'Anti-Hindutva' rationalists, writers get tighter security cover over threats

The SIT had on Friday arrested Parashuram Waghmare, the last of the six suspects arrested in connection with the journalist Gauri Lankesh murder.

'Anti-Hindutva' rationalists, writers get tighter security cover over threats

PUNE: Security of several prominent rationalists and noted writers whose names were found mentioned in a diary recovered by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) during the Gauri Lankesh murder probe has been tightened. The gang involved in the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh had confessed that many others key targets were on its hit list, the Special Investigation Team had claimed last week.

The SIT made these shocking revelations after confirming the arrest of Parashuram Waghmare, the last of the six suspects arrested in connection with the Gauri Lankesh killing, on Friday.

The SIT claimed that during its investigation, it obtained a diary from a man identified as Sujith Kumar alias Praveen which revealed that noted Kannada writer Prof KS Bhagawan, actor Girish Karnad, former minister BT Lalitha Naik, rationalist CS Dwarakanath and pontiff Veerabhadra Channamalla Swamy of Nidumamidi Mutt were also in the hit list of the gang that killed Lankesh.

These persons were targeted for their anti-Hindutva stance. The dairy also had some coded instructions written in Marathi. The SIT managed to bust the gang with the help of Praveen, who used to recruit people for his gang in Karnataka. It was through him that the entire network was busted including the alleged shooter Parashuram Waghmare from his home at Sindagi in Karnataka, the SIT claimed.

The gang has a wide network spread across at least five states and comprised at least 60 people, a senior SIT official said.

The organised gang refrained from giving any specific name to their underground organisation and included people drawn from Hindu right groups, the SIT official said, adding that it had around 60 members spread across at least five states but had no name.

"We discovered that this gang has a network in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka," the official said.

The SIT also stated that the gang might have recruited people from hardline right-wing outfits like Maharashtra-based Hindu Jagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha, but cautioned that these organisations may not be directly responsible for the killings. 

Both the outfits also categorically denied any role in the killing of Lankesh, Pansare and Kalburgi.

The investigators also found out that the suspects used to carry out their work in a phased manner. It involved recce, weaknesses of the person (target) and finally executing the plan, the SIT official said.

During the press conference, the SIT said that the plan to kill rationalist KS Bhagwan was almost complete before the murder of Gauri Lankesh. 

"The process of accomplishing the mission used to take six months to a year. The gang had almost reached the last phase of killing Prof KS Bhagawan (Kannada writer) when we nabbed them," he said.

Bhagwan had often angered the right-wing outfits with his writings and utterances against Hindu Gods. Police had uncovered the plot to kill Bhagwan recently and arrested four men, whose suspected role in the Lankesh murder case is also being investigated.

''Noted actor and Jnanpith recipient Girish Karnad too was in the hit list. His surveillance was in the last phase,'' the official said.

Security of these rationalists and writers was tightened soon after the murder of Gauri Lankesh, but in light of the new revelations, the SIT has now asked for additional arrangements due to the threat from right-wing fringe groups. 

Lankesh, who was known for her anti-Hindutva voice, was shot dead on September 5 evening when she returned home in her car and was opening the gate of her house. The murder triggered a nationwide outrage. Government constituted the Special Investigation Team to probe the murder.

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