Right-wing group Sri Ram Sene’s Vijayapura district president Rakesh Math has been summoned for questioning by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, a senior police official said on Saturday, PTI reported. However, the official said, Math is yet to turn up for the interrogation.
“We have summoned Rakesh Math. He has not come yet,” the official said.
However, denying his involvement in the crime, Math told a Kannada news channel, “I received a notice stating that my presence was required for the investigation.” He added that he was suspected shooter Parashuram Waghmare’s friend and that the latter’s arrest had come as a shock to him. He said he came to know about his friend’s arrest after the police picked him (Math) up.
The summon by the investigating officials came after police claimed that Waghmare was associated with the radical right-wing group. Sources said Wagmare has a criminal record in Karnataka and was one of six men associated with the radical right-wing Sri Ram Sene arrested for hoisting the Pakistan flag in Sindhagi town in 2012 in an attempt to foment communal trouble.
An official from the SIT said the team wanted to find out if Math was involved in Lankesh’s murder and whether he “brainwashed” Waghmare to participate in the crime. The team believes that the Ram Sene district chief has a strong support base in coastal areas, including Mangaluru and parts of north Karnataka.
Reacting to the summon, Ram Sene founder and chief Pramod Muthalik said Parashuram has no links with the organisation. “Ram Sene has no connection with Parashuram. I don’t know what has he said before the SIT. There are so many people who click photographs with me but just by doing so, they do not become our worker,” he told ANI.
On the Pakistani flag hoisting issue, Muthalik denied reports which claimed that Waghmare belonged to Ram Sene. Instead, he said, Waghmare was a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). “I had shared his pictures sporting RSS uniform. I had said at that time that he is an RSS worker and not of Sri Ram Sene,” he said.
“Rakesh Math is our district president. However, the organisation has its own constitution according to which it functions. If somebody does something privately in his personal capacity, it cannot be held responsible,” he added.
Waghmare’s father Ashok Waghmare, on the other hand, claimed his son was innocent. However, he could not recall where Waghmare was on September 5, the day the crime took place. “I think he was at home,” Ashok told a Kannada news channel.