A special investigation team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has named Hindu right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha in its additional charge sheet filed before a Bengaluru court. It also claimed that the 18 accused in the murder were members of an organised crime syndicate.
The first chargesheet was filed in May, eight months after 55-year-old Gauri Lankesh was shot dead near her residence in Bengaluru's Rajarajeshwari Nagar on September 5 last year. The 18 accused include shooter Parashuram Waghmare and conspirators Amol Kale, Sujith Kumar and Amit Degwekar
According to a press release issued by the SIT earlier today, the crime syndicate was formed between 2010-2011 under the leadership of Dr Virendra Tawade, a former editor of news website Sanatan Prabhat. Dr Tawade was accused of providing financial support to the syndicate.
According to the SIT, the members of the syndicate would target people who were against their ideology. They were required to strictly follow the guidelines prescribed in the Kshatra Dharma Sadhna, a book published by the Sanatan Sanstha. The police also said that as the same weapon was earlier used to murder Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi and Maharashtrian rationalist Govind Pansare, it was highly possible that the 18 operatives were behind those murders too.
The release also gave elaborate details of the procedure for recruiting people into the syndicate, and how they communicated with each other using nicknames and non-traceable phones. Police said they examined thousands of motorcycles before finally zeroing on the one used to carry out Ms Lankesh's murder. The accused allegedly conducted an extensive recce of her office and residence in Bengaluru before finally carrying out the crime.
The Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha had earlier dismissed its alleged link with the killing of Lankesh. "None of the accused are members of the Sanatan Sanstha. If the SIT mentions our name in the supplementary charge sheet, we will fight it legally," Sanstha member Chetan Rajhans told PTI over the phone.
Mr Rajhans also threatened to sue anybody who "maligns the name of the organisation" without proof.