Days after the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, allegations abound on a right-wing conspiracy and there is alarm over the law and order situation in the state.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah gives an update on the investigation in an email interview with Anubhuti Vishnoi.
What do the first probe reports on the Gauri Lankesh murder suggest?
CCTV footage from the camera in Gauri Lankesh’s house shows a short, stocky man accost her when she is trying to open the gate at her house and shoots at her.
I have set up an SIT with a fully-empowered and well-resourced team to investigate the heinous murder. I am sure they will do a professional job and catch the killers.
The BJP has stated that this is a law and order failure in the state. Your comments.
Do they know the difference between crime and law & order? Karnataka is a peaceful state and there is no law & order issue. What happened with Gauri and two years ago with Prof Kalburgi is targeted assassination.
And there is a trend in the country to visit people with violence for their views. In our state, we do not tolerate vigilantism & deal strictly with individuals & groups that threaten people for their views, choice of clothing and food.
Why is the cases of Kalburgi still unsolved?
The CID has made substantial headway in the Kalburgi case. They have worked closely with the CBI, which is investigating the Dabholkar murder and the Maharashtra Police, which is investigating the Pansare case.
The weapons used in the three cases are interconnected. However, further work is required to nail the culprits. I am not happy CID has not been able to complete the investigation. However, I am confident they are doing their best.
Does the Gauri Lankesh case indicate a greater environment of intolerance in Karnataka? What is the government doing about it?
No. It indicates an environment of intolerance in the country and Karnataka has become a victim of such an environment.
The government is vigilant and takes any threat of peace seriously. Cases of targeted and organised crime by shadowy groups that are careful to leave no evidence behind make our work difficult.
I have asked the DG & IGP to review the threat perception faced by prominent thinkers and writers and provide protection to them.
What do you say about the allegations of a right-wing conspiracy around Gauri Lankesh’s murder?
I would like the police to investigate all angles from an open mind and would not like to prejudge the issue. Certain people are rejoicing the murder on social media, some of whom are followed by none other than the Prime Minister himself.
A BJP MLA of our state had said had she not criticised the RSS she would not have been killed. These indicate justification of murder by some in the right-wing. This is the most unfortunate and this does not represent us.
What steps are being taken to ensure such incidents do not recur?
I have asked for a detailed assessment of threat perception for progressive thinkers, rationalists, writers and journalists to provide security to them.
But at the national level, we need to de-escalate the environment of hate and intolerance that is created. We need to re-build our society based on our core values of compassion, tolerance and love.
As far as my state is concerned we will do everything necessary to face the evil of violent intolerance and defeat it.
Will you hand over the Gauri Lankesh murder case to the CBI?
We have full confidence in our SIT. However, I have said we have an open mind on handing over the case to the CBI if the family members so demand. The family members have not made unanimous demand for a CBI inquiry.
Whether the perpetrators belong to the left-wing or right-wing, the police will look at all angles.
What is the status of the Kalburgi case?
CID Karnataka has made important breakthroughs. CID-K was the first agency to establish the connection between the Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi case. The common link was the firearm. The connection between Dabholkar, Pansare and the organisation called, Sanatana Sanstha, was also established by us.
CID-K is on the lookout for some suspects to connect the dots. Hopefully they will get some breakthrough soon.
Is there a connection to Gauri Lankesh’ murder?
It would be premature to link those three murders to Gauri’s case, although the modus operandi and choice of weapon are similar. I don’t want to say more on this.