Eight months after the cold-blooded murder of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, the Special Investigation Team probing the murder, filed a chargesheet in the 3rd ACMM court on Wednesday.
According to SIT sources, the chargesheet mentions the roles played by KT Naveen Kumar alias Hotte Manja and Praveen alias Suchit Kumar.
The 650-odd page preliminary chargesheet has included 131 witnesses including forensic experts and eyewitnesses. It also includes statements of family members of Gauri Lankesh, doctors who performed the autopsy and the officers who visited the spot on the night of the murder.
â€śCharges have been framed against him in the preliminary chargesheet under IPC sections 118 (concealing intent to commit an offense, 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 35 (criminal intention),â€ť an investigating officer said.
Natives of Biroor in Chikmagalur district, Naveen Kumar and his family had moved to Mandya several years ago. After a stint with the Bajrang Dal, Naveen and his brother started a new organisation in Mandya called the 'Hindu Yuva Sene'.
What does the chargesheet contain?
Sources in the SIT said that the chargesheet details KT Naveen Kumar's role in providing logistics and also how the SIT became aware of his whereabouts.
SIT sources said that KT Naveen Kumar was assigned the task of providing logistics and gathering information about Gauri Lankeshâ€™ movements. Naveen Kumar was gathering the information for shooters who were coming in from another state to kill Gauri.
According to the SIT, Naveen's friend Amit had told the court that Naveen had allegedly boasted about being involved in Gauri Lankeshâ€™s murder.
Amit is also said to have told the court that Naveen was plotting the murder of author KS Bhagwan on the lines of Gauri Lankesh, and he gathered a few men in Chamarajanagar districtâ€™s Kollegal area sometime in December 2017, sources added.
â€śNaveen Kumar became the suspect after it was learnt that he had spoken about being a part of Gauri Lankeshâ€™s killing. The chargesheet also has Naveenâ€™s statement in which he has confessed that he had contacted a man named Praveen to trace Gauriâ€™s house and office. The two men are said to have met in Bengaluruâ€™s Vijaynagar area. Naveen then took Praveen to Rajarajeshwarinagar and also Gauriâ€™s office in Gandhi Bazaar area,â€ť the source said.
Other arrests to be made soon by SIT, who are they?
Naveen Kumar was arrested by the Upparpet Police and booked under the Arms Act. They had recovered a .32 calibre weapon and several rounds of bullets from Naveen.
â€śWhen KT Naveen Kumar was arrested on February 18 this year, he had revealed that another man named Praveen and he were assigned the task of providing logistics to the shooters. Praveen and Naveen are the two people in the CCTV footage. Praveen is the one riding the motorcycle," a source said.
On May 20, the Upparpet Police in Bengaluru arrested a man who went by the alias of Praveen for possessing guns. Praveen alias Sujeet Kumar was booked under the Arms Act and questioned.
The police now believe that this man was Naveen's accomplice.
"When Praveen was arrested under Arms Act, the SIT took him into custody to find out whether he is the same Praveen who helped Naveen. The SIT is likely to arrest him soon,â€ť the SIT source added.
â€śNaveen revealed that Praveenâ€™s handlers had requested them to carry out a second killing after Gauri Lankesh was murdered,â€ť the source said.
After the SIT questioned Praveen, he is said to have revealed the identities of three others who were assigned the task of killing rationalist KS Bhagwan. On May 21, the Upparpet Police arrested Amol Kale alias Baisab from Maharashtra, Amit Devgekar alias Pradeep from Goa and Manohar Edave from Bijapur and they were booked under Arms Act with the suspicion that they were involved in the alleged plot to kill KS Bhagwan in Mysuru.
â€śThe SIT is now questioning all to see whether the shooters mentioned by Naveen during interrogation are the same ones arrested by the Upparpet Police in the alleged conspiracy to kill KS Bhagwan. We suspect that Praveen has links to a pro-Hindutva organisation. Until the evidence of his affiliation to a certain group is obtained, we cannot conclusively say which organisation Praveen and the three others belong to,â€ť the SIT source said.
The investigators are said to have searched several places in Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra after the arrest of Praveen and his three aides. The SIT claims that they have recovered clinching evidence in the case.
â€śCurrently, Praveen and the three have been taken into police custody for questioning only. They have not yet been arrested. We may arrest him today (Wednesday),â€ť the SIT source added.
Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru's Rajarajeshwarinagar on the night of September 5.