Connecting the Dots Between Murders of Four Rationalists
During his interrogation, one of the questions posed to Amol Kale, the alleged mastermind behind the assassination of Gauri Lankesh, was the name of his organisation. Kale replied they had no name.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT), however, was not ready to believe him, so the interrogation continued to try to find his affiliation. But Kale said they were nameless, because it is not possible to ban a nameless organisation.
This nameless organisation has now emerged as the link between the murders of four rationalists – MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dhabolkar and Lankesh.
So how are these murders connected?
Same weapon, a 7.65mm country-made pistol, was used to murder Kalburgi, Pansare and Lankesh, and one suspect in SIT’s custody, Rajesh Bangera, allegedly provided training for the killers in all four murders.
So, here is how the SIT found the connections between Lankesh and other murders.
Kalburgi and Gauri
The connection between these two murders were established during the initial stages of the investigation. The four bullet slugs and cartridges recovered from Lankesh’s house, on the night of the murder, were sent for forensic analysis within a day. To verify a hunch, the SIT asked the forensic team to compare the slugs and cartridges with that of Kalburgi murder case.
Around 10 days later forensic teams confirmed that the same weapon was used in both murders.
“Every weapon leaves a unique mark on the bullets. For example, a mark created by the groove or the firing pin of the weapon. Same mark can be found on every bullet fired from the weapon. This categorically proved same weapon was used,” said an SIT officer.
The second connection between the murders came towards the end of the investigation. In the last week of September, the SIT arrested two men – Ganesh Miskin and Amit Baddi.
They were allegedly part of the hit team that killed Lankesh. While Miskin was allegedly the bike rider who took the suspected killer Parashuram Waghmore to her house, Amit Baddi allegedly took the weapon from Waghmore and returned it to their leader Amol Kale.
These men, during their interrogation, confessed that they had done the recce of Kalburgi’s house before his assassination.
Karnataka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which is investigating the Kalburgi murder case, has now applied for the custody of these two men.
Lankesh and Pansare
According to the Maharashtra SIT probing Pansare’s murder, two weapons were used for the act. The forensic report concluded that one of the weapons was same as the one used to murder Lankesh and Kalburgi.
The Karnataka SIT said the officers from the Maharashtra are in touch with them. As one of the weapons have a link to the Lankesh case, the Maharashtra SIT has sought details about the module that carried out the attack. So far, they have not applied for the custody of any of the arrested men, but it is expected in the coming months.
Apart from the Lankesh murder, Pansare murder case has a connection with the murder of Dhabolkar as well. While one of the weapons used in Pansare murder was reused in her murder, the second weapon was used to murder Dhabolkar.
Lankesh and Dhabolkar
The link between these two murders emerged during the last phase of the Gauri Lankesh murder investigation.
Fifty-year-old Rajesh Bangera, a second division assistant in the Education Department, was arrested from Kodagu district on 25 July. He was the tenth person arrested by Karnataka SIT.
At the time of his arrest, he was in the possession of two licensed firearms. He allegedly used the permits to procure ammunition for Kale, the mastermind of the assassination plan. He also allegedly gave weapon training for the man who pulled trigger on Gauri on 5 September.
However, the interrogation threw up more details. He admitted that he had provided training for the men who carried out the murder of Dhabolkar.
Following this revelation, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken custody of Rajesh Bangera to get more information about the Dhabolkar murder.
The Crucial Link: Kale and his Diaries
The investigators believe that Amol Kale might be the crucial link between the four murders. Kale is currently of interest for all four investigating agencies probing rationalist murders.
During the investigation, the SIT was able to foil a conspiracy to murder another rationalist in Karnataka – KS Bhagwan. But the SIT believes they were planning much more. The diaries recovered from Kale contains names and details of the many recruits the organisation has in different states. The internal security division of Karnataka Police is now probing the leads provided by these diaries for a crackdown on the larger network of Kale’s gang.