First arrest in Gauri Lankesh's murder case: Accused KT Naveen Kumar could just be a 'red herring'

A Special Investigation Team arrested 37-year-old KT Naveen Kumar, as the "accused number one" in the murder case of Left-leaning journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, the first arrest in the case since September last year. His custody has been extended till the 15 March, CNN-News 18 reported. The police are also on the lookout for other people named by Kumar during interrogation.

File image of Gauri Lankesh. Facebook

File image of Gauri Lankesh. Facebook

Who is KT Naveen Kumar?

KT Naveen Kumar alias Hotte Manja was held on 3 March for his alleged involvement in the murder of the editor of Lankesh Patrike, who was shot dead outside her residence on by unidentified assailants on 5 September last year. However, according to The Indian Express, Kumar was first arrested on 18 February, by the Bengaluru Police for the possession of illegal bullets under the Arms Act. He was later named as the first accused in the murder of Lankesh.

Kumar, who hails from Birur town in Chikmagalur district, also deals with illegal arms. His alleged connection to the Lankesh murder came to be known when some of his friends voluntarily gave statements that Kumar had alluded his links to Lankesh's murder to his customers and friends, media reports said.

News Minute traced down his roots and reported that Kumar and his family had moved to Mandya several years ago, and have been residing at Kestur in Pandavapura taluk. Thimme Gowda, the older brother of Kumar, is also a "local thug" in Mandya and the duo would settle financial disputes between individuals.

Police sources also said that his looks matched with one of the sketches of the suspect and the photograph developed from a CCTV footage obtained from Lankesh's residence, which showed a man recceing around the journalist's house.

He has been found in possession of more than 15 rounds of the cartridges of the .32 caliber, which are the same as the 7.65 mm cartridges, The Indian Express report said. Lankesh was fatally shot using a 7.65 mm country-made pistol in the driveway of her home. Police suspect that either Kumar was directly involved in Gauri Lankesh’s murder or had supplied weapons to the killers.

The police are currently seeking permission to conduct a lie detector test on Kumar

Links to Hindu right-wing groups? 

Kumar is reportedly the founder of a radical Hindutva outfit called the Hindu Yuva Sena. According to another The Indian Express report, he is also linked to members of the Sanatan Sanstha outfit and its affiliate the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti; he had reportedly booked a hall to host an event for right-wing activists of the Sanstha.

The report further said that right-wing reading material was seized from Kumar's house and he reportedly became close to the Hindutva outfit in 2017. However, the Sanstha deny any links to him, saying that they are a spiritual organisation and many people from across the country attend their events.

Sanstha spokesman Chetan Rajhans said an attempt was being made by some "anti-Hindu" elements to "divert" the probe.

"False news that Sanatan's activists are involved in the killing of Gauri Lankesh is being spread with the assistance of some media houses. This is nothing but an attempt being made by anti-Sanatan and anti-Hindu elements to divert the investigation," Rajhans had said in a statement.

However, the radical outfit has also been linked in Maharashtra to the shooting of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.

A News Minute report also links Kumar to Bajrang Dal, which eventually kicked him out for reported use of violence. The organisation now wants to stay clear of the man accused of murdering Lankesh.

Kumar a red herring?

Sources told Deccan Chronicle, that Kumar is a red herring in the investigation. The report says that Kumar may have nothing to do with the high-profile murder, which is being linked to the killings of other Left-leaning activists like MM Kalburgi and Narendra Dabholkar. "Barring a two-year-old FIR in a church attack case in Mandya in which Kumar was named as a co-accused, there is no police dossier on the man," the report said.

Besides, reports have emerged that he could be merely involved in conductin a recce of the journalist's house or of providing arms for the murder. "Kumar is one of the few who let down his guard, police sources said. Investigators of the Gauri Lankesh case believe Kumar is far down the pecking order in the conspiracy hatched to kill the journalist," another report in The Indian Express said.

The police are also tight-lipped on the possible motive of the murder. But sources told CNN-News18 that the motive could be the identical stand taken by Lankesh, which contrasted the beliefs of the accused.

Updated Date: Mar 09, 2018 20:37 PM

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