Plot on Karnataka rationalists

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Bangalore, June 10: The special investigation team probing the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh has picked up leads pointing to a larger conspiracy to target other rationalists in Karnataka.
A notebook with handwritten entries seized from one of the men in custody carries the names of renowned writer Chandrashekar Patil, better known by his nom de guerre Champa, and writer and former Congress Minister BT Lalita Naik, sources said.
The suspects in custody had told the investigators that they had kept watch on the movements of rationalist writer KS Bhagawan who lives in Mysore. Both Patil and Bhagawan have been given armed police protection since the murder of rationalist scholar MM Kalburgi in 2015.
Patil said the police had not got in touch with him after the seizure of the notebook. “No, nobody approached me. But I’ve been provided full security,” he told The Telegraph on Saturday.
The SIT filed the first charge-sheet in Gauri’s murder case on May 30, naming gunrunner KT Naveen Kumar and his accomplice Sujith Kumar alias Praveen as the first and second accused.
Sustained interrogation led the police to 3 others – Amol Kale and Amit Degwekar in Maharashtra and Manohar Dundappa Yavade in Karnataka’s Bijapur. All 3 are in SIT custody.
The investigators found inscriptions in a notebook seized from Kale that had the names of Patil, Bhagawan and Naik. The sources said they suspected something sinister was being planned as Kale had nothing to do with literature or scholarship that he would jot down the names. A source said the police were reading Kale’s notebook in the light of Naveen’s confession to the SIT about a larger plan to eliminate “anti-Hindu” people.
The SIT first suspected a larger conspiracy after intercepting phone calls of more than 200 activists of various Hindutva groups after Naveen’s interrogation led them to his handler, Sujith.
But Sujith went underground and the investigating team had to intercept phone calls of his possible contacts to get closer to him. He was netted when he emerged from hiding after the police activated a network of informants who kept an eye out for him.
Like Naveen, Sujith had attended workshops at the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, an allied organisation of the Sanathan Sanstha, in Goa. Sujith, who hails from Shimoga in Karnataka, dropped out of a diploma course in engineering.
Unlike Naveen who started a fringe outfit called the Hindu Yuva Sena in his native Maddur in Mandya district, it was not immediately known if Sujith was part of any group or acted alone.
Gauri was shot dead outside her home in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in Bangalore on September 5 last year by unidentified hitmen. Police sources have all along maintained there could be 2 hit-men, one as a back-up ready with an escape vehicle – in this case a motorbike.
While the actual killers are at large, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara had last week said the investigation would soon lead to the culprits. Following Friday’s assigning of portfolios, Parameshwara is the new Home Minister and he will directly supervise the progress in the case.
Ballistic tests conducted on the empty shells recovered from the scene of the crime have established that the killer had used country-made pistols with a 7.65mm bore. It is the same calibre used to kill rationalist scholar MM Kalburgi, who was shot dead in similar manner at his home in Dharwad on August 30, 2015.
While the police probe into Kalburgi’s murder has almost hit a dead end with no significant leads on the killers, sources said the SIT probing Gauri’s killing had already compared investigation and forensic reports from Dharwad.
A renowned Lingayat scholar, Kalburgi was shot dead by a man while another waited at the gate with a getaway motorbike.
(Courtesy: TT)