After the arrest of KT Naveen Kumar, who is suspected to have provided arms and logistical support for the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, the Special Investigation Team probing the case now suspects that the group’s next target was rationalist KS Bhagwan.
A source close to the investigation told TNM, “During the course of investigation, we have had reason to believe that the group which is suspected of killing Gauri Lankesh was planning to kill KS Bhagwan next. The suspicion is that Naveen was providing the weapon for killing their next target to one of the team members when the Central Crime Branch arrested him on February 18,” the source added.
The SIT is now questioning a man with links to gunrunners in Bijapur, who allegedly provided the weapon for the killing.
“Currently, it is only a suspicion but once we have gathered more evidence to link the gunrunner we are questioning, we can divulge more information about how the weapons were procured. We have submitted some evidence gained during investigation in a sealed envelope to the court, which is why the court extended the date of Naveen Kumar’s custody with the police. We suspect that the gunrunner in question had provided the weapon to Naveen, who was to deliver it to one of his team members. Naveen Kumar had full knowledge of the team’s plan to kill Gauri Lankesh,” the SIT source said.
Sources in the SIT said that concrete evidence has not been gathered to link Naveen Kumar to Sanathan Sanstha. However, the sleuths had recovered a book written by the founder of Sanathan Sanstha at Naveen Kumar’s residence in Mandya.
“This was also submitted to the court. Just because he was in possession of the book does not mean he had links to Sanathan Sanstha. It could mean that he believed in the ideology. As of now there is no evidence linking him to the outfit. However, we are pursuing the angle to see if he had links to the outfit,” the source added.
Naveen Kumar was produced before the 3rd ACMM court on Friday. The SIT submitted a sealed file to the judge containing crucial information obtained during the course of the investigation. Naveen Kumar has been remanded to five-day police custody.
The court has decided to hear the SIT's plea to conduct lie-detector test on Naveen Kumar on March 15. Accused Naveen Kumar had objected to undergoing this test when he was in the custody of the SIT. Hence, the investigative officers petitioned the court.
Gauri, 55, was the outspoken editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrike, which was known for its frank editorials. She was shot dead outside her residence in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwarinagar on September 5, 2017.