Gauri Lankesh and M M Kalburgi
A Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT), which investigated murders of journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 and Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi in 2015, is awaiting forensic reports on a gun recovered from Arabian Sea to ascertain if it was used in the two murders, according to sources. The gun was recovered in a search operation coordinated by the CBI as part of the probe into the 2013 murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Maharashtra.
A gun is reported to have been found in the seabed in a creek off the Mumbai-Nashik highway. The gun was recovered by a dredging agency roped in by the CBI, Maharashtra police and Karnataka police after Sharad Kalaskar (26), a key suspect in the Dabholkar murder case, said that four guns used since 2013 in a series of murders by a right-wing extremist group were dismantled and dumped in the creek.
The killings of Dabholkar in 2013, Leftist thinker from Maharashtra Govind Pansare and Kalburgi in 2015 and Lankesh in 2017 are forensically linked as investigations have revealed that two specific guns were used in these murders by a right-wing extremist group with its roots in fringe groups like Sanatan Sanstha.
Karnataka police officers confirmed the finding of material in the seabed. On whether the gun was used in the murders carried out by the right-wing group, a source in the SIT said, “We need to get more details from the CBI. A forensic report will settle the issue.’’ The SIT filed a report at a court in Dharwad last month in connection with the Kalburgi murder case, stating that the gun used for the murder had not been recovered.
In 2015, the Karnataka State Forensic Science Laboratory had tested bullets and cartridges used in the murder of 77-year-old Kalburgi and the ones recovered from the site of Pansare’s (81) murder. The analysis had shown that one of the two countrymade guns used in Pansare shooting was used to shoot Kalburgi.
The ballistic evidence also stated that a second countrymade gun used in Pansare’s murder was used to gun down rationalist Dabholkar (69) in Maharashtra.
Following the murder of journalist Lankesh, ballistic evidence revealed that the gun used to shoot Kalburgi was the same gun as the one used to kill Lankesh.
Investigations in four separate cases by different agencies has found that an organised group with members having roots in right-wing extremist groups like Sanatan Sanstha carried out the murders of persons considered to be “anti-Hindu”. As many as 25 persons of the core extremist groups have been named for involvement in the murders and terrorist activities that have occurred since 2013.
Kalaskar, one of the accused in the Dabholkar, Kalburgi and Lankesh cases, and one of two alleged shooters of Dabholkar, revealed after his arrest in August 2018 that he was instructed by leaders of the group — Rushikesh Deodikar and a lawyer Sanjay Punalekar — to destroy the guns used in the murders.
According to a statement given to the Karnataka SIT by Kalaskar, he was tasked with destroying the guns used in the killings around June 2018 after several persons linked to the Lankesh murder were arrested by the SIT.
According to Kalaskar’s statement, he identified four guns, dismantled them and dumped them in a creek on the Mumbai-Nasik highway. Following his arrest, the CBI and other agencies started efforts to search the creek to find the guns.