Even as the Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed to probe the sensational Gauri Lankesh murder in Bengaluru, has unearthed a dispute related to a family property, sleuths are putting together some “very basic” and as yet-uncorroborated evidence which put the needle of suspicion on the far right.
Police sources closely monitoring the investigation, which has led the decision-makers to dispatch small teams of investigators to some neighbouring states, including Maharashtra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh, said that “whoever planned the murder had all intentions to kill Gauri”.
The sources, however, agreed that the SIT is “nowhere close to finding out the antecedents of the killer in a blind case such as this, leave alone the motive for Gauri’s murder”.
Three Angles and a Clueless SIT
The SIT is far from establishing any strong motive for the murder, especially when it is still clueless about the shooter whose bullets felled the 55-year-old activist-journalist on the evening of 5 September at her Ideal Homes Layout bungalow in Rajarajeshwari Nagar neighbourhood of west Bengaluru.
“We are still working on all three possibilities – the involvement of the extremist fringe of the far right, the Naxals, as well as the personal/financial angle,” two sources deeply involved in the investigations and the analyses emerging from the probe told The Quint.
One of the two sources said that the brazen act of gunning down the target at her home was a “message to those opposed to the far-right ideology that her articles in Gauri Lankesh Patrike or comments on social media would not be tolerated”.
The Possible ‘Naxal’ Involvement
An analysis of the contents of Gauri’s laptop, emails and other papers recovered from her bungalow have revealed that there were “murmurs of unhappiness in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), especially with the surrender of a Naxalite Noor Zulfikar and more recently of another small batch of ultra-left wing rebels in Chikamagalur”, sources said.
These “communications of the Central Committee to Gauri”, besides “criticising her” moves to play the role of a facilitator in the surrender of Maoists from Karnataka also border on “black humour”. In this context, a senior police officer said that “Gauri is mentioned by name” in the communications.
In the context of Naxals and Gauri's role of bringing some of them to the mainstream, state government sources said that three other Left-wing rebels were to join the mainstream on 12 September. According to them, this matter was discussed between Gauri and Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah during their meeting two days before she was gunned down.
While the Naxal involvement in Gauri’s murder is not “very central” in the ongoing probe, which the sources said could “take a long time before concrete evidence related to the killer(s) emerge”, the sleuths are veering around to the view that a “highly secretive but loosely-structured” group of individuals inimical to Gauri’s “relentless targeting” of extreme Hindutva elements and “caustic comments” against some leaders ordered the hit on her.
Gauri’s Killers not ‘Professionals’
One of the key indicators that the far-right may have killed Gauri stems from the SIT’s conviction that her assassin was not a “hired, professional hand” but a highly motivated individual who may have undergone firearms training.
The sleuths’ “feelers” in the underworld, especially those operating in Mumbai and Mangalore, does not indicate the hand of professional shooters.
“It appears that no contract to kill was taken by professional assassins because they usually do not undertake hits on women or children,” the sources said. The police also consulted under-trial hired killers lodged in various jails of the state. Underworld elements contacted by The Quint in Bengaluru confirmed the police’s findings that “supari” may not have been given to any contract killers to “finish” Gauri.
Family Feud on Sleuths’ Radar Too
At least two small teams of SIT officers who interviewed and recorded the statements of Gauri’s brother Indrajit, younger sister Kavita and mother Indira between 13 and 14 September, have submitted preliminary reports to their superior officers.
They have not ruled out the possibility of an old-time feud in the Lankesh family resurfacing now, but Indrajit told interrogators that he “has sold the gun” that he had pulled on Gauri in February 2005 when the two siblings fought over the possession of Lankesh Patrike, the tabloid that was originally launched and run by their father Palyada Lankesh. Indrajit has been told to produce the papers related to the sale of the weapon.
So far, nothing related to blackmail or even a financial angle, although Gauri was in debt, has been found in our probe. It is true that Gauri and Indrajit were not on talking terms. There was partition-related friction between the siblings over the four-acre Nelamangala property (on the outskirts of Bengaluru), which is common in many families.SIT Sources
The SIT is making renewed efforts to trace the whereabouts of Rudrannagaowda Patil and a few of his associates suspected to have had a hand in the murder of historian MM Kalburgi.
Patil, and at least three to four other men, suspected to be part of a secretive far-right “brigade” operating in the Karnataka-Maharashtra border have been untraceable since Kalburgi’s killing in August 2015.