The special investigation team (SIT) of Kolhapur Police, which is probing the murder of Communist leader Govind Pansare, has arrested two of the accused in the murder case of journalist Gauri Lankesh. The duo, identified as Bharat Kurne and Vasudev Suryavanshi, were produced before a court in Kolhapur on Saturday. Judicial Magistrate (first class) S A Mali remanded the duo in police custody till December 7.
Pansare and his wife Uma were shot by two assailants while they were returning home from their morning walk in Kolhapur, on February 16, 2015. Pansare had died of his injuries a few days later. Uma sustained a bullet injury but survived.
The SIT took Kurne and Suryavanshi into custody on Saturday. Prosecution lawyer Shivajirao Rane told the court that the duo were involved in the conspiracy to kill Pansare and investigation was on to ascertain the “responsibilities” given to them to carry out the murder.
Rane told the court that probe has revealed Suryavanshi gave a motorcycle to Dr Virendra Tawade, a Sanatan Sanstha seeker who was arrested by the SIT in August 2016. Rane said an investigation has to be conducted to ascertain how Suryavanshi provided the motorcycle to Tawade and what happened to the vehicle later.
Rane also sought police custody of 14 days for Kurne and Suryavanshi. But defence lawyer Sameer Patwardhan argued that SIT has misled the probe and the two suspects should be remanded in judicial custody. Both Kurne and Suryavanshi were also arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in connection with the Nalasopara arms haul case. Investigators have alleged that Suryavanshi is referred to as the “mechanic” in a diary seized from Amol Kale, a key accused in the Lankesh murder case.
Police said Kurne, who has links to a Hindutva fringe group in Maharashtra, is suspected to be part of a two-man team that waited in a car for the shooter and accomplice who murdered Lankesh, and drove them away to a safehouse on the outskirts of Bengaluru. It is also alleged that Hindutva activists, including Parshuram Waghmare, who is accused of shooting Lankesh, were given arms training in Kurne’s farm.
Last month, SIT had arrested Kale, a resident of Pimpri Chinchwad, to probe his role in Pansare’s killing.