Killers on the Loose: What Went Wrong in Kalburgi Murder Probe?

Despite the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing several angles since 2015, there has been no results.
Despite the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probing several angles since 2015, there has been no results.(Photo Courtesy: The Quint)

Killers on the Loose: What Went Wrong in Kalburgi Murder Probe?

The Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed to exclusively probe the murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, has been conducting enquiries over the past week. So far, no breakthrough has been achieved in the case. The delay in the investigation is building pressure on the SIT, as the Karnataka police has been criticised for its inability to crack the two-year-old Kalburgi murder case.

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Despite the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) – tasked with probing the murder of rationalist MM Kalburgi – probing several angles since 2015, it remains clueless. The failure to catch Kalburgi’s killers even after two years has raised doubts on whether the SIT can crack the Gauri Lankesh murder case.

So, where did the CID hit a roadblock?

The Crime Scene

On 30 August 2015, two men pretending to be students knocked on the door of his house in Dharwad’s Kalyan Nagar. His wife, who is used to fans and visitors, let them in and went to fetch coffee for the guests. The two men then walked up to Kalburgi and shot him twice at close range.

Deceased Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi.
Deceased Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi.
(Photo: The News Minute)

CCTV Footage and Sketches

During their probe, police had recovered CCTV footage from an establishment nearby. However, the footage was not clear. It showed two men fleeing on a motorcycle after shooting Kalburgi. Police had also claimed that the footage showed the two men hand-signalling to a third person.

Based on the limited information from the CCTV footage and information provided by Kalbugri’s wife, police made two sketches. Police soon began a manhunt based on them.

Two Men Questioned, One Man Killed

Soon after the murder, the CID picked up two persons who had posted objectionable content against Kalburgi. However, these men were let off after an inquiry as there was no evidence of their involvement in the murder.

In November 2015, soon after the sketches of suspects were made public, a man from Belagavi, with an uncanny resemblance to the sketch, was found dead. The investigation that followed revealed that he had no connection to the murder, his resemblance to the suspect was used by some of his family members to murder him over family disputes.

The First Real Lead

The investigators then found that there was a resemblance between one of the sketches and Rudra Patil, a member of Sanatan Sanstha, who was wanted for a bomb blast case in Goa in 2009. As this was one of the first real leads found by the team, the investigation was focused on this angle. However, Rudra Patil had gone underground by then.

Left: Sketch of the suspect; Right: Rudra Patil
Left: Sketch of the suspect; Right: Rudra Patil

While probing the connections, the CID learnt that another member of Sanatan Sansta, Sameer Gaikwad, was in touch with Rudra Patil. While the search for Gaikwad was on, he was arrested by the Maharashtra SIT in connection with the murder of another rationalist, Govind Pansare.

The CID had to wait for a while before they could question him. However, his interrogation led them nowhere, as he categorically denied being part of any conspiracy to kill Kalburgi.

Since then the CID has been on the lookout for Rudra Patil and has probed other angles as well. However, the investigation lost momentum.

Close to Cracking the Case: CM

A day before Kalburgi’s second death anniversary, the Karnataka government released a statement claiming they are close to cracking the case. “… the Karnataka Police Team has been given instructions to increase co-operation between the investigating team in Maharashtra and the investigating team in Karnataka and to examine all inputs closely. I would like to assure the people of Karnataka that our investigating team is close to solving the crime and appropriate action shall follow soon,” said Siddaramaiah in August.

However, with Kalburgi’s killers still on the run, there is little hope that Gauri Lankesh’s murder will be cracked any time soon.

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