KANNADA SCHOLAR and researcher M M Kalburgi and journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh were killed — two years apart — with the same 7.65 mm country gun, according to a forensic report placed before a Bengaluru court by a Karnataka Police Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The report, which was attached to the chargesheet filed by the SIT in the Lankesh murder case, is the first official indication by any government agency of the linkages between the two murders. The chargesheet was placed before the court of the third additional chief metropolitan magistrate on May 30.
Police sources said the finding suggests that a common group of assassins shot both persons dead. Kalburgi (77) was killed on August 30, 2015, in Dharwad and Lankesh (55) on September 5, 2017, in Bengaluru.
The Indian Express had first reported on September 14, 2017, that preliminary forensic analysis of bullets and cartridges found at the site of the shooting of Lankesh and those recovered from the killing of Kalburgi revealed that the same pistol was used.
The forensic report enclosed in the chargesheet filed against K T Naveen Kumar, one of five persons accused in the Lankesh case, states that the bullets and cartridges in both the murders “have been fired through a single country made pistol chambered for 7.65 mm caliber pistol cartridges”.
Following the murder of Lankesh, police recovered the three bullets that pierced her body, and a bullet that missed her, along with their four empty cartridges. These were compared with the two bullets and their cartridges from the Kalburgi murder.
“The bullets in article no 6, 18 and 19 (the Lankesh case) and the bullets in article no 2 and 3 concerned in Vidyagiri P S Cr No 142/15 vide FAS/150/15 (the Kalburgi case) have been fired through a single country made pistol chambered for 7.65 mm caliber pistol cartridges,” states the report.
The report was provided by Kiran Kumar M, assistant director of the firearms section of the State Forensic Science Laboratory, to M N Anucheth, chief investigation officer of the SIT in the Lankesh case.
The report also contains details of the comparison between the “class characteristic marks” and “individual characteristic marks” of the firing pin on cartridge cases in the two murder cases, which “are tallying”. From the analysis of individual marks on cartridges, the report confirms they were fired from the same 7.65 mm pistol.
The report also states that “microstriation lines”, or microscopic scratches, on the bullets recovered “are tallying among themselves” and with those in the other case.
Lankesh was killed after four bullets were fired at her by an unidentified man wearing a helmet while she was opening the gate to her home after returning from work on the evening of September 5, 2017. The killer is suspected to have arrived on a motorcycle with an accomplice.
The Karnataka SIT has arrested five persons affiliated to Hindutva groups — Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) — who are suspected to have carried out the murder.
In a chargesheet filed against the first person arrested, Naveen Kumar from Maddur in Karnataka, the SIT stated that Lankesh was killed for making statements against the Hindu religion and Gods. Kumar is affiliated to the Hindu Yuva Sena and attended several meetings of the Sanatan Sanstha in Karnataka and Goa.
Last week, the SIT arrested four more persons believed to have played central roles in the murder — Sujeet Kumar from Udupi, Amol Kale from Pune, Amit Degwekar from Ponda and Manohar Edave from Vijayapura.
No person has been arrested in the killing of Kalburgi at the doorstep of his Dharwad home. But forensic analysis of bullets and cartridges in the case with those recovered in the shooting of Leftist thinker Govind Pansare, 81, and his wife in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015, had shown that one of two 7.65 mm country guns used in the shooting of the Pansares was used to shoot the Kannada scholar.
The ballistic evidence also states that the second 7.65 mm country gun used in the Pansare murder was used to kill the rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, in Pune on August 20, 2013.