'Five days a month not enough': Six years after Gauri Lankesh murder, sister seeks speedier trial

Editor of the Kannada tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, Gauri Lankesh was walking back home, which was just feet away, when she was shot dead by a gunman on the evening of September 5, 2017.
Late senior journalist Gauri Lankesh  (File photo)
Late senior journalist Gauri Lankesh (File photo)

It has been six years since activist and journalist Gauri Lankesh, an outspoken critic of the right, was brutally shot dead in Bengaluru. Although the chargesheet was filed years ago, the trial only began in July 2022 – and the pace has been slow.

“We need more court time. Five days a month is not enough. We have 400 eyewitnesses left to testify and be examined,” says Kavitha Lankesh, sister of Gowri Lankesh, and first informant in the case.

Editor of the Kannada tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, Gauri Lankesh was walking back home, which was just feet away, when she was shot dead by a gunman on the evening of September 5, 2017. Spontaneous demonstrations subsequently erupted all over Bangalore and elsewhere.

The framing of charges had been delayed for over two years on account of COVID and applications filed by the accused.

Since the case went to trial, charges have been framed against 18 accused while 17 have been arrested.

“The trial started in July 2022, and since then five days in a month, we go to the courts. 3-4 witnesses are examined at a time,” said Shivsundar, an activist and close associate of Gauri Lankesh.

“Since February 2023, the trial has been on camera because of certain disturbances. The depositions are available on the website. The prosecution is doing its best but unless a special court is constituted this will take a very long time. Exclusive time has to be given to this case,” he said.

“From August 2022 to August 2023, only 83 witnesses have been examined. The trial is going at a very slow pace. We had asked former CM Bommai and CM Siddaramaiah to help expedite it. We will be asking again,” he added.

Prof. VS Sridhar, a member of the Gauri Memorial Trust, says, “We are happy that the trial is on, and with the investigation, but not with the speed at which it is being carried out. We are planning a meeting of all the trust members to approach CM Siddaramaiah soon asking for a speedy trial or a special court. The ultimate purpose is to see justice done to Gowri.”

Talking about the trial and the memorial held on Gauri Lankesh’s anniversary, Kavitha Lankesh said, “The memorial we had on September 5 was a great tribute to Gowri. CM Siddaramaiah was present and spoke at the function. He said Gowri will get justice. Gowri would have very much liked it.”

She added, “We are seeking a speedy trial. We are planning to meet the CM and Home Minister by November.”

Case timeline and arrests:

On the evening of September 5, 2017, Gauri Lankesh was walking back home from work when she was shot dead.

CCTV footage accessed by the police from her residence showed one assailant firing shots at Gauri in the portico of her house. The bullets pierced Lankesh while the killers escaped shortly.

Soon, an SIT was formed to probe the case.

The killer arrived on a motorcycle with an accomplice who has been identified by the SIT as Ganesh Miskin alias Mithun, 35.

Between 2018 and 2020, the SIT arrested 17 of the 18 accused. All 17 were also booked under the stringent Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA).

Among the 18 accused — Vikas Patil alias Dada (Big Brother) alias Nihal (A-15) — remains absconding.

On May 2018, Amol Kale, the main accused in planning Gauri’s murder and recruiting shooters from far-right groups, was arrested along with two other men.

On June 20th 2018, Parashuram Waghmare, the man identified as the shooter in the case, was arrested. According to the SIT, Parashuram Waghmare confessed to the murder of Gauri Lankesh.

In July 2018, Ganesh Miskin was arrested. He was recruited by Amol Kale. Miskin was the motorcycle rider who ferried Parashuram Waghmare for the murder of Gauri. He has also been named as the shooter in the August 30, 2015 murder of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi.

A forensics report on September 13, 2017 indicated that the same gun used on Lankesh was used to kill scholar MM Kalburgi at his home in Dharwad on August 30, 2015. The same gun was also found to have been allegedly used to shoot down Govind Pansare (81), a politician from the CPI, in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, on February 16, 2015.

A second gun used in the Pansare shooting was found to match the one used to shoot down Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar (69) in Pune on August 20, 2013.

In 2018, the SIT submitted the chargesheet against 18 people including Waghmare, with alleged links to Sanatan Sanstha and other smaller far-right fringe groups.

The accused were allegedly trained by a right-wing group in using guns and explosives. They had allegedly created a syndicate to carry out killings mainly in Karnataka and Maharashtra between 2013 and 2018.

Since the trial, the special court has examined more than 80 of the over 400 witnesses in the case.

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