In a significant development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday said it has established links between the murders of Pune-based rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh.
The CBI said it had established the crucial connection before the Shivajinagar Magistrate's Court in Pune to extend the police custody of one of the prime suspects, Sachin Andhure.
Accordingly, the custody of Andhure - arrested from Aurangabad last week - has been extended till August 30.
Medico and rationalist Dabholkar (67), who fought against superstitious beliefs through his Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), was gunned down near his residence on the morning of June 20, 2013.
Two unidentified motorcycle borne assailants fired several rounds at him near the Omkareshwar temple in Pune.
Almost four years later, Gauri Lankesh (55), journalist-cum-activist, was shot dead outside her residence in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017.
She also served as the editor of 'Lankesh Patrike', a Kannada weekly launched by her father P. Lankesh, and also ran her own weekly called 'Gauri Lankesh Patrike.'
Though the two high-profile murders were committed four years apart, in both these cases, the long suspected alleged role of certain right-wing activists, including those associated with Sanatan Sanstha and others, has now emerged.
In its remand plea, the CBI has not yet named any organisation/s which could be involved in these cases.
The remand application adds that during interrogation, Andhure revealed that one of those arrested for the Gauri Lankesh murder had handed over to him a 7.65-mm country made pistol and three bullets.
Later, Andhure - arrested by the CBI last week - claimed he passed it on to his brother-in-law Subham Surale in Aurangabad, on August 11, 2018.
Surale in turn passed the weapon to his friend Rohit Rege in the same city, though the motives are not clear.
Andhure's name was revealed by Sharad Kalaskar, a resident of Nala Sopara, Palghar, arrested by the Maharashtra ATS after a major arms haul there on August 10.
It was Andhure and Kalaskar himself who went on a motorcycle and shot Dabholkar that day, he (Kalaskar) revealed
Now, armed with the fresh information, the CBI plans to seek Kalaskar's custody, after his remand with Maharashtra-ATS ends later this week.
The CBI will also apply for the remand of one of the accused arrested by the SIT of Karnataka police in the Lankesh killing, besides making efforts to trace the missing motorcycle used in the Dabholkar murder in Pune.