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SIT arrests man who may have pulled trigger on Gauri Lankesh

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Parusharam Waghmare, a small-time trader, from north Karnataka’s Vijayapura district, was picked up from Sindagi.

Bengaluru: The special investigation team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has arrested Parusharam Waghmare, a small-time trader, from north Karnataka’s Vijayapura district. Waghmare is believed to be the one who pulled the trigger on Lankesh.

Waghmare, who owned a hardware shop in Sindagi, was produced before a Bengaluru court Tuesday, and has been taken into 14 days’ custody.

Lankesh, 55, was shot dead on the night of September 5 by unidentified men outside her residence in Bengaluru.

Besides the arrest of the main accused, illegal gun-runner K.T. Naveen Kumar in the case, four others — Praveen, Amol Kale, Amit Digwekar alias Pradeep Mahajan and Manohar Dundappa Edave — were arrested on 21 May for allegedly plotting to kill Mysuru-based writer K.S. Bhagwan. They are also being investigated for their links to the Lankesh and M.M. Kalburgi killings.

SIT sources told ThePrint that Waghmare — like the other suspects in the case — would visit the Sanathan Sanstha in Goa and participate in their seminars.

The Sanatan Sanstha is a radical Hindu group headquartered in Ponda. The organisation has a chain of centres in different parts of the country, including in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

The Kale connection

The sources said Waghmare is believed to have been picked by Kale to murder Lankesh. Though his role is still under investigation, police are confident he could be the man who was entrusted with the job of pulling the trigger.

CCTV footage from the crime scene matches Waghmare’s profile but a senior police official close to the investigation told The Print, “His complete role in the conspiracy will be revealed later, right now we are concentrating on his interrogation.”

Sources said Waghmare was in touch with his handler, whom he called dada, and took instructions from him.

The detailed planning of how the recce should be conducted, how many days the killers should be in Bangalore, how they should track Lankesh before the final act were all decided by Kale.

Lankesh, Pansare, Dabholkar…

Kale, sources said, has turned out to be the crucial link between the killers of Lankesh and other rationalists such as M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.

The connection was exposed after the police, during their investigation, found that Kale had been in close contact with Sarang Akolkar, the man who is the prime accused in the Dabholkar murder case. He is absconding.

A diary owned by Kale, which was recovered by police, had names of several possible targets — including well-known writers and rationalist thinkers such as Girish Karnad, Baragur Ramachandrappa and Chandrashekhar Patil — who they felt threatened “Hindu Dharma”.

Those arrested in the Pansare, Dabholkar and Lankesh cases have either had direct or indirect connection with the Sanatan Sanstha. The accused have all attended sessions at the Ponda headquarters as well as other centres.

Waghmare has also been identified by the Maharashtra special police team who were in Bangalore for three days, sources said. During this time, the SIT was able to establish links between Kale and Akolkar and cross reference the ballistic reports from the killings.

Sources in the police confirmed that the attackers were in possession of two guns, both 7.65 mm. Two guns were used to kill Pansare, and one of them was later used to murder Kalburgi and Lankesh. This has been confirmed by the ballistic report that was shared by the Maharashtra police with the Karnataka SIT.

The Gujarat police and the CBI officers too had met with the Bangalore SIT to analyse the possibility of the hand of these men in other killings.

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