While investigations in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, 55, have revealed several close links to the 2015 murder of Kannada writer and researcher M M Kalburgi, no chargesheet has been filed in the latter case to identify those who shot the 77-year-old outside his home in Dharwad, Karnataka.
Lankesh was shot outside her home in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017; Kalburgi was shot dead on August 30, 2015. With the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordering that the probe into the Kalburgi murder case be handed over to the special investigation team (SIT) of Karnataka Police which investigated the Lankesh murder case and filed two chargesheets last year, the probe is expected to pick up threads from the findings of Karnataka CID in the Kalburgi case and SIT’s own findings in the Lankesh case.
According to officers, one aspect established in the Kalburgi case so far is that a motorcycle stolen in Dharwad sometime in December 2014 – allegedly by a mechanic named Vasudev Suryavanshi, 29 – was used to commit the crime. Suryavanshi is accused of providing a stolen motorcycle for Lankesh’s murder as well.
A blue-coloured Bajaj Discover motorcycle recovered by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) last year, following arrest of several people linked with radical group Sanatan Sanstha and allegedly involved in terrorist activities, has been identified as the motorcycle used in the Kalburgi murder case.
Suryavanshi allegedly stole the bike and, according to the investigators, subsequently gave it to two men from Hubli – Ganesh Miskin, 26, and Amit Baddi, 27. The two are accused of playing key roles in both Kalburgi and Lankesh’s killings. Two weeks ago, Karnataka CID arrested Suryavanshi for involvement in the Kalburgi murder and held him in custody for 10 days as part of the investigations, CID sources said. “The trail of the motorcycle used for the murder has been established. It was a Bajaj Discover bike stolen in Dharwad and recovered in Mumbai,’’ a source in CID said.
The CID has found that the motorcycle used in the Kalburgi case was abandoned in Belagavi for a while after the murder before it was given a fake Maharashtra registration and taken to Pune by Miskin and Baddi. From Pune, Suryavanshi took it to Mumbai, the source said. The vehicle was allegedly used last year to survey theatres screening the film ‘Padmaavat’.
Among others, the CID has established that Kalburgi was shot with the same 7.65-mm countrymade gun used to kill Leftist thinker Govind Pansare, 81, in Kohlapur, Maharashtra, in February 2015 and Lankesh in September 2017. According to officers, investigation by Karnataka SIT in the Lankesh case has thrown up leads into the Kalburgi case, including possible involvement of Miskin and Baddi. The CID arrested the two in the Kalburgi case in September 2018 and questioned them for 14 days after an SIT report suggested their involvement in the murder.
In the course of the Lankesh probe, a key witness in the case, who was earlier a member of Sanatan Sanstha, provided a statement indicating that he was told by a key leader of the group, Amol Kale, that Miskin and Baddi had shot Kalburgi, with Miskin riding the bike on which they arrived and Baddi being the alleged shooter.
In his own statement in the Lankesh case, Miskin stated that Kale informed trainees at an arms camp held in Belagavi before Lankesh’s murder that there was nothing to fear since members of the group were involved in a murder where a shooter knocked on the door of the victim and shot him in his head.