Investigators trace links between murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Gauri Lankesh, MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare

Two arrests were recently made in connection with the 2013 murder case of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar. The development has helped investigators trace the missing links between the four plots to kill Dabholkar as well as journalist Gauri Lankesh and scholars Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi.

The investigation witnessed another major development on Tuesday when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) seized a firearm suspected to be used in Dabholkar's murder.

Along with a countrymade 7.65-bore pistol and three cartridges — the same as the one used in the Dabholkar murder — the CBI and the ATS also seized a sword and a 'khukri' in Aurangabad on Tuesday. The pistol will be sent for ballistic examination to ascertain whether it was used in the rationalist's killing.

How did the CBI-ATS find the pistol?

On 10 August, the Maharashtra ATS arrested three men —  Vaibhav Raut, Sharad Kalaskar and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar — in Aurangabad and seized at least 20 crude bombs, other explosives and material used to make bombs. Sources told IANS that the three were involved in a plan to carry out terror attacks in Mumbai, Pune, Solapur and Satara districts around the Independence Day.

Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in 2015, while journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed in 2017.

Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in 2015, while journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed in 2017.

During their interrogation, Kalaskar is believed to have revealed that he and Sachin Andure — the key suspect in the Dabholkar murder case — were involved in killing the rationalist in broad daylight on 20 August, 2013. The CBI arrested Andure from Pune on Saturday.

Upon his arrest, Andure informed the investigators about the countrymade pistol, after which the CBI and ATS raided the homes of his cousin and a friend on Tuesday. A Pune court has remanded him in CBI custody till 26 August.

A diary helped trace the links

After Lankesh was killed in Bengaluru in 2017, many drew parallels between her murder and those of Dabholkar and Kalburgi, allegedly committed by fringe Hindutva groups.

Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune in 2013, Pansare in Kolhapur in 2015, and Kalburgi in Karnataka in 2015.

In June, the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) arrested one Amol Kale in connection with the Lankesh's murder. Although the Bengaluru Police first arrested him in an attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and Arms Act case on 21 May, the SIT took custody of him in June after he was suspected to be involved in the plot to kill the journalist.

A diary seized from Kale had the names of several "targets", including Lankesh. The names of Dabholkar's family members and Pansare were also on the "hit list". The diary, written in code, mentioned 50 potential shooters hailing from Karnataka and Maharashtra to carry out the tasks. Several of these being trained in Belgaum, Hubballi and Pune to use weapons like guns, pistols and air guns, according to the diary.

The link between the four murders

Recently, the SIT said that among those arrested in connection with Lankesh's murder, five suspects were also involved in Kalburgi's killing. The Criminal Investigation Department, which is investigating Kalburgi's death, said the SIT's leads were credible.

An SIT source told The News Minute that the link between the four murders was obvious. "When the SIT questioned Kale about the use of the same weapon in Lankesh and Kalburgi's murders, he told the investigators that the weapon was named Sudarshan Chakra after Lord Krishna's weapon. They believed that the weapon was auspicious and was the one that would help them achieve their goal," the source was quoted as saying. The report added that the SIT hopes the investigation will end in "a few months" and is in touch with the agencies looking into the other three murders.

On 19 August, the Maharashtra ATS  arrested former Shiv Sena corporator Shrikant Pangarkar in connection with the seizure of crude bombs and weapons from different parts of the state between 9 and 11 August. Quoting sources, India Today reported that Pangarkar has links with all four murders and was behind an underground organisation that was floated to kill rationalists.

What now?

The CBI and the Maharashtra ATS are now investigating the links among various right-wing organisations suspected to be involved in the four murders. The agencies are looking into their contacts elsewhere in the country, their other possible targets and their modus operandi.

Political parties like the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have sought a ban on various Hindutva organisations like the Sanatan Sanstha in the wake of the arms haul in Palghar.

On Monday, Dabholkar's family members and activists held a protest rally called 'Jawab Do' in Pune from the Omkareshwar Bridge, where Dabholkar was shot dead five years ago, till Sane Guruji Smarak.

At the rally, Tushar Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi's great grandson, questioned the delay in arresting the main shooters. "Even if they are penalised or convicted, the real perpetrators or outfits at whose behest Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Lankesh were killed, will never be penalised because courts cannot penalise or prosecute such outfits," he said, adding that such outfits should be isolated socially.

Noted film actor and director Amol Palekar, who participated in the protest rally, also criticised the Maharashtra government for the "slow pace" of investigation into the Dabholkar case. "If the government takes five years to arrest two people, how much time will it take to reach the real conspirators? Whatever progress was made in the case in terms of arrests was because of the constant pressure from the judiciary," he said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 22, 2018 22:19:06 IST

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