The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Karnataka police has identified two youths arrested for the shooting of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru last year as the first suspects in the August 30, 2015 shooting of Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi in Dharwad.
The CID has moved a court in Dharwad for custody of Ganesh Miskin, 27, and Amit Baddi, 28, residents of Hubbali city, neighbouring Dharwad, who are currently lodged in a jail in Bengaluru after being arrested by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for their alleged involvement in the Lankesh murder.
The CID has sought warrants after preliminary investigations and an SIT report in the Lankesh case revealed that these two are allegedly linked to the Kalburgi murder plot.
Miskin, who was involved in a business of making incense sticks, was arrested in July by the Karnataka SIT probing the Lankesh murder after investigations revealed that he was the rider of a motorcycle that transported the shooter to the journalist’s house for the murder on September 5, 2017.
Baddi, Miskin’s friend and a small-time goldsmith, was arrested after the SIT probe revealed that he allegedly helped the killers get away in a car after killing Lankesh. Both Miskin and Baddi have a criminal record for alleged involvement in communal violence in Hubbali.
Soon after Lankesh’s murder, the SIT received a ballistics report from the Karnataka Forensic Science Laboratory stating that the journalist and Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi were killed with the same 7.65-mm pistol in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
After making arrests in the Lankesh case, the SIT, during the interrogation of suspects, found cause to believe that some of the arrested suspects — especially Miskin, Baddi and Amol Kale, 37, a former convenor of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti — were aware of the details of the execution of Kalburgi’s murder at the doorstep of his home.
The SIT probe found that Miskin was roped in by Amol Kale, a key leader of a covert Hindutva group — allegedly linked to killings and “subversive activities” in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa since 2013 — to spy on Kalburgi prior to the murder.
Both Miskin and Baddi were trained in the use of guns by the covert group and its chief arms trainer Rajesh Bangera, 50, who has also been arrested, the SIT investigations revealed.
The CID is likely to obtain the custody of the two youths from Hubbali on September 15 to conduct further investigation in the case to identify the killers of the Kannada writer and scholar. Since being handed the investigation of the Kalburgi murder in September 2015, the CID has not taken any suspects into custody for questioning regarding their involvement in the murder of the scholar.
The seizure of a cache of 16 guns from members of the covert Hindutva group following arrests in Maharashtra raised hopes of the SIT and the CID of finding the gun that was used by the group to carry out the murders of Lankesh and Kalburgi.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka SIT has accused two more persons arrested by the Maharashtra ATS last month for involvement in a right wing Hindutva terrorism plot in Maharashtra of involvement in the Lankesh murder case.
The SIT has named Sharad Kalaskar, 25, a lathe machine operator and an alleged shooter in the August 20, 2013 murder of Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar as accused number 15 in the Lankesh murder and Shrikant Pangarkar, 42, a former Shiv Sena corporator from Maharashtra and a founding member of the covert Hindutva group as accused number 16.
The SIT has sought warrants from the principal sessions judge in Bengaluru for custody of Kalaskar and Pangarkar who are currently being held by agencies investigating cases in Maharashtra.
The SIT’s investigations have revealed that Kalaskar was in Bengaluru on the day of the murder of Gauri Lankesh and that a motorcycle used for executing the murder was probably brought to the city by the youth. Sources said the probe has found that Pangarkar participated in meetings held by members of the group to carry out the Lankesh murder.
Kalaskar and Pangarkar are among three persons arrested recently by the Maharashtra ATS on charges of terrorism who have been named by the Karnataka SIT in the Lankesh case.
The SIT named Sudhanva Gondhalekar, 39, a resident of Satara in Maharashtra, who is associated with radical Hindutva groups as accused number 14 in the Lankesh murder case last week. Gondhalekar, arrested on August 10 by the Maharashtra ATS for plotting terrorist attacks in the state, is now in the custody of the Karnataka SIT, for investigation of his role in the Lankesh murder.
He is alleged to have been spotted in the vicinity of the journalist’s home on the day of her murder and is alleged to have retrieved the guns used by the killers from a location on the outskirts of Bengaluru where it was kept for nearly 10 days after the murder.