BENGALURU: As outrage over Tuesday’s brutal murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh spread across the country, the Karnataka government on Wednesday set up a special investigation team and the police claimed to have found vital clues that could lead them to the killers.
Gauri Lankesh (55) was gunned down by bike-borne assailants outside her residence in Rajarajeshwari Nagar. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has sought a detailed report from Karnataka government on the killing.Condemnation poured in from across the country, including the US Mission in India, and protests were held at many places.
The sudden downpour in the afternoon did not affect the determination of people who gathered to pay their last respects at Ravindra Kalakshetra where the body was kept. “Naanoo Gauri” (I Am Also Gauri) said large placards to convey the message that free speech cannot be muzzled.
Thousands including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his cabinet colleagues paid homage as Gauri was laid to rest at Chamarajpet burial grounds with police guard of honour in the evening.
Though an overwhelming number of Gauri’s associates and sympathisers have expressed suspicion of the involvement of rightwing outfits in her killing, the police are probing the case from several angles. Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy claimed that the police have gathered vital clues on the killers.
Reddy, who participated in a meeting of police top brass chaired by Siddaramaiah to review progress of the investigation, said CCTV footage showed a man wearing black jacket and a helmet shooting Gauri from a close range and fleeing from the crime spot.
Investigators searching for clues interacted with Gauri’s neighbours and recorded their statements about suspicious movements of strangers in the area in the last few days. It is believed that the assailants planned well in advance and closely observed her movements in the last few days before committing the murder.
The 19-member SIT constituted by the government will be headed by IGP (Intelligence) B K Singh, and with this the 3 investigation teams formed immediately after the murder have been disbanded.
Siddaramaiah brushed aside the demand for a CBI probe by Gauri’s brother Indrajit Lankesh, but assured that the government had an open mind on the investigation.
“We are pursuing all the angles including personal enemity, if any, property dispute, strong ideological clash with rightwing organisations. The fact that she also played a key role in surrender and rehabilitation of some Naxal activists as a member of the State Committee for Naxal Rehabilitation, constituted by the Siddaramaiah government, is also being looked into as her role did not go well with many naxal activists,” said a senior police officer.
Indrajit has requested politicians not to make Gauri’s death a political issue and has hinted at a possible Naxal involvement. In an interview to a national TV channel, he said, “According to my sources and the investigation team, Gauri got hate mails from the Naxalites.”