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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

SIT takes charge of probe into journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh’s murder

Officers are looking into bullets and security footage from the crime scene to catch the criminals.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2017 16:47 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
People hold placards and candles during a vigil for Gauri Lankesh, a senior Indian journalist who shot dead outside her home on Tuesday by unidentified assailants in Bengaluru, on September 6, 2017.
People hold placards and candles during a vigil for Gauri Lankesh, a senior Indian journalist who shot dead outside her home on Tuesday by unidentified assailants in Bengaluru, on September 6, 2017. (Reuters Photo)

An officer of the special investigation team formed to probe the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a known critic of Hindu right-wing extremism, has said they are looking into the surveillance footage from cameras outside the senior journalist’s house in Bengaluru.

“The footage only shows a person wearing a helmet committing the crime. There is no vehicle or any other means of identifying the perpetrators,” the officer, a part of the 21-member team, told the Hindustan Times on the condition of anonymity.

The team took charge of the probe on Wednesday.

Several bullets were pumped into the 55-year-old Lankesh’s body shortly after 8pm on Tuesday as she was entering her residence in the city’s busy Rajarajeshwari Nagar by an unidentified number of suspects.

The officer said four bullets were found, including the three that hit Lankesh on her back and in the chest and stomach regions.

“We are looking at all angles. We will send the bullets used to the forensic lab for ballistic tests as well,” the officer added.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, who set up the special investigation team, said the murder of Lankesh was organised crime but refused to say whether it was a part of a conspiracy.

The killing provoked outrage and anguish across the country, with thousands protesting what they saw as an effort to silence a critic of Hindutva groups.

The murder also brought the spotlight back on similar killings of writer MM Kalburgi, who was also shot dead at his residence in Karnataka, and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare in Maharashtra. All of them were killed by suspected right-wing activists but probes have largely been ineffective in tracking down suspects.

While the investigation into Kalburgi’s murder has not been completed, ballistics reports established a link between his murder and those of Dabholkar and Pansare.

Daughter of famous poet-turned-journalist P Lankesh, she was the editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, writing often against Sangh organisations and communal violence in the country.

Lankesh’s brother Indrajit has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

However, BT Venkatesh, Lankesh’s lawyer for the past 17 years, said at this stage the investigation will be better handled by the state police and if there is a need the probe can be handed over to the CBI.

Venkatesh said Lankesh used to receive threats on a regular basis “especially after social media became a big phenomenon”.

“There was never a doubt in her mind, nor in mine, about the people who were making these threats. They were people belonging to the right-wing who were threatened by her courage to speak up,” Venkatesh said.

Venkatesh said although threats had become constant, Lankesh never dwelt on these.

“In fact, there were times when she used to shout at me for worrying about these threats,” he said.

Her murder has brought the focus back on the perilous conditions journalists in India work in.

India was ranked a lowly 136 among 180 countries in the latest world press freedom rankings released in April with the dismal performance blamed on “Modi’s nationalism” and growing “self-censorship” in the mainstream media.

India slipped three places as compared to the year before.

First Published: Sep 07, 2017 12:13 IST

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