The Karnataka Police SIT probing the Gauri Lankesh murder case arrived here to check if those arrested by the Maharashtra ATS in connection with a seizure of explosives and arms had any links to her killing, officials said Saturday.
The 55-year-old journalist, known for her Left-leaning and strong anti-Hindutva views, was gunned down in front of her house in Bengaluru on September 5 last year.
The special investigation team met ATS chief Atulchandra Kulkarni Friday, an official said. The ATS would provide it access to those arrested in connection with the seizure of crude bombs, explosives and arms, including 7.65 mm pistols, from Maharashtra earlier this month, the official added.
The ATS had arrested Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar, Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, ex-councillor Shrikant Pangarkar and Avinash Pawar in this case. On August 10, it had arrested Raut (40), who ran the ‘Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti’, a little-known pro-cow protection outfit, at Nallasopara in Palghar district. After Raut’s arrest, the ATS nabbed Kalaskar (25) and Gondhalekar (39), following raids in Palghar and Pune districts. Pangarkar, a former Shiv Sena councillor from Jalna, was arrested on August 19 while Pawar was arrested Friday.
The Karnataka SIT had earlier arrested Pune-resident Amol Kale in connection with Lankesh’s killing. It believes Kale visited Aurangabad and Jalna and might have met some of the arrested accused.
The SIT suspects that Kale and Virendra Tawde, who was arrested by the CBI for the killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, were the masterminds in Lankesh’s murder as well, said officials. Kale’s diary had names and contact details of activists of right-wing Hindu outfits and he is also alleged to have recruited people to eliminate rationalists and thinkers.
An official said the names of the people arrested by the ATS had come up in the Karnataka SIT’s investigation as well. The Karnataka SIT will probe whether the bullet casings found near Lankesh’s home match the guns seized by the ATS, an official said.
He said the ATS and the SIT would exchange information on their respective probes into the killings of Lankesh, Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Pansare was shot at on February 16, 2015 in Kolhapur and he succumbed to his injuries on February 20 that year.
The ATS claimed Kalaskar confessed during questioning he was directly involved in the Dabholkar murder. The SIT suspects that the same set of people trained Kalaskar and Sachin Andure, arrested by the CBI in connection with Dabholkar’s killing, and those who shot dead Lankesh.