Two suspects arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh were on Saturday remanded to the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) till September 10, as the agency wants to probe their links to the murder of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar. A CBI team brought the duo, Rajesh Bangera and Amit Digvekar, to Pune from Karnataka and produced them before a court in the city on Saturday.
The agency is also going to take custody of Amol Kale, a key accused in the Lankesh murder case, as well as of Sharad Kalaskar, who was arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad in the Nallasopara weapon and explosive seizure case.
Kalaskar and fellow Aurangabad resident Sachin Andure are suspected to be the two assailants who shot Dabholkar dead at the V R Shinde Bridge on August 20, 2013. Andure was arrested by the CBI on August 18. The CBI has said that Bangera, Digvekar and Kale were also involved in Dabholkar’s murder, with Bangera imparting arms training to the shooters at five different locations in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
CBI’s lawyer Vijaykumar Dhakane told the court that Bangera allegedly provided the weapons and also trained Andure and Kalaskar, who then shot dead Dabholkar. Bangera, a former government official, has earlier worked as the personal assistant of a Congress MLC in Karnataka.
Digvekar is suspected to be one of the conspirators in the murders of Dabholkar and Lankesh. He allegedly helped the other accused conduct a reconnaissance of Dabholkar’s residence. Digvekar also kept an eye on the activities of Dabholkar and updated the shooters about his whereabouts, said CBI officials. The CBI’s lawyer told the court that Digvekar was also associated with Virendrasinh Tawade, who was arrested by the agency in connection with the Dabholkar murder in June 2016.
Defence lawyer Samit Patwardhan argued that the CBI’s chargesheet against Tawade had mentioned that Sanatan Sanstha activists Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar had killed Dabholkar. Patwardhan argued that the agency has now come up with a new theory. The court, however, remanded Digvekar and Bangera to CBI’s custody till September 10. It also remanded Andure to magisterial custody.
The agency said during questioning, Andure had revealed that Bangera had handed over one 7.65 mm country-made pistol and three bullets to him. Andure had passed on the pistol, three bullets and a magazine to his brother-in-law Shubham Surale in Aurangabad on August 11, said the agency.
When Andure was being interrogated by the CBI, Surale allegedly passed on the pistol, bullets and magazine to his friend Rohit Reghe. During a search of Reghe’s house, one black country-made pistol with a magazine and three 7.65 mm live cartridges were seized by CBI officials.