K’taka SIT piece together Gauri Lankesh murder plot, make another arrest

Following multiple arrests in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, Karnataka SIT sleuths say the alleged mastermind had assigned specific roles to each of the suspects.
K’taka SIT piece together Gauri Lankesh murder plot, make another arrest
K’taka SIT piece together Gauri Lankesh murder plot, make another arrest
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The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has now arrested another a man from Belagavi in connection with the crime. A team of SIT sleuths detained Sagar Lakhe from Ganeshpur in Belagavi at around 4 pm on Wednesday. The SIT team believes that the bike used by the killers on the night of the murder was allegedly sold by Sagar to them.

“According to the CCTV footage we have obtained, a Pulsar bike was used to carry out a reconnaissance of Gauri Lankesh’s house. We have found CCTV footage where two men arrive on the same bike near Gauri’s house at 3 pm and then again at 7 pm on September 5, 2017, the day Gauri was killed. Finally, they shoot her at around 8.30 pm. We believe that Sagar Lakhe sold the bike to Gauri’s killers,” an SIT source said.

SIT sources say that another accused Bharat Khurne and Sagar Lakhe were members of the pro-Hindutva fringe group Shiv Prathishthan, which is based in Maharashtra's Kolhapur. In January 2018, the members of the outfit had clashed with Dalit groups in Maharashtra.

A team of investigators from the Karnataka SIT had visited Mumbai earlier in August to interrogate three suspects in the custody of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad in connection with Gauri’s murder. Upon questioning the suspects, the SIT believes that two of the suspects arrested by the ATS were in Bengaluru on the night Gauri Lankesh was killed and that these two men were also a part of the plot to kill Gauri.

“Amol Kale, the mastermind in the murder, had originally set September 4 as the day Gauri Lankesh was to be killed. He had assigned Ganesh Miskin to drive Parashuram Waghmore to Gauri’s house. Wagmore was to shoot Gauri in the head. On the night of September 4, when Parashuram Waghmore and Ganesh Miskin reached the location, Gauri Lankesh was already inside her house. So, they went back. This made Amol Kale reconsider his faith in the two men and he decided to appoint a back-up team to kill Gauri Lankesh in case Parashuram and Ganesh failed once more,” the source alleged.

SIT sources say that Amol Kale had allegedly appointed Sudhanva Gondalkar and Sharad Khalaskar as the back-up team to kill Gauri Lankesh.

“We have found CCTV footage in Sunrise Residency apartments located near Gauri’s house. In it we can see Sudhanva Gondalkar and another man in a helmet riding the bike, whom we believe is Sharad Khalaskar. They too carried out recces of Gauri’s house on September 5 at around 3.45 pm. They were also on a bike waiting beside the park near Gauri’s house at night. When they received information that she had been shot, they turned around and left the scene,” the source added.

The SIT has petitioned the court in order to gain custody of Sudhanva Gondalkar and Sharad Khalaskar in order to interrogate them in relation to the crime.

According to investigators, Parashuram Waghmore did not know the names of any of his associates. Parashuram was allegedly instructed by Amol Kale to get onto a bike ridden by Ganesh Miskin and he was told to kill Gauri Lankesh.

 “The group wanted to establish a Hindu Rashtra and the members were recruited from various pro-Hindutva outfits. Dr Virendrasinh Tawde, who is the suspected mastermind of Narendra Dhabolkar’s (anti-superstition activist and rationalist) murder is believed to have conceptualised the idea of an outfit to kill those whom they believed were impeding their efforts. Amol Kale was Tawde’s right-hand man and trusted lieutenant,” SIT source alleged.

Upon Tawde’s arrest by the CBI in connection with Narendra Dabholkar’s murder, Amol Kale allegedly took over as head of operations. He is believed to have planned and micromanaged the killings of rationalists Govind Pansare and Professor MM Kalburgi as well.

Amol Kale’s team and their roles.

SIT sleuths allege that Amol Kale has assigned specific roles to each of the arrested persons. None of them knew each other’s original names and they only had to concentrate on their specific task to avoid suspicion.

KT Naveen Kumar, who was the first person arrested in the Gauri murder case, was allegedly involved in conducting background checks and was a part the logistics team.

Sujeet Kumar, believed to be Kale’s go to man for recruiting people to carry out the murders, allegedly shortlisted names and recruited people to carry out the murder. Sujeet Kumar allegedly recruited Parashuram Waghmore the alleged shooter in the case.

Amit Degwekar, who was allegedly involved in the 2009 Margao blast case, is believed to be Amol Kale’s right-hand man and financier of operations.

Manohar Edave was allegedly in-charge of carrying out reconnaissance of Gauri Lankesh’s house and workplace. He is believed to have created a timeline of her day-to-day movements.

Rajesh Bangera, government employee and former PA to MLC Veena Achaiah was allegedly the weapons expert, and trained Sujeet Kumar’s recruits in shooting. Rajesh Bangera allegedly trained these recruits at a farmhouse owned by another arrested accused Bharat Kurne.

SIT sources say that Amol Kale had allegedly instructed Ganesh Miskin to shoot Gauri Lankesh in case Parashuram Waghmore failed to do so. After the shooting, Ganesh and Parashuram sped away and met with another accused in the case – Amit Baddi on Mysuru Road. They handed over the weapon, helmet and bike to Amit Baddi. They changed their clothes inside a Maruti Omni van, which Amit Baddi had brought and the duo made their way to Nelamangala.

“They reached Nelamangala and another accused Bharat Khurne got them into a bus to Bijapur,” the SIT source said.

Amit Baddi allegedly took the weapon, the bike, clothes and helmet to a safe house in Kumbalgodu owned by another arrested accused Suresh Kumar and handed them over to Sudhanva Gondhalkar. Sources say that Sudhanva allegedly kept the clothes, weapon and bike in the safehouse for over a week. Another arrested accused, Mohan Naik allegedly rented the house from Suresh.

“If we get custody of Sudhanva and Sharad, we will be able to figure out the details of the murder weapon,” the source added.

Sudhanva Gondhalkar and Sharad Khalaskar were among five people arrested by Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad earlier in August in Nalasopara. The ATS had uncovered a huge cache of arms including IEDs, pistols and also equipment to build crude bombs. The SIT believes that the pistol used to kill Gauri may be one of the 16 guns seized by the ATS.

“We have requested custody of the weapons in order to carry out forensic tests,” the source said.

So far, the SIT has arrested 13 people in connection with the murder and believe that Amol Kale is their mastermind and handler.

The Kalburgi murder

The Karnataka CID, which is probing the murder of Professor MM Kalburgi now has a list of eight men, one of whom, they believe shot Professor Kalburgi.

CID sources say that the SIT probing Gauri's murder decoded information found in Amol Kale's diary and handed over the aliases of eight men, whom they believe were involved in Kalburgi's murder.

"Amol Kale, Amit Degwekar, Amit Baddi, Rajesh Bangera and Ganesh Miskin were involved in Kalburgi's murder but none of them were the shooters. We are looking for the shooter," CID sources say.

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