The SIT on Friday arrested Sudhanwa Gondhalekar, the 39-year-old man from Maharashtra’s Satara district. Sudhanwa was arrested along with four others on August 10 by Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad from Mumbai’s Nalasopara with a huge cache of illegal firearms and crude bombs.
The SIT had tipped off the Maharashtra ATS about the illegal weapons as they had uncovered the details while investigating Gauri Lankesh’s murder case.
A Bengaluru court remanded Sudhanwa Gondhalekar to a 14-day custody. Sudhanwa was allegedly in Bengaluru to supervise the operation and is said to have transported the murder weapon outside Karnataka after the assassination.
SIT sources say that they are verifying the CCTV footage near Mysuru Road and also near Gauri’s home as they believe Sudhanwa had conducted a recce of the area. The probe has revealed that Sudhanwa allegedly kept the murder weapon at a safehouse on the night of the murder.
“We believe he left the state and returned 10 days later to collect the murder weapon. We believe that he took the gun to Satara via Belagavi,” the source said.
The Maharashtra ATS had arrested Gondhalekar on August 10 along with two alleged sympathisers of Sanatan Sanstha, Vaibhav Raut and Sharad Kalaskar.
The ATS had seized 16 0.32 country-made pistoles, similar to the one used in Gauri’s murder in Nalasopara. Upon interrogation, the ATS had also found another pistol of the same make at the home of the brother-in-law of Sachin Andhure, who is another arrested accused in the arms haul case.
“We believe that Sudhanwa’s role in the plot was to dispose the weapon or hide it. We want to know if the murder weapon is among of the 17 guns seized by Maharashtra’s ATS,” the source added.
The Maharashtra ATS discovered that Sharad and Sachin were involved in the murder of rationalist-activist Narendra Dabholkar on August 20, 2013. The ATS had also claimed that Gondhalekar was a sympathiser of Shiv Prathistan Hindustan, an outfit that has come under the scanner for 2018 Bhima Koregaon violence.