Gauri Lankesh Murder: How Ideology Played a Main Role in Influencing the Accused

The main targets of the group that killed Gauri Lankesh were atheists and those who spoke critically of Hinduism.


It has been over five years since Gauri Lankesh, a journalist and editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike was shot dead outside of her house in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar. The special court for Karnataka Control of Organised Crimes Act, (KCOCA) began its trial on 5 July, 2022 and has since then heard the matter thrice.

As of now, the hearing is adjourned for 10 October 2022 as per the ground rules set by the special judge Chandrashekhar Mrutyunjaya Joshi, who said that the court would hear the matter every second week of the month for five days. 

In two separate interactions with The Quint, the prosecution and the sources in the police department revealed how Gauri Lankesh’s killing was the result of a series of conspiracies and the common ideological factors that bound all the accused, who hatched and executed the murder of 5 September, 2017, together. 


What Is the Ideology and Literature That Influenced ‘Killers’ of Gauri Lankesh?

The SIT which investigated Gauri Lankesh’s murder has filed a chargesheet which is over 9,000 pages and 18 people have been named in it.

According to the police, the conspiracy to kill Gauri Lankesh was part of the larger act of trying to eliminate anyone who is against the ‘Hindu Dharma.’

One of the main accused in the case, Amol Kale, a radicalised youth from Maharashtra, convinced and brainwashed Parshuram Waghmare, an alleged member of Sri Ram Sene to carry out the killing of Gauri Lankesh.

Sources in police department told The Quint that the Amol Kale was heavily influenced by a book called ‘Kshaatra Dharma Sadhana’ – written by Jayant Balaji Athavale in 1995. 

Jayant Balaji Athavale , the founder of Sanathan Sanstha, a radical right-wing Hindutva organisation, was a consultant psychiatrist and a hypnotherapist. In his controversial book, Athavale speaks about ‘rastradrohis’ (anti-nationals) and dharmadrohis (traitors and people opposed to the Hindu Dharma).

The book grades 'dharmadrohis' based on their activities and terms atheists to be the worst form of traitors, who must to be eliminated.
“Amol Kale was highly influenced by this radical propaganda book and was instrumental in also brainwashing Parashuram Waghmare. The group of four to five people met actively and had already prepared a list of people whom they wished to eliminate.”
MN Anucheth, Investigating Officer (SIT), Gauri Lankesh Case

The SIT has also asserted that the killing of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, and MM Kalburgi were interlinked and that the same weapon was used in all the murders. According to the police, this fact has also been proven based on the forensic ballistic reports. 

However, the police have deliberately focused on the 'intent of crime,' instead of focusing on the motive to solve the crime. They told The Quint that they have not interlinked it with other killings that took place Pune, Mumbai, and Dharwad as it would further complicate the case.

Speaking to The Quint a source in the SIT said, “The killing is purely ideological in nature. As per the book and literature we found in the possession of the accused Parashuram Waghmare, the main targets of the group were people within the Hindu community, but who were critical of its radical forms. When we see the activities of all four victims, we realised that they were against organised religion and Hindutva extremism."
"The literature of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanathan Sanstha dictates that the enemy of Hindu dharma is an atheist, who is born in a Hindu household.”
SIT Source

As per the chargesheet filed by the SIT, the conspiracy to kill Gauri Lankesh was initiated in 2016, by Amol Kale in Belagavi, who brought together people with extremist Hindutva ideological leanings under one roof.

The group which had already conspired and carried out the killing of Dabholkar, were trained to use guns and make country bombs. Another radicalised youth Parashuram Waghmare was also introduced to the group two months before the assassination of Gauri Lankesh, and was tasked with carrying out the shooting of the journalist.  

Another important discovery made by the SIT was finding a diary in possession of Amol Kale. The diary listed a total of 36 rational and progressive thinkers whom the group wished to eliminate.

Some of the prominent names were: writer Baragur Ramachandrappa, poet Chennaveera Kanavi, Dalit author Banajagere Jayaprakash, late playwright Girish Karnad, former IAS officer SM Jamdar, rationalist Narendra Nayak and others – all of whom were opposed to fundamental ideas of Hindutva.

Why Was Gauri Lankesh Targeted?

The plan to kill Gauri Lankesh was first hatched by Amol Kale, after he took over the scheme from Virendra Tawde, who also known as Bade Bhai who was arrested in 2016 by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with Dabholkar’s murder. 

