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NaMo Brigade founder held in RTI activist murder case

Shenoy’s arrest came soon after the filing of a 770-page chargesheet last week by the Mangaluru police against him and six others in the case.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru | Updated: June 27, 2016 3:46:35 am

The founder of the NaMo Brigade in Karnataka, Naresh Shenoy (39), who is the prime accused in the March 21 murder of RTI activist Vinayak Baliga in Mangaluru, was arrested Sunday afternoon by the police, bringing to a close a three-month hunt.

Shenoy, who was tracked by the police during his run reportedly through Jammu and Kashmir, Gorakhpur and Lucknow in UP and some villages along the Nepal border, was finally nabbed in Hejamady in Mangaluru itself, police revealed.

Shenoy’s arrest came soon after the filing of a 770-page chargesheet last week by the Mangaluru police against him and six others in the case. While police claimed he was arrested Sunday, there had been rumours of Shenoy’s detention ever since the police filed the chargesheet.

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RTI activist Vinayak Baliga (51) was hacked to death on March 21 while he was out for his routine morning visit to the city’s Venkataramana temple. Baliga was involved in a series of RTI campaigns against illegal activities in Mangaluru.

Baliga was also engaged in a campaign to expose the alleged misappropriation of funds by the Venkataramana temple authorities. Shenoy, sources said, was a close associate of the temple authorities.

During the probe, Shenoy, the founder of a Narendra Modi support group ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and an aspirant for a BJP ticket in the next state polls, came under the scanner on March 25 when Mangaluru police nabbed two men — Nishith Devadiga (23) and Vinith Poojary (26).

The probe later revealed that Devadiga and Poojary were contract killers, who were allegedly paid to kill Baliga by Srikanth Moolya (40), an employee of Naresh Shenoy, and another accused Shiva Prasad. A car linked to Shenoy was also seized by the police as the suspected getaway vehicle.

Soon after the arrest of the alleged contract killers and the seizure of the vehicle involved, Shenoy, who was active on social media till March 25, went underground, triggering a hunt for him and Moolya, who remains an absconder. According to the Mangaluru police, Shenoy paid the contract killers for the murder of Baliga and then went underground and has since then been attempting to destroy evidence in the case.

In their chargesheet, police stated that witnesses had seen Shenoy involved in a bitter verbal argument with Baliga over the RTI activist’s decision to go to court with evidence of the alleged misuse of funds at the Venkataramana temple in Mangaluru. Attempts by Shenoy to obtain anticipatory bail in the case while in hiding had proved futile.

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