Gauri Lankesh murder: One month on, SIT fails to make headway
A month after the murder of senior Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was gunned down outside her house in Bengaluru on September 5, the investigation into the incident is yet to make any significant inroad.
The Karnataka government is under pressure as protests have been planned in Delhi and Bengaluru on Thursday to ensure that the probe does not go the same way as that into the murder of academic MM Kalburgi, who was similarly gunned down at his house in August 2015.
A senior officer in the special investigation team, which is probing the murder, said they were going through a pile of evidence gathered and methodically trying to look at various angles.
The motive has been a point of contention in the case from the beginning with rival claims being made about the affiliation of the perpetrators.
“We have so far questioned over 500 people in connection with the case,” the officer said.
Those questioned included people close to Lankesh, like her brother Indrajit who had a falling out with her in 2005 over the functioning of Lankesh Patrike, and Maoist leaders who have come above ground.
The other evidence the SIT is looking at, the officer said, was phone call records from the area. The SIT has got records from 60 towers in a 5km radius. “We are sifting through about seven crore calls over a five-day period leading to the day of the murder,” the officer said.
While a close circuit television (CCTV) camera placed above the door of Lankesh’s house in the Rajarajeshwari Nagar area captured the incident, it has not provided police with any clarity about the perpetrator’s identity.
The officer said the crime was definitely committed by a professional as the person wore a helmet, hampering identification.
“We have a description of the model of the two-wheeler used by the perpetrator and we are trying to track it,” the officer said.
Finally, the SIT has the four bullets that were recovered from the crime scene, three that hit Lankesh and a fourth that was lodged in a wall.
The forensics science lab in the city said in a report submitted on September 14 that the weapon used in the murder was a 7.65-mm country-made pistol, similar to those used in the murders of Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
However, a comparison of the bullets recovered from the crime scene has not yet been matched with bullets recovered from the house of Kalburgi. A similar modus operandi between the cases led to speculation that the same group could be behind both the murders.
“We cannot concentrate on just one angle, we have to look at all angles. The investigation is progressing along,” the officer said.
Writer and activist K Neela said that apart from the murder itself, it was worrying that no action had been taken against those celebrating Lankesh’s murder on social media.
“The onus of finding the culprits is on the SIT. But what is worrying us is that our prime minister has not condemned the attack or those who celebrated the murder on social media, some of whom he follows,” Neela said.
According to Neela, it was not important which investigating agency was looking into the matter.
“Of course, we want the perpetrators to be caught but we also demand that the forces behind the mercenaries be identified,” she said.
A protest has been organised from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday.