In a finding that could be crucial to proving that a 7.65-mm pistol used to gun down journalist Gauri Lankesh was in the possession of a group of Hindu right-wing radicals prior to the murder, forensic analysis of bullets and cartridges recovered from a forest site where shooter Parashuram Waghmare, 26, was allegedly trained for the killing has matched with bullets and cartridges used in the murder.
The Karnataka SIT, which is probing the case, was recently guided by one of the arrested persons to a forest region near Belagavi on Karnataka-Maharashtra border where the man accused of shooting the journalist was trained in usage of guns weeks ahead of the murder. The SIT conducted a search of the region with metal detectors and found six bullets and six cartridges, sources said.
The bullets and cartridges found at the site were sent to Karnataka Forensic Science lab and analysis has revealed that one bullet and one cartridge has the same features found on four bullets fired at Lankesh outside her home, indicating that the same 7.65-mm countrymade pistol was fired at the two sites, sources said. The other bullets and cartridges found at the forest site were fired from other guns, forensic analysis has revealed, sources said.
Lankesh was killed on September 5, 2017, by a gunman who fired four bullets at her while she was opening the gate to her home. Following the murder, police recovered three bullets that hit her and one that missed, and the four empty cartridges. They were sent for forensic analysis and comparison with bullets and cartridges from shooting of Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi under similar circumstances. A September 13, 2017 ballistics report provided to the SIT reported that analysis of bullets and cartridges in the two cases had revealed that Kalburgi and Lankesh were killed with the same pistol.
The reports state that class characteristics of the impact of the gun’s firing pin on cartridges in the Lankesh case “are tallying’’ with those from the Kalburgi case.
A similar match in firing pin characteristics on cartridge and microstriation lines on a bullet has been found in the case of one of the bullets and cartridges recovered recently from the site where Lankesh’s shooter was trained, sources said.
Forensic analysis in 2015 by the Karnataka forensic lab of bullets and cartridges in the Kalburgi case with those recovered from the scene of the shooting of Leftist thinker Govind Pansare, 81, and his wife in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015 showed that one of two 7.65 mm countrymade guns used to shoot the Pansares was used to shoot Kalburgi. The report says the second 7.65-mm gun used in Pansare’s murder was used to kill rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, at Pune on August 20, 2013. These forensic reports of Karnataka FSL from 2015 have been validated at the Gujarat FSL. Read| Narendra Dabholkar murder case
Karnataka SIT has so far arrested 16 persons — several of them linked to Sanatan Sanstha, its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and other radical Hindutva groups — in connection with Lankesh’s murder, including alleged shooter Waghmare and his alleged recruiter Amol Kale. Lankesh was killed for her “anti-Hindu” stance, some of those arrested have said.
The SIT is yet to find the gun used in the journalist’s murder. The SIT is, however, yet to conduct forensic analysis of over a dozen guns found in possession of persons arrested in Maharashtra for alleged involvement in terrorism and the Lankesh murder. The group allegedly used the same set of guns for the four murders that they are now linked to because they considered the guns to be “special’’, sources said.
The SIT has, meanwhile, revised the list of persons accused in the Lankesh murder case on the basis of their involvement in the execution.
The SIT recently presented a memo to a court in Bengaluru to make Amol Kale, 37, the first accused, alleged shooter Waghmare the second accused, followed by third accused Ganesh Miskin, 26, who allegedly rode the bike on which the shooter reached Lankesh’s home and fourth accused Amit Baddi, 27, who allegedly waited in a getaway car.
The revised list has put Amit Degwekar, 38, a Sanstha man who was allegedly central to planning the murder at number five, Bharat Kurne, who was allegedly in the getaway car and whose Belagavi farm was used to train shooters at number six.
Two persons who were the first to be arrested — K T Naveen Kumar, 37, a member of Hindu Yuva Sena who was told of the Lankesh murder plot after he attended a convention in Goa in June 2017 and Sujeet Kumar, 38, a former HJS activist from Karnataka who recruited youths like Waghmare from fringe Hindutva groups to be trained by Kale have been named at the bottom of the revised list.