Gauri Lankesh murder probe: Arrest of Hindu Yuva Sene man offers hope for justice

The police suspect the founder of a right-wing splinter group drove the killer to the journalist's house on the night of the murder.

 |  4-minute read |   03-03-2018
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Marking the first arrest in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh, the Karnataka police’s special investigation team (SIT) has taken into custody a 38-year-old man, KT Naveen Kumar.

Naveen Kumar is the founder of a splinter group of the Hindu Yuva Sene, and the police suspect he drove the killer to Lankesh’s house on the night of the murder.

According to this report, the SIT sleuths suspect Lankesh’s murderer belonged to the same group that killed scholar, rationalist and teacher MM Kalburgi in Dharwad, Karnataka, CPI leader Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in 2015, and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013.

Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in Bangalore on September 5, 2017.

Naveen Kumar was arrested on February 18 by the Bangalore police for illegal possession of bullets. The SIT sought his custody after finding out that he had “bragged to his friends” about his involvement in Lankesh’s murder.


The same news report quotes a source in the SIT as saying: “He resembled the man who conducted a recce (of Lankesh’s house) on September 3 and the morning of September 5.”  

“We had the footage from near Lankesh’s house on those two days showing the biker on what appears to be a recce. Naveen’s posture on a bike resembles the man in the footage. We’re waiting for forensic confirmation that the recreated images of Naveen riding the bike matches the man in the CCTV footage,” the report quotes a source as saying.

Other reports say that Kumar has links with members of the Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. In June 2016, a Sanatan Sanstha member, Virendra Tawade, was arrested for planning Dabholkar’s murder. Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, named as accused in both Dabholkar and Pansare murders, are still absconding.

Hindu Janajagruti Samiti president Milind Ekbote has been accused of inciting violence against Dalits in Bhima Koregaon on January 1 this year, which subsequently led to massive protests in large parts of Maharashtra.

According to news reports, Naveen Kumar has confessed to arranging “target practice” for four men before Lankesh’s murder, in July 2017. The four men, sources in the SIT claim, are from a right-wing organisation outside Karnataka.

Lankesh was a journalist and activist who ran a Kannada weekly called Gauri Lankesh Patrike. She was a vocal critic of Hindu extremism and the caste system, and a strong advocate of the freedom of press. She had also been working to bring Maoists into the mainstream.

While her death had led to widespread demonstrations and demands for justice from the civil society, some right-wingers had openly celebrated it as “just punishment for someone who spoke against Hindutva”. There was uproar when some of these Twitter accounts were found to be followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Nikhil Dadhich, a Gujarati businessman who had commented “Ek kuttiya kutte ki maut kya mari, saare pille ek sur mein bilbila rahe hain (It took a bitch to die a dog’s death, for all pups to howl in the same tune)”, is still followed by the PM, and BJP leaders Dharmendra Pradhan, Narendra Singh Tomar and Giriraj Singh.

After her murder, as the police said they suspected the involvement of right-wing extremists, the Sanatan Sanstha had called it in attempt by “anti-Hindu” elements to “divert the probe”. Claims were also made that she had been assassinated by Maoists.

As probe into her murder progressed, forensic analysis of the four empty cartridges and the four bullets fired to kill Lankesh showed that markings on the bullets and cartridges match with markings found on the bullets and cartridges used to kill Kalburgi. The same kind of weapon was also used to kill Dabholkar and Pansare.

Lankesh, Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi were killed because they questioned and criticised extremism, superstitions and identity-based discrimination. Silencing through violence the proponents of ideologies you do not agree with has no place in a democracy. It is unfortunate that none of the killers has so far been brought to justice.

The arrest of Naveen Kumar in Lankesh’s murder case raises hopes for justice to her, and to the right to free speech of every individual in a democratic society. If a Hindu extremist organisation was indeed involved in the murder, it should act as a wake-up call for the ruling BJP, under whose rule such dangerous elements are getting encouragement and legitimacy.

Also read: Gauri Lankesh embodied the spirit of fearless journalism. She was killed for it


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