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Gauri Lankesh murder: SIT chargesheet names Sanatan Sanstha as organisation behind crime

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SIT chargesheet says Goa-based radical Hindu organisation Sanatan Sanstha killed Gauri Lankesh as part of a larger conspiracy to eliminate liberals and rationalists.

Bengaluru: The Special Investigation Team (SIT) in the Gauri Lankesh murder case has
filed a 9,235-page chargesheet, naming the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha as the
organisation behind the crime.

The chargesheet says the plan to eliminate journalist Lankesh was formulated by the “inner circle” of the Sanatan Sanstha over five years. The idea was to eliminate critics of the Right-wing and those who did not align with their extreme ideology.

“The chargesheet has named Sanatan Sanstha. Their ideology, logo, identity, publications, all of it has been brought on record. It has been clearly mentioned that the organised crime syndicate involved in the killing is by the group Sanatan Sanstha,” special public prosecutor S. Balan told ThePrint.

The chargesheet, filed Friday in a special court set up to try the case under the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA), has named 18 people as accused and is the result of nearly 14 months of detailed investigation and interrogation by a team led by Additional Commissioner (West) B.K. Singh.

In an official statement released by chief investigating officer Anuchet M.N., it has been stated that the SIT has now sought permission to investigate the case further.

Amol Kale, one of the first persons arrested by the SIT, has been named as the main accused in the case. The SIT said its investigation had found that Kale was the kingpin who meticulously planned the conspiracy, took care of logistics, provided gun training, organised finance and shelter, and finally ensured that the final assault took place.

Balan said that Kale had deputed teams to execute each of the responsibilities — from recruitment of the killer to training, logistics and funding.

Also read: First attempt to kill Gauri Lankesh was in June 2017, but aborted over ‘logistical issues’

Link to other rationalists’ murders

The SIT, however, is still hunting for a man named Nihal alias Dada who it believes will tie up the link between the killings of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi and Lankesh.

After the Karnataka SIT cracked the Lankesh case, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and the CBI were able to find crucial links to the unsolved murder of Pansare.

The special teams of both states collaborated and shared evidence and found that one Sudhanva Gondhalekar was allegedly involved in plotting terror attacks in Maharashtra and was also spotted in CCTV footage near Lankesh’s house.

The Maharashtra ATS conducted multiple raids and arrested Vaibhav Raut, a Sanatan Sanstha sympathiser, and two others. These arrests also provided much-needed intel and leads to the Karnataka SIT.

Of the 18 people in the SIT’s custody, the major success has been the arrest of Parshuram Waghmore, who the police believe is the one who shot Lankesh at point-blank range.

The other accused who played an important role were Rajesh Bangera, Amit Baddi, Ganesh Miskin, Manohar Edave, Sujeet Kumar, Amit Degwekar, K.T. Naveen Kumar and Mohan Naik.

The SIT has mentioned that during the course of its investigation, it did not find any personal or direct link between Lankesh and the killers, confirming the suspicion that she was killed as part of the bigger conspiracy to silence rationalists in the country, prosecutor Balan said.

The chargesheet also explained that the larger conspiracy was to strategically eliminate 43 other liberals and rationalists, some of whom survived attempts to kill.

Also read: Gauri Lankesh case: How a tip-off helped SIT unravel a ‘murder mafia’ targeting rationalists

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