Sunburn suspect in Gauri Lankesh case papers

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Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead at her house in Bengaluru on Tuesday evening. (Express archive photo)

A 34-year-old resident of West Bengal arrested by Maharashtra ATS Thursday in connection with the Nallasopara terror case was allegedly a guest trainer at arms and bomb-training camps attended by several persons who were arrested later in the killing of Gauri Lankesh, according to papers in Karnataka Police’s chargesheet.

In statements given by an arrested suspect to the Karnataka SIT probing the Lankesh case, Prathap Hazra, who was picked up with the help of Kolkata Police and produced in a Mumbai court, is identified as an alleged bomb-making expert and guest trainer at a camp held in the Mangalore area in 2015. The camps were conducted by persons linked to the Sanatan Sanstha, according to the SIT papers.

Three persons linked to the Sanstha and arrested in the Lankesh case, and four witnesses who attended the camps, have described the presence of a “Babaji” and four other “Gurujis” during training provided to make bombs, according to statements placed in court by the Karnataka SIT.

Journalist and activist Lankesh was shot dead outside her Bengaluru home on September, 5, 2017.

While four of the guest trainers were identified by names like “Bade Babaji” and “Guruji”, the fifth was named by an accused and many witnesses in the Lankesh case as Prathap Hazra, who hailed from West Bengal.

Hazra, who has been associated with radical outfit Bhavani Sena, is accused by the Maharashtra ATS of participating in a conspiracy with persons linked to the Sanstha to carry out a bomb attack on the Sunburn music festival in Pune in 2017 after declaring that it promotes “Western culture” and erodes Hindu culture.

The Karnataka SIT found that 19 camps were organised by the Sanstha-linked group in the usage of firearms, improvised explosive devices and subterfuge tactics between 2011 and 2017 — with five IED experts attending five camps held in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka as “guest trainers”.

According to a statement given by Sharad Kalaskar, 26, who is accused in the 2013 murder of Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar as well as the Lankesh killing, Hazra was a guest trainer at a camp held on a private farm in the Dharamsthala region near Mangalore in August 2015.

The three-day camp involved training in “firing air pistols, making and exploding country bombs and pipe bombs’’, says a chart presented by the Karnataka SIT in its chargesheet.

According to the chart, six persons involved in the shooting of Lankesh — prime planner Amol Kale, bike rider Ganesh Miskin, and logistics providers Amit Baddi, Bharat Kurne, Sharad Kalaskar and Vasudev Suryavanshi — attended the camp. Other camps are reported to have been held in Jalna in 2011 and January 2015, Ahmedabad in November 2015 and Nasik in January 2016.

According to statements provided by suspects and witnesses in the Lankesh case, some of the trainers like “Bade Babaji” wore the garb of monks. Each trainer had his own area of expertise ranging from petrol bombs to sophisticated pipe bombs with electrical circuits.

Based on information provided by the SIT, “Bade Babaji” was arrested by the Gujarat ATS in Bharuch in November 2018, and his identity was established as Suresh Nair (45), a missing suspect from the October 11, 2007 Ajmer bomb blast, police sources said.