Gauri Lankesh murder: Four years on, this is where the case stands
On September 5, 2017, journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in front of her residence in south Bengaluru. After Gauri’s death, there was nationwide outrage with protests being held in several cities across the country. The then Congress government in Karnataka had constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the murder. Four years later, there have been no convictions in the case so far, with the trial still going on. Eighteen people have been arrested so far.
Gauri’s sister Kavitha Lankesh has filed a plea with the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka High Court (HC) order which had quashed the charges under Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act 2000 (KCOCA) against one of the accused in the case, Mohan Nayak. The Karnataka HC had passed the order on April 22, 2021. Nayak, who was arrested on July 19, 2018, has been accused of providing shelter in a house in Kumbalgodu on the outskirts of Bengaluru to the main accused, including the shooter. The state did not file an appeal against the Karnataka HC order after which Kavitha Lankesh filed a private petition.
On July 25, 2021, the bail plea moved by six of the accused in the case was rejected by the Karnataka HC. The shooter and his key aide, however, had not moved for bail. While all 18 arrested remain behind bars, no one has been convicted in the case so far.
The SIT team that included IPS officers MN Anucheth and P Rangappa, made its first arrest on March 10, 2018 when Naveen Kumar belonging to the Hindu Yuva Sene was taken into custody on the allegation that he was a part of the conspiracy to murder Gauri. The first chargesheet in the case was filed against Naveen Kumar on May 30.
On November 23, 2018, the SIT submitted an additional 9,235-page chargesheet in the Principal Civil and Sessions court. The second chargesheet named 18 people as accused in the murder. The SIT identified Parashuram Waghmare as the shooter and others like Amol Kale, Amit Degwekar and Sujith Kumar as the masterminds behind the crime, also responsible for arming and training the assailants along with their indoctrination. The SIT has said in the chargesheet that the Hindu extremist organisation, Sanatan Sanstha, is responsible for the murder of Gauri Lankesh.
The SIT also said that the murder of Gauri Lankesh was linked to the murders of other left-leaning activists and rationalists--Professor MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Police have concluded that the same team was behind all the murders, which were allegedly carried out for ideological reasons.
The SIT has stated in court that Gauri Lankesh was targeted for opposing Hindutva vehemently in her writing and speeches. In a diary that the SIT allegedly recovered from one of the accused, Amol Kale, a list with around 36 names was reportedly recovered. The list was drawn up of literary figures, activists and rationalists to be targeted allegedly for ideological reasons. The names on the list included that of writers Girish Karnad, KS Bhagwan, Yogesh Master, Banajagere Jayaprakash, Chandrashekhar Patil, Patil Putappa, Baragur Ramachandrappa, Nataraj Huliyar, and Chennaveera Kanavi. Rationalist Narendra Nayak, Karnataka Backward Castes Commission chairman CS Dwarkanath and former IAS officer SM Jamdar, too, were reportedly named. Most of the people named in the list had been provided with police protection by the state government.
In August 2019, the Union government awarded the Home Minister's Medal for Excellence to the SIT for the investigation into Gauri’s murder.
Gauri Lankesh was the editor of a weekly Kannada tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike. She had also formed a forum against communal hate called the Komu Souharda Vedike, which worked for the marginalised communities. In 2014, she was appointed as the head of a committee formed by the Siddaramaiah-led government to convince the naxals to give up arms and surrender.