The gang involved in the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has a wide network spread across at least five states and comprises at least 60 people, a senior police official said on Friday, 15 June.
The official belonging to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that is probing the sensational case, meanwhile, claimed that Parashuram Waghmare, the last of the six suspects arrested in connection with the killing, was her alleged assassin.
The official also claimed that the same weapon was used to shoot Lankesh and rationalists Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.
He said the organised gang refrained from giving any specific name to their underground organisation.
Claiming that the organisation was composed of people drawn from Hindu right-wing groups, the official said it had around 60 members spread across at least five states but had no name.
We discovered that this gang has a network in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.SIT official
He said though the gang recruited people from hard-line Hindutva organisations like Maharashtra-based Hindu Jagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha, these outfits may not be directly responsible for the killings.
Both the organisations had denied their role in the killing of Lankesh, Pansare and Kalburgi.
Sujith Kumar alias Praveen used to recruit people for his gang in Karnataka, the official said, adding, it was through him that the entire network was busted including the alleged shooter, Waghmare, from his home at Sindagi in Karnataka.
Waghmare had shot Lankesh and the forensic report has confirmed that (rationalists) Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Lankesh were murdered with the same weapon.SIT official
The official, however, added that the weapon was yet to be traced.
Forensic examination can lead to such a conclusion when the hammer of a gun has left identical marks at the rear of a bullet even if the weapon itself has not been found.
Commenting on the case, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, on Saturday, said:
I do not want to reveal anything as the investigation is going on. Any statements of mine shouldn’t affect investigation. Once probe is complete, the chargesheet will be drawn up and further process of law will take place.G Parameshwara, as quoted by ANI
Others Too Were on the Hit List
Waghmare's family has denied his involvement in the crime.
Police suspect the involvement of at least three more people in the murder, and the hunt is on to find them.
The investigators also found that the suspects used to carry out their work in a phased manner. It involved recce, weaknesses of the person (target) and finally executing the plan, the official said.
The process of accomplishing the mission used to take six months to a year. The gang had almost reached the last phase of killing professor KS Bhagawan (Kannada writer) when we nabbed them.SIT official
Bhagwan had often angered the right-wing outfits with his writings and utterances against Hindu gods.
Police had uncovered the plot to kill Bhagwan recently and arrested four men, whose suspected role in the Lankesh murder case is also being investigated.
Jnanpith recipient Girish Karnad, who acted in multi-lingual movies, was also on the hit list. His surveillance was in the last phase, the official said.
The diary found from this gang revealed that other than Bhagwan and Karnad, former minister and litterateur BT Lalitha Naik, rationalist CS Dwarakanath and pontiff Veerabhadra Channamalla Swamy of Nidumamidi Mutt were also on the hit list for their anti-Hindutva stance.
Sri Ram Sene Starts Fundraising Campaign for Waghmare's Family
Meanwhile, the Sri Ram Sene, a Hindu right-wing group, courted controversy when it started a fundraising campaign on Facebook for Waghmare's family, which it says, is in a "financial crunch", reported The News Minute.
Not just this, Manchaleshwari Tonashyal, who is purportedly the women's wing chief of the Sene and a member of the BJP's Yuva Morcha, has also posted a threatening message on Facebook, saying, "There will be a Parashuram Waghmare born in every house if anti-Hindu activities continue to be carried out by elements who are trying to sabotage the foundation of Hindutva in this country."
Lankesh, who was known for her anti-Hindutva voice, was shot dead on the evening of 5 September, last year, when she returned home in her car and was opening the gate of her house. The murder triggered nationwide outrage and the government constituted a special investigation team to probe it.
The team led by inspector general of police BK Singh has so far arrested six people, who are gun runner KT Naveen Kumar alias Hotte Manja, Sujith Kumar, Amol Kale, Manohar Edve, Amit Degvekar and Parashuram Waghmare.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI and The News Minute)