Crime syndicate comprising 18 members plotted Gauri Lankesh's murder and identified her as 'durjan', says SIT
Bengaluru: Late journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh was identified as 'durjan' (evil person) by the crime syndicate that plotted her murder, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case has said, adding artificial intelligence systems were used to verify identity of suspected people in the killing.
Inspired by the Goa-based right wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha literature, the syndicate, comprising 18 people, named Lankesh as "durjan" in August 2016 and started hatching a conspiracy to kill her, the SIT said.
The 55-year-old Lankesh, known for her left-leanings and strident anti-Hindutva views, was shot dead in front of her house here on 5 September, 2017, triggering national outrage and widespread condemnation.
The SIT said artificial intelligence systems were used to extract images of suspected people and vehicles to compare with the footage obtained from 200 terabytes of video data from the CCTV cameras installed at major roads and junctions by the Bengaluru City Police.
The SIT said it interviewed and examined more than 2,500 people and also traced 10,000 suspected two-wheelers and interviewed their owners.
Experts also analysed lakhs of cell phone tower dumps and mobile phone numbers, it said.
The SIT had filed the first charge sheet in May and the additional one on Friday.
In August 2016, at a meeting of the syndicate, the main members identified Lankesh as a "durjan" "as told in the Kshatra Dharma Sadhana based on her speeches and writings," the SIT said.
They jointly hatched a conspiracy to murder Lankesh in furtherance of the achievement of their goal and executed it in several parts, the SIT said detailing the progress of investigation after filing the additional charge sheet.
Two months after the gang zeroed in on Lankesh, its members Vasudev Suryavamshi alias Machanic, and Sujith Kumar stole a bike and gave it to the alleged mastermind Amol Kale, it said.
Further, Dada alias Nihal, who is at large, assigned HL Suresh to find the Lankesh's address, it said, adding, Amit Baddi and Ganesh Miskin carried out the recce on her.
A fortnight before the killing, syndicate members Parashuram Waghmare and Ganesh Miskin carried out shooting practice in a hilly region near Kiniye in Belagavi, according to the SIT.
The team said Bharat Kurne took Ganesh Miskin, Parshuram Waghmare and Sharad Kalaskar to Kiniye. Sharad Kalaskar trained Waghmare and Miskin how to shoot using country made pistols.
The shooting practice was last of the final preparations and planning, the SIT said.
According to the investigation team, the first attempt to kill Lankesh was made on 4 September, but it did not materialise.
The next day, Ganesh Miskin rode the bike while Waghmare was the pillion rider. They parked their bike near Lankesh's house and waited for 10 minutes.
Soon after Lankesh came home, Waghmare fired four bullets, killing her instantaneously, the SIT said. While 16 members have been arrested, two are still at large.
They have been identified as Vikas Patil alias Dada and Rushikesh Deodikar alias Murali, the SIT said.
During the probe, the SIT said, various line of investigations were taken up probing the angle of personal enmity, involvement of left-wing extremism, profession related and right wing extremism.
However, "The first breakthrough in the case happened when the material objects recovered from the scene of crime were analysed at the State Forensic Science Laboratory in Bengaluru.
The forensic ballistic analysis established that the pistol used to murder Lankesh was the same pistol used to murder MM Kalburgi at Dharwad in Karnataka and Govind Pansare at Kolhapur in Maharashtra (all rationalists), the SIT said.
Footage of several CCTV systems within a radius of five kilometres of Lankesh's house were collected and examined minutely for further clues. This included footage of four CCTV cameras installed at Lankesh's house.
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