The planning which took place first in Belagavi in June 2016, entered its stage of execution with Parashuram Waghmare being given arms training using an air pistol in Khanapur in May 2017. 

Sources in the police department revealed that the two people – Sujith Kumar and Naveen Kumar arranged the guns and met with Amol Kale in June 2017 in Bengaluru to execute the ‘grand plan.’ Over the course of next one month, the group carried out a recce and ensured that the CCTV cameras would not capture them. 

Despite, being on their 'elimination list,' Gauri Lankesh was not likely to be the first person to get targeted by the group spearheaded by Amol Kale.

However, as per the chargesheet filed by the SIT, the main trigger for the group to carry out the killing was a video of Gauri Lankesh speaking against the Hindu religion.

Sources in the SIT told the The Quint that Amol Kale showed a video clip of Gauri Lankesh to a group of over eight people and asserted that her views of Hinduism were a threat to the 'Dharma' and that she had to be killed for this reason. In the video, Gauri Lankesh allegedly termed the Hindu religion as a forsaken faith without any good scriptures.

However, senior police officer MN Anucheth said that the killing was part of a larger ideological enmity that the people from Hindu Janajagruti Samiti and Sanathan Sanstha had against Gauri Lankesh.

"They were completely against Gauri's political stands and the influence she had among the Dalits, minorities, left-leaning ideologues and other activists working for the upliftment of tribals in Karnataka," the senior officer added.

Speaking to The Quint, Kavita Lankesh, sister of Gauri Lankesh, who recently won the Best Human Rights Film award at Toronto Women's Film Festival for her documentary on the slain journalist said, "I am very happy with the SIT's investigation and hope that the killers are convicted. All I can say is that, Gauri stood for free speech and equality, and that is why they killed her. Today, I hope that Gauri's voice continues to resonate among all. That's all I wish for."


Prosecution Confident of Getting Gauri Lankesh Justice

According to advocate S Balan, who is appearing for the prosecution, the SIT has been successful in joining the dots to crack the case, despite repeated alleged attempts made by the accused to tamper with evidence.

The SIT investigating case used GAIT analysis – a systematic method to assess the human emotion and its dynamic posture using augmented brain observers.

"Since the shooter was wearing a helmet and we could not identify him through facial features, we used GAIT technology and re-enacted the scene and matched it with the accused at the crime spot. We also compared the CCTV footage of the assassination with our reconstruction of the crime to establish that Parashuram Waghmare was indeed the shooter in this crime," said senior police officer MN Anucheth.

The prosecution is also confident of establishing that the ideology of Hindutva, as defined by Jayant Balaji Athawale, motivated the assassins in murders of four rationalists in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

"The killer and victim (Gauri Lankesh) had never met each other. There is no personal enmity either. So, someone motivated the accused based on specific definitions of Hindu Dharma. More over, the case is also linked with three other murders. This is a clear case which has ideological and political backgrounds."
S Balan, Public Prosecutor, Gauri Lankesh Case

According to the prosecutor S Balan, the accused, who are very learned and a legally backed, travelled to Karnataka without mobile phones, avoided CCTV cameras and also tampered with the evidence.

However, with efforts made by the SIT and based on the forensic ballistics report that matched the bullets with the cartridges found at the scene of crime, the prosecution is confident of proving the defence wrong.

In July, Kavita Lankesh, made her statement before the special court for Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act and said that, in 2017, she had seen some men "loitering suspiciously" near her home in Bengaluru's Bharath Housing Co-operative Society.

While the defence tried to factor in family disputes, Gauri Lankesh's links with the Naxal movement, and her interaction with a political group consisting of young political leaders Jignesh Mevani and Kanhaiya Kumar, Kavita remained defiant and claimed that she was not aware of Gauri's links with Naxalites.

As of now, the special court has examined three other witnesses – two policemen and a PWD engineer in relation to the case.

The public prosecutor examined inspector Shiva Reddy, who recreated the crime scene along with alleged shooter Parashuram Waghmare, while the defence has cross-examined him.

Two other witnesses, constable Vinod Kumar and VN Kalageri, an assistant engineer with the Public Works Department, were also examined by the court, for having drawn a map of the crime scene for police investigation. The case is adjourned till 10 October 2022.

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