MAHARASHTRA YOUTH Sharad Kalaskar (25), arrested by CBI in connection with the 2013 shooting of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, secretly made guns at a fabrication unit in Karnataka’s Belagavi, where he was employed between 2015 and 2017, sources involved with the investigation into journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder in 2017 have said.
Kalaskar was arrested by the SIT in connection with the Lankesh case on September 20. Last week, sources said, he led the officials to Belagavi and showed them a fabrication unit where he secretly made gun parts at night on a lathe machine without the knowledge of his employers.
The SIT has now issued notices to Kalaskar’s employers to provide details of how they came to employ Kalaskar and whether they were aware of him making gun components at their facility at night.
After he was taken to Belagavi last week, Kalaskar also indicated locations in a forest region on the Maharashtra border where he and others tested the guns, sources said. The sources added that Kalaskar was able to indicate a location where Parashuram Waghmare, 26, the alleged shooter of Lankesh, practiced with 7.65 mm countrymade pistols ahead of the journalist’s murder.
Investigation by the SIT has revealed that Kalaskar, who was allegedly involved in Dabholkar’s murder as a 19-year-old, got the job at the fabrication unit at the instance of Bharat Kurne, 38, a vegetable farmer from Belagavi.
Kurne, associated with Hindutva group Shri Shiv Pratishtan Hindustan, was arrested by the SIT on August 9 for allegedly playing a central role in Lankesh’s murder. A farm Kurne owned in Chikkale on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border was the location where Kalaskar tested guns that he made at the fabrication unit, the sources said.
Kalaskar and two others linked to right-wing fringe outfits were initially arrested in August by the Maharashtra ATS for alleged involvement in a terror plot. The ATS had then reported finding guns and gun components from them. On August 11, the ATS reported finding “11 country made pistols with magazines, one airgun, 10 pistol barrels, six pistol magazines, six partially made pistol bodies, three partially made magazines, seven partially made pistol slides, several partially made parts of firearms”. A second seizure of five countrymade pistols and parts of three pistols was reported on August 13.
Sources in Karnataka SIT said the radical group that was in possession of five guns originally went on to get Kalaskar to make several guns during the 2015-2017 period. After initially struggling to make functional guns, Kalaskar later made at least five new guns at the fabrication unit where he worked and other units run by his friends, sources said.
According to the sources, Kalaskar was provided raw material and funding by Kurne and Amol Kale, 37, a former convenor of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) who allegedly handled the field operations of a radical group involved in subversive activities in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa.
Kalaskar, who is accused of being one of the two shooters in the murder of Dabholkar, had two working guns used by the group for four murders and was making his new guns and components modelled on the two guns, sources said. He is referred to as “Chhote’’ in a diary maintained by Kale, which was found by the SIT after Kale’s arrest in May.