Police say a diary recovered from one of the accused names Girish Karnad, Baragur Ramachandrappa and Chandrashekhar Patil as others on the hitlist.
Bengaluru: Journalist Gauri Lankesh and other rationalists — M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar — were killed because of their anti-Hindu views and repeated attacks on organisations working to protect Hinduism, a 651-page charge sheet filed by Karnataka’s special investigating team (SIT) has said.
The charge sheet quotes main accused K.T. Naveen Kumar, an illegal gun-runner, as saying that the accused were angry as Lankesh “spoke against Hindu dharma, gods of Hindu dharma and insulting Hindu dharma (sic)”.
The pattern of “insulting Hindu dharma” and the need to eliminate those who threaten it has been true of the other cases too, said the charge sheet.
Naveen’s alleged confession statement that runs into 12 pages has also nailed the involvement of the second accused, Praveen alias Sujeet Kumar, in the case.
The statement — submitted as part of the charge sheet by the SIT to a Bengaluru court 30 May — indicates that Praveen was involved in planning, assigning and executing the Lankesh murder. Naveen also revealed that Praveen talked of “eliminating Gauri” when they met.
Naveen was arrested on 3 March. The SIT on 21 May arrested four others – Praveen, Amol Kale, Amit Digwekar alias Pradeep Mahajan and Manohar Dundappa Edave – for allegedly plotting to kill Mysuru-based writer K.S. Bhagwan. They are also being investigated for their links to the Lankesh and Kalburgi killings.
Sources in the police claimed that Kale, Digwekar, Yavade and Praveen had a list of other targets.
The list allegedly included well-known writers and rationalist thinkers such as Girish Karnad, Baragur Ramachandrappa and Chandrashekhar Patil. These names were allegedly found in Kale’s diary, which had nearly 100 more.
Police officials close to the investigation have said they have good reason to believe that the names in the Kale diary were being targeted for their activism and writings.
The common link
The SIT is said to have found definitive leads that could link the murders of rationalists Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar to that of Lankesh.
While the type of weapon used in all the killings is said to be similar, a forensic report found that the same 7.65 mm country-made weapon was used to kill Lankesh (on 5 September, 2017) and Kalburgi (30 August, 2015).
The SIT has also found a common list of phone numbers from the SIM cards that were found on Praveen and Samir Gaikwad, who was arrested in the Pansare murder case, sources said.
Similarities in the planning and execution of the killings were also reported by the SIT. Naveen’s alleged confession claims that Praveen had approached him for a weapon to “finish her (Lankesh) off”.
The Sanatan Sanstha
Naveen’s alleged confession not only spells out how he was influenced by the activities of Hindu radical outfits such as the Bajrang Dal and the Sri Rama Sene, it also mentions how he was taken in by the religious seminars at the Sanatan Sanstha in Goa.
Sanatan Sanstha is a radical Hindu group headquartered in Ponda, Goa. The organisation has a chain of centres in different parts of the country, including in Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Those arrested in the Pansare, Dabholkar and Lankesh cases have either had direct or indirect connection with the Sanatan Sanstha, which had led the police to investigate if the mastermind of these killings could be from one particular group using people like Naveen, Praveen and Gaikwad as pawns. The accused have all attended sessions at the SS headquarters as well as other centres.
The Lankesh murder
In his alleged confession, Naveen said, “I founded my own organisation in Maddur which I called the Hindu Yuva Sene and held several blood donation and spiritual camps.”
He also mentions how he was a part of several WhatsApp groups — such as the Naanu Hindu Yuva Sene Maddur, Jaago Hindu Maddur, Bajrangi Maddur, among others — that promoted Hinduism.
Naveen is believed to have confessed that he repeatedly told people in the Sanatan Sanstha ashram he was ready to fight with bullets and guns for their cause. During a seminar in Goa, one of the organisers told him that a person with a similar mindset will get in touch.
A few days later, Praveen allegedly got in touch Naveen. Praveen told him he was from the Hindu Mazdoor Kisan Sabha and even stayed at Naveen’s house in Birur, Karnataka. Praveen also told Naveen that he didn’t carry a cell phone and always used a phone booth. This was before the Lankesh murder.
“During the first visit, he had taken a few bullets from me saying he would check if they will do the job. After attending a religious meeting in Bengaluru on 20 August, Praveen discussed finishing off Lankesh as she was making derogatory statements against Hindu religion. Praveen said his boys were ready and would finish the job once I supply the guns and ammunition (sic),” Naveen is quoted as saying in his confession statement.
He says he tried to procure the ammunition from Kollegal and Ooty but was unsuccessful.
Naveen says Ramananda from the Urva Ashram in Mangaluru asked him and his wife to reach there by 5 September. On their arrival the next day, he came to know about Lankesh’s murder from TV and newspapers.
“Praveen just laughed when I asked him about the murder,” the confession quotes Naveen as saying.
Wife as alibi
The SIT said Naveen used his wife Roopa as an alibi and took her along to the ashram to ensure he was not directly involved in the case.
An engineer by profession, Roopa works in Birur. Her statement revealed that Naveen had been actively connected with the Sanatan Sanstha and she had even attended several of their programmes in Belagavi and Shimoga. The two have been married for five years.
Initially, Roopa claimed no knowledge of her husband’s dealings. She said she saw him as an active right-wing activist who worked for people but did not have the courage or the means to kill anyone.
Roopa’s statement changed post-investigation and she began to expose the links between her husband and the Sanatan Sanstha sessions. Her statement also reveals how Naveen possibly used her as an alibi, sources said.
“He had gone away from home saying he was going to attend a religious programme in Hubballi. He, however, returned the next day saying he lost his bag on a train. He told me he was not feeling well and said we should go to Mangaluru. We reached Mangaluru around 9.45 pm and a car picked us up from the bus stop and took us to a Sanatan ashram. The next morning we saw on television that Gauri Lankesh had been killed,” said Roopa in her statement.