Organised crime syndicate behind Gauri Lankesh murder, says SIT
The SIT had formed six teams to look at the various angles involved in the case and deployed two of these to parse through closed-circuit television or CCTV camera footage taken from Gauri Lankesh’s house, which had recorded the crime taking place. Eventually, the police interviewed around 2,500 people in connection with the case.
Journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was gunned down at her house last year, was killed by an organised crime syndicate, the special investigation team said on Saturday in its first statement on the investigation.
The statement, issued late on Saturday, comes a day after the SIT filed an additional charge sheet in the case in which it has accused 18 people, two of whom are still missing, of being involved in the conspiracy, either directly or indirectly. The accused have been charged under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act.
The SIT had formed six teams to look at the various angles involved in the case and deployed two of these to parse through closed-circuit television or CCTV camera footage taken from Lankesh’s house, which had recorded the crime taking place. Eventually, the police interviewed around 2,500 people in connection with the case.
“The first breakthrough in the case happened when the material objects recovered from the scene of the crime were analysed at the State Forensic Science Laboratory, Bangalore. The forensic ballistic analysis established that the pistol used to murder Lankesh was the same pistol used to murder MM Kalburgi in Dharwad, Karnataka and Govind Pansare in Kolhapur, Maharashtra,” the SIT said.
And this, the SIT said, led it to the syndicate that was allegedly carrying out these murders. The syndicate was formed in 2010-11 by Virendra Tawade, who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder of Narendra Dabholkar.
“One former editor of Sanatan Prabhat provided financial support to this Syndicate,” the SIT said, referring to a publication brought out by the Sanatan Sanstha, a radical Hindu organisation.
However, the SIT has not directly named the organisation, except to say that the members of this alleged syndicate “strictly followed the guidelines and principles mentioned in ‘Kshatra Dharma Sadhana’, a book published by Sanatan Sanstha”.
According to the SIT, the important members of the syndicate are Amol Kale, who allegedly took over the organisation after Tawade’s arrest, Amit Degvekar, Vikas Patil and Rushikesh Deodikar. These four, the SIT said, recruited all the other accused and were the masterminds behind the murder.
“The members of the organized crime syndicate met, conspired and trained at various places in Karnataka and Maharashtra. They were in constant touch with each another and took active measures to hide their identities,” the SIT said.
They underwent arms training and used assumed names and different phone numbers while carrying out the syndicate’s work.
“They were indoctrinated and actively underwent arms training, shooting practice and were trained in the manufacture and use of bombs with the intention of promoting insurgency and creating fear in the society,” the SIT said.
According to the investigative team, the conspiracy to murder Lankesh was hatched in August 2016. In October of that year, the SIT said, Kale instructed one Vasudev Suryavamshi to steal a bike for this purpose.
From March 2017, Lankesh’s movements were allegedly tracked by Amit Baddi and Ganesh Miskin, two other accused. And the duo made “several” trips to the state capital to follow Lankesh “to ascertain her daily habits”.
In May, Kale tasked Manohar Edave to do a recce of the locality Lankesh lived in and identify the CCTV cameras there. In June, Amol Degvekar and Nihal did a review of the place and finalised the routes to be taken by the assassination team.
That same month several members of the syndicate were allegedly trained by one Rajesh Bangera at a farmhouse in Belagavi, which belonged to another accused, Bharat Kurne.
In August, Kale, Baddi, Miskin, Kurne and Parshuram Waghmore, believed to be the person who pulled the trigger, met once again on the outskirts of Bengaluru.
In the third week of August, Kale, Baddi, Miskin, Waghmore, Kurne, met Sharad Kalaskar, Shrikanth Pangarkar and Sudhanva Gondalekar, who are believed to have been involved in the murder of Dabholkar, in Belagavi.
Days before the murder, the SIT said, Kale and Nihal brought the bike, pistols, and other articles used in the assassination at a house on the outskirts of the city.
On September 4, Miskin and Waghmore reached Lankesh’ residence but were unsuccessful. They returned the next day and between 8 and 8.10pm when Lankesh returned home and got out of her car to open the gate Wagmore allegedly shot her four times with his pistol.