Separate investigations into the 2013 murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune and journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru last year, by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Anti Terrorism Squad of Maharashtra police, and a Special Investigation Team of Karnataka police have fed off each other, holding out the possibility the murders of four intellectuals in the past five years in Maharashtra and Karnataka are connected.
The first link between the murders of Dabholkar and Lankesh emerged this August, when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recovered a pistol during raids in Aurangabad and arrested two suspects in the Dabholkar case. The pistol with which Dabholkar was killed, the investigating agencies suspect, was connected to the Lankesh murder and was once owned by Sachin Prakashrao Andure, accused of murdering the Pune rationalist on August 20, 2013.
“During the interrogation of Andure, it was revealed that one of the arrested in the Gauri Lankesh murder case handed over one 7.65mm country-made pistol and three bullets to Sachin Andure. Sachin Andure passed this country-made pistol and three bullets with magazine on August 11 evening, to his brother-in-law Shubham Surale, in Aurangabad,” CBI told a Pune court. The agency claimed the pistol was recovered during raids on August 21. The investigators have now sent the pistol for forensic examination.
Interestingly, the Karnataka SIT investigating the killing of Lankesh said soon after the murder that the weapon used was the same one used in the killing of academic MM Kalburgi in Dharwad in 2015.
Lankesh case file
- SEPT 5: Gauri Lankesh gunned down outside her house
- SEPT 7: Special Investigation Team formed
- FEB 18: KT Naveen Kumar arrested in Bengaluru, first arrest in the case
- JUNE 11: SIT arrests Parashuram Waghmare, who is believed to be the shooter
- JULY 18: Mohan Nayak, who had rented a house on the outskirts of Bengaluru, which was the safehouse code-named ‘Goshala’, was arrested
- JULY 22: SIT arrests Ganesh Miskin and Amit Baddi from Hubballi. Miskin is believed to have ferried Waghmare to Gauri Lankesh’s house on the night of the murder and Baddi is alleged to have helped waghmare and Miskin escape the city
- JULY 23: Rajesh Bangera, alleged to have imparted weapons training, arrested by SIT
- JULY 25: Suresh HL, who allegedly stored the weapon after the murder, arrested
- AUG 9: Bharat Kurane, who allegedly moved the weapon to Suresh’s shop, arrested
- AUG 14: SIT invokes the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act
MAY 31: SIT ARREST FOUR PERSONS
- Sujith Kumar: Believed to have liaised with the killers in the case
- Amol kale: A resident of Pune, who is believed to be the mastermind behind the murder and head of a shadow, nameless organisation
- Amit Degwekar: Another suspect, who hails from Sindhudurg district in Maharashtra
- Manohar Edave: Resident of Vijayapura in Karnataka, who was in charge of recruiting youth in Karnataka for the organisation
Andure has been named as one of the “shooters” in the Dabholkar case and is the second suspect arrested by CBI after Virendra Tawde.
Accused as a co-conspirator, Tawde is also a suspect in the murder of Govind Pansare, senior CPI(M) leader, who was shot dead in February 2015. On September 1, the CBI on September 1 took into custody from the Karnataka police two more suspects — Amit Digvekar and Rajesh Bangera – in the Dabholkar case; both were arrested by the Karnataka SIT .
There are more connections. Sharad Kalaskar, arrested separately by the ATS last month (and now in CBI’s custody) , was the second shooter in the Dabholkar case, according to CBI, and allegedly provided the two-wheeler used in Lankesh’s murder. ATS sources said Kalaskar allegedly provided the motorcycle to Amol Kale, one of the key accused in the Lankesh case, and that certain people arrested in Lankesh case and those arrested in the Dabholkar case were allegedly in touch. Indeed, the arrests of Kalaskar happened only after a tip-off from the SIT investigating Lankesh’s murder.
The ATS also claims to have decoded a code ‘NH4 wala kaam’ (Work related to NH4), which the accused allegedly used to refer in their communications. According to ATS officials, the code is significant when one considers the National Highway Number 4 runs from Mumbai to Chennai, via Pune, Satara, Belagavi and Bengaluru – areas where the murders have occured. “It could be a crucial code to prove the possible link between the murders of Dabholkar, Pansari, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh,” said an officer. The CBI has also appeared to shift from an earlier theory where it named two other people — Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar – as the people who allegedly shot Dabholkar. The defence counsel representing Andure and Digvekar has pointed out these apparent contradictions. “The investigating agencies have been coming up with one theory after another. All their theories have fallen flat in the past,” said Prakash Salsingikar, defence counsel for Andure.
The CBI, however, has refuted the defence counsel’s charge saying the mention of Akolkar and Pawar was based on the resemblance of their faces to sketches.
First Published: Sep 05, 2018 08:54 IST