The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Karnataka police probing the Gauri Lankesh murder case is hunting for at least five more people. The SIT insists the leadership of Hindu rightwing outfit Sanatan Sanstha was aware of the activities of its "foot soldiers" in the killing of some rationalists.
The five men are based out of Goa and Maharashtra adjoining the Karnataka border, an SIT official said, adding that they had taken part in the crimes. As the SIT started cracking the murder case of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist-activist with strong anti-Hindutva views, leading to the arrest of key players in the killing of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi, it discovered the wide network of operatives of the gang involved in these incidents.
"The leadership of Goa-headquartered Sanatan Sanstha was aware of the activities of its foot soldiers and lower rung cadre. We cannot subscribe to this statement that the leadership was not aware of it. They definitely knew about these plots," the official claimed.
He, however, said it was "tricky" to say the outfit had morphed into a terrorist organisation. The official, however, said there were sufficient reasons to invoke the stringent Karnataka Control of Organised
Crime Act (KCOCA) against the gang members. KCOCA is the Karnataka version of the law in place in Maharashtra to curb underworld activities, often dubbed as draconian by civil rights groups.
Several people with alleged links to the Sanatan Sanstha have been arrested in connection with these killings, but the outfit has insisted they were not its members. Sanatan Sanstha spokesman Chetan Rajhans recently said some people with so-called "progressive mindset" and political parties like the Congress and the Left were trying to put the organisation in the dock without providing evidence of any wrongdoing.
Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara had said on Tuesday the state police was yet to establish the role of Sanatan Sanstha in the killing of Gauri Lankesh, an outspoken critic of pro-Hindutva ideology, who was shot dead outside her residence on September 5 last year.