensed guns, trained several persons linked to Hindutva groups in the firing of guns, the SPP said on behalf of the SIT. The persons trained by Bangera were allegedly recruited by Kale. Bangera destroyed one of the licensed guns in his possession in a possible effort to destroy evidence, the SIT stated.
The alleged shooter in the Lankesh case – Parashuram Waghmare, 26, from Vijayapura – and one Ganesh Miskin, 27, from Hubbali, who rode the bike to carrying the shooter, are alleged to be among the persons trained by Bangera at locations around Karnataka and Maharashtra over the past few years.
Bangera, who hails from Madikeri region, allegedly also put Kale in touch with Mohan Nayak, 50, a resident of Sullia in Dakshina Kannada, to rent a house in Bengaluru for the assassins to stay at the time of the murder. Nayak was arrested on July 18 by the SIT for sheltering Waghmare, Miskin, Amit Baddi, 28, and a fourth person who were allegedly directly involved in carrying out the shooting and escaping after the murder.
The SIT in its remand application for the custody of Bangera stated that he needs to be taken to places in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa to identify secluded spots where he trained persons recruited by Kale.
Married and father of two, Bangera has a black belt in karate, sources said. He is the tenth person to be arrested for the murder of Lankesh on September 5, 2017. He was placed under arrest on Tuesday. The court remanded him in 13 days’ police custody.