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First arrest in Gauri Lankesh murder case, SIT names Naveen Kumar as an accused

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Leader of fringe group Hindu Yuva Sene sent to police custody for five days, was being tracked by the SIT for months in connection with the journalist’s murder.

Bengaluru: The special investigation team probing the murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh has officially arrested Hindu Yuva Sene’s K.T. Naveen Kumar and named him one of the accused in the case. He has now been remanded to police custody for five days.

Based on Naveen’s statement to the police, another man, Praveen, has also been named as an accused.

Gauri was shot dead at her house in Bengaluru on 5 September 2017. Confirming the first arrest in the case, the SIT’s Investigating Officer and DCP M.N. Anucheth said: “Naveen Kumar has been arrested and is an accused, but not accused number one. That number is given at the time of charge sheet.”

Naveen was booked by the crime branch under the Arms Act on 14 February. The police had been keeping him under electronic surveillance, and during his interrogation, it was revealed that Naveen was one of the suspects on the SIT’s radar for months.

What happened in court?

At the hearing on Naveen’s bail plea in court, public prosecutor A. Nirmal Rani sought his custody, saying the SIT needed to interrogate him more on his links to the murder.

Kumar’s lawyer Vedamurthy argued that he had been in custody for 20 days, and there was no need to extend it. It was at this time that the prosecutor handed over a sealed envelope to the court and elaborated that Naveen had been officially arrested by the SIT in the Gauri Lankesh murder case.

The prosecutor also said that the since the police had found enough leads to book him, they were entitled to another 15 days of custody.

The prosecutor said the court that the SIT had a video confession of Naveen, in which he has given them permission to conduct forensic tests such as voice samples and narco-analysis tests on him. But when the presiding officer of the additional chief metropolitan magistrate, V. Prakash, asked Naveen if he had given permission, he denied it. The court has reserved it orders until 15 March on whether to allow a narco-analysis test.

Sources in the police said Naveen had given voluntary statements to the SIT during interrogation of his links to the murder. Naveen was supposed to have helped Gauri’s killers source weapons and ammunition. The police have also been able confirm that not only did Naveen know where Gauri lived, he also bore a striking resemblance to the man who was seen in the CCTV footage doing a recce of her place, which further pinned him down.

Who is Naveen Kumar?

A college drop-out, Naveen is reported to be a familiar face in Maddur town, about 80 km from Bengaluru. Along with his elder brother Thimmegowda, he founded a fringe group called Hindu Yuva Sene based out of Mandya in 2015. Under the umbrella of this organisation, they would conduct blood donation camps and several employment programmes for the youth.

Naveen shifted to Birur in Chikmagaluru to accompany his government employee wife, who is posted there. He is famously called ‘Hotte Manja’ (‘hotte’ means potbellied) in the area, and grew quite close to radical right-wing organisations. Documents such as propaganda pamphlets of the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha have been found in Naveen’s house.

It is believed that Naveen and his brother started the Sene after a brief interaction with the Bajrang Dal, as it was said that they wanted to create a separate base of their own. The locals in the area are reported to have said that they have heard of Naveen and his organisation, but it was no different from other Hindu fringe groups that has sprung up over the last few years.

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