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Key Accused in Gauri Lankesh's Murder 'Confesses' to Involvement of Hindutva Outfits
From the Web Desk, 12/06/2018, New Delhi

“Do target practice not just sitting down; practice with your air-gun while standing, lying down and even walking.” This was KT Naveen Kumar’s advice to Anil, the man who he tried to ‘train’ while plotting the next murder – that of Prof Bhagwan, an academic in Mysore, for his anti-Hindu opinions and his insult to Hindu gods.

This and many other startling facts came to light in the confession by Kumar, arrested in March this year for his role in the plot to kill Prof Bhagwan. Kumar is also being investigated for involvement in the Gauri Lankesh murder case, with the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up to probe her murder having taken his custody. The SIT has also arrested four others based on leads given by Naveen Kumar – two from Karnataka, one each from Pune and Goa. This includes ‘Praveen’, who Naveen claims had a direct role in the murder of Lankesh. It was Praveen a.k.a. Sujith Kumar who, in fact, told Naveen about the plot to kill Lankesh nearly 15 days before it was actually carried out on September 5, 2017.
 

Naveen’s 12-page voluntary confession, that is currently part of the 600-page chargesheet before a trial court in Bengaluru, has some startling revelations on how the different operatives of the Hindutva wings functioned. A college dropout, who was deeply interested in the task of spreading and safeguarding Hindu dharma, Naveen says he started ‘Hindu Yuva Sena’ in Mandya district. Other than running various programmes for the same agenda, Naveen also ran a few WhatsApp groups such as ‘Hindu Yuva Sena’, ‘Jago Hindu Maddur’, ‘Bajrang Maddur’, ‘Kaveri Boys’ for the greater cause of Hindu dharma.

It was in June 2017, when he was invited to a workshop of Hindu organisations at an ashram in Goa’s Ponda, that Naveen first talked about how Hindus must ‘weaponise’ themselves to save the religion, the statement said.

Another person he came in touch with at the ashram – Mohan Gowda of Bengaluru – praised him for his speech. Naveen then told Gowda that he had a gun and bullets for this purpose, police said. Gowda reportedly told him that there are “many like-minded individuals in the fraternity” and he would put Naveen in touch with some of them.

Soon after, Naveen was contacted by Praveen from a telephone booth. Praveen later visited him at his home in Chikkamagalur’s Birur and "wanted to see the bullets to ascertain if it suited his purpose".

Naveen was then sent to North Karnataka’s Belgaum by his new friend. There, he met two others, including a Sanjay Bansare, who also sought Naveen’s help in arranging for a gun and bullets. But Naveen apparently wasn’t able to fulfil this commitment, police said.

In his confession statement, Naveen says he later met Praveen at another workshop in Bengaluru on August 20, 2017. This is where Praveen talks of plans afoot to kill Lankesh. On September 5, Naveen was asked to go to an ashram in Mangalore along with his wife and spend two days there to possibly build an alibi. It was there that he got to know about Lankesh having been killed.

While Naveen doesn’t admit to being directly involved in Gauri’s killing, he admits to having known of it 15 days before. He also says within two months, plans were afoot to carry out another similar attack to ‘finish off’ Prof Bhagwan – the case he is currently booked under.

Praveen approached him in November to keep an eye on Prof Bhagwan’s home, observe the CCTV and security deployment there. Naveen admits he agreed and enlisted the support of another person of his 'sena' – Anil of Srirangapatna – to take up this surveillance. Anil was also given money to buy an air-gun and take up target practice. It was when he checked up on Anil’s practising skills that he advised him – "don’t just practice shooting while sitting down, practice while standing, lying down and even walking".

In mid-January 2018, Naveen says he hosted Praveen and three others at a farm-house near Maddur to carry forward these plans, but nothing could be worked out immediately.

The chargesheet filed against Naveen also provides ballistic evidence that the bullets recovered from Lankesh’s case match the exact striations of bullets recovered from Prof MM Kalburgi, who was killed in a similar fashion outside his home in Dharwad August 2015. It proves that both killers used the same weapon to fire the bullets from, though the country-made gun is yet to be recovered.

The bullets also match those that were pumped into Maharashtrian Left-wing activist Govind Pansare – Pansare and his wife were shot at by two bike-borne men while out on a walk in February 2015. The modus operandi was very similar to Lankesh and Kalburgi’s murders.

Two weapons had been used at the time, with one of them being the same gun that was used in the Lankesh and Kalburgi murders, police have established through ballistic evidence.

The other weapon used to attack the Pansares, incidentally, matches the gun used in the killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in August 2013. These show a specific pattern in these killings that investigators will likely take up soon, now that the first of a series of arrests have begun in the plot to kill Prof Bhagwan.

All murders are being investigated by different agencies – while the SIT is probing Lankesh’s murder, the CID of the Karnataka police is probing the murder of Prof Kalburgi. The murders of Pansare and Dabholkar are being probed by the Maharashtra police and the CBI respectively.

 

 
 
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