“People are asking why is PM Modi silent and not speaking on Gauri Lankesh’s death. Is Modi responsible even if any dog dies in Karnataka?” Pramod Muthalik, chief of Hindutva outfit Sri Ram Sene said on 17 June. The comment reportedly came at an event where Muthalik was interacting with the public.
Muthalik’s statement about Gauri Lankesh, the former editor of Lankesh Patrike who was gunned down in September 2017, came a day after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing Lankesh’s killing summoned a functionary of the fringe right-wing outfit for questioning.
India Today reported, citing reports, that Muthalik later clarified his comment, stating that he did not make a direct comparison.
"Two murders took place in Karnataka and two in Maharashtra in Congress rule. No one questioned Congress govt failure. Instead, they are asking why is PM Modi silent and not speaking on Gauri Lankesh’s death. Is Modi responsible even if any dog dies in Karnataka?" - Pramod Muthalik, Chief, Sri Ram Sene
The comment drew flak from journalists and Opposition leaders.
Disgusting,nauseating, revolting...vigilante group Sri Ram Sene’s Head Pramod Muthalik compares assassinated journalist Gauri Lankesh to a dog. Mr Prime Minister @narendramodi you did not condemn Gauri Lankesh’s murder are you now going to condone this too https://t.co/V3do2n5wIv— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) June 18, 2018
Accused Waghmare reportedly confessed to having killed #GauriLankesh, his photo with Pramod Muthalik taking rounds of internet, Sri Ram Sene is collecting funds to fight his case and now Muthalik calls Gauri a dog. Then they ask where is #HindutvaTerror #SaffronTerror https://t.co/rrv7i9Dfu3— Sanjukta Basu (@sanjukta) June 17, 2018
A senior police official said the SIT decided to question Rakesh Math, the Vijayapura district president of Sri Ram Sene, since the suspected shooter of Lankesh, Parashuram Waghmare, was an active member of the Hindutva outfit, linked to moral policing in parts of Karnataka.
The Ram Sene chief distanced himself from Waghmare, but not before an old photo of the two together began circulating on social media.
"There is no connection between Sri Ram Sene and Waghmare. He is neither our member nor our worker. This I say very clearly. " - Pramod Muthalik, Chief, Sri Ram Sene
The official, from the SIT, told PTI that they wanted to find out whether Rakesh Math was involved in Lankesh's killing and whether he "brainwashed" Waghmare, who was arrested last week, to participate in the plot.
"Rakesh Math is our district president. However, the organisation has its own constitution according to which it functions. If somebody does something privately in his personal capacity, it cannot be held responsible." - Pramod Muthalik, Chief, Sri Ram Sene
The SIT believes Math has a strong support base in coastal regions, including Mangaluru, and parts of north Karnataka.
"We have summoned Rakesh Math. He has not come yet," the official said.
Lankesh’s Kin Express Satisfaction at Investigation’s Progress
The family of Lankesh expressed satisfaction over the progress made by the SIT, saying the probe was moving in the right direction and they will get justice.
Lankesh's sister Kavitha and her mother met former chief minister Siddaramaiah in Bengaluru and conveyed their gratitude over the progress made by the SIT.
A person by name of Parashuram Waghmare had been arrested but lot more investigation has to be done, she said to PTI.
"Let the SIT investigate it because we are not the (investigating) officer. We have faith that it is going in the right direction under the leadership of inspector general of police BK Singh. The 100 members in the SIT have been working very hard." - Kavitha Lankesh, Gauri Lankesh’s sister
"But I came here just to ask whether the investigation will reach its logical end," Kavitha told reporters after meeting Siddaramaiah, whose previous government had formed the SIT.
(With inputs from PTI and India Today)
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