Gauri Lankesh’s Murder Could Have a ‘Personal and Financial Angle’
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) is focusing on the involvement of Naxals and members of the far-right wing in the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh. But it is now gradually veering around to focus on “personal and/or financial reasons” behind the elimination of Gauri.
Investigators are still in the process of gathering documents related to properties which are in the name of Gauri Lankesh’s 75-year-old mother Indira. The bungalow where Gauri lived is on a 30/40 feet plot of land, which is said to be valued at about Rs 2.5 crore.
Besides that, Indira Lankesh, who lives with Gauri’s younger sister Kavita, also owns a four-acre farmhouse in the industrial district of Nelamangala on the outskirts of Bengaluru. This property is said to be approximately valued at Rs 3 crore.
Gauri & Indrajit’s Relationship Turned Bitter Over Possession of Lankesh Patrike
It is an open secret that Gauri and her brother Indrajit are not on the best of terms. The brother-sister relationship turned bitter over the possession of the original Lankesh Patrike publication when their journalist-father, Palyada Lankesh, passed away in January 2000.
“Five years after the demise of Palyada Lankesh, on 18 February, there was a showdown between Gauri and Indrajit over who got control of Lankesh Patrike,” Shivsundar, a long-time associate of Gauri recalled.
A bitter Gauri had to move out and set up Gauri Lankesh Patrike at the three-storeyed Basavangudi property on 22 February 2005.
Gauri’s Financial Woes
The Basavangudi property was equally divided between the three siblings, with Kavita as the owner of the second, Gauri the first and Indrajit the ground floor.
A few years after she launched Gauri Lankesh Patrike, Gauri bought over the ground floor. Meanwhile, Indrajit had begun operations from a slick, first-floor property in Langford Town in central Bengaluru, publishing a 20-page tabloid newspaper.
But Gauri’s publication, devoid of any advertisements – and therefore any revenue – began to flounder as she could not keep up with the cost of production.
“It became a struggle. The operational cost of Gauri Lankesh Patrike was between Rs 1 and Rs 1.5 lakh, including payment of salary to the seven to eight staff members,” Shivsundar said, adding that the circulation figure stood at around 10,000 copies.
Of late, however, the fortunes of Gauri Lankesh Patrike began to dip. This was compounded by the effects of last November’s demonetisation.
It is not known whether she had begun borrowing money from other sources. But what is known is that by August she had “grudgingly” accepted suggestions of colleagues to approach the Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s government for advertisements for a special issue on the occasion of Diwali.
Two days before she was killed, Gauri met Siddaramaiah, with whom she was on excellent terms, and a few other ministers of his cabinet. She is said to have been pledged government adverts for a few lakh rupees. Over the past few years, Gauri had taken loans between Rs 7 and Rs 10 lakh. Besides that, she had exhausted her bank overdraft and was in deep debt.
Gauri’s Ideological Disposition was “Anti-Right”: Indrajit
On his part, Indrajit, who has been a Kannada film producer, was chary to reveal the costs involved in publishing Lankesh Patrike. The Quint has been able to establish that in 2013 he secured a large plot of land under the NICE (Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises Road), which later became a subject of inquiry.
A BJP sympathiser who was keen to seek to entry into the party, Indrajit was on the other extreme of the ideological spectrum from Gauri.
Immediately after Gauri’s killing, Indrajit held the Naxals responsible for the assassination, giving the BJP the reason to shift the blame to the left-wing rebels even as there was a shrill chorus among Gauri’s friends and supporters that a far-right, secretive organisation based out of Goa may have hired killers to undertake the hit on the activist-journalist.
He had also sought a CBI inquiry into Gauri’s killing.
On 11 September, when Indrajit met The Quint at his Langford Town office, he said that his comments on the Naxals being responsible for his sister’s killing had been misunderstood and that the “family” – Indira, Kavita and himself – were now “one”.
Admitting that he wanted to join politics, Indrajit said that “anti-right is a better way to describe” Gauri’s ideological disposition.
On a general question over the rate at which shooters are usually said to be hired in Karnataka, Indrajit, losing his composure briefly, said: “I don’t know. How can I say?”
Karnataka Home Minister to The Quint: “SIT Has Clues, Is On The Right Track”
But as the SIT’s gaze has now gradually begun to shift to the “personal and financial angle” of the murder, senior Bengaluru police officers familiar with the case said that “they have been able to see a thin glimmer of light” which could expand and brighten over the days to come.
And, even as the SIT expects to begin examining Gauri’s family members in the days to come, Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy told The Quint in an exclusive interview that the team of sleuths has been expanded to over 75 members.
This is the second part of a two-part series. Read the first part here.