04, Sep 2018 | Deborah Grey
September 5 marks one whole year since the eventful night when Gauri Lankesh, a fearless journalist and outspoken rationalist, was gunned down in cold blood outside her Bangalore home. In life she was a journalist who unearthed the truth. But even in death, it appears that Gauri will not allow the truth to stay buried.
Skeletons are tumbling out of the Saffron closet and they appear to be armed to the teeth. The Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was probing the Gauri Lankesh murder case has made major headway in investigations. However, in an interesting development, it also contacted the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) with information that helped the ATS unearth a huge terrorist plot by people closely affiliated with extreme Right Wing Hindutva supremacist groups.
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Gauri murder investigation leads to Terror Attack being foiled!
Armed with the information provided by the Karnataka SIT, the ATS ended up arresting three men on August 10, 2018; Vaibhav Raut (40), Sudhanwa Gondhalekar (39) and Sharad Kalaskar (25). Raut is the convener of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti. 20 crude bombs and two gelatin sheets were recovered from his Nallasopara home. Meanwhile, Gondhalekar is a member of Shiv Shivapratishthan Hindustan, an organisation run by none other than Shambhaji Bhide, one of the two key accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence.
Two Terror Modules
There are two modules of the terror group that coexisted but operated separately. The first module comprised men arrested in connection with the Gauri Lankesh case who are also being investigated for their alleged involvement in a series of assassinations of rationalists such as Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi. The second module that the ATS discovered during their investigations after a tip off from the Karnataka SIT, were planning to strike Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra including Pune, Satara and Solapur. Recovering such a huge cache of arms around Independence Day, Bakr Eid and in the run up to the Ganpati festival is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine!
The Common Thread
But, it was Kalaskar who was a common member of two modules. The ATS claims that Kalaskar was one of the two gunmen who shot and killed Narendra Dabholkar in August 2013. According to the ATS, the weapon used to kill Gauri Lankesh and other rationalists was also procured and manufactured by Sharad Kalaskar. He was also arrested from Raut’s home where the ATS discovered a huge cache of explosives and a note on how to make bombs was recovered from Kalaskar.
Year-long conspiracy to kill Gauri Lankesh
According to the Karnataka SIT, the plot to kill Lankesh was hatched a year before the assassination. Amol Kale, a former Hindu Janjagruti Samiti convener, allegedly hired killer Parshuram Waghmare. Waghamare was allegedly a member of the Sri Ram Sene. Kale took him to an isolated spot in Khanapur, Belgaum to practice using an air pistol. Waghmare allegedly did a recce of Lankesh’s house in July 2017. On September 5, he and another back-up gunman Ganesh Miskin arrived outside Lankesh’s house on a black motorcycle. Waghmare fired four times as Lankesh and the duo fled the scene.
Connection with the Narendra Dabholkar Murder
Three of the accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case are also linked to the plot to kill anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar. Dabholkar was shot dead on August 20, 2013. The same weapon was used in both crimes according to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Sachin Andure, one of the alleged shooters of Dabholkar, was arrested by the CBI last month. He has been remanded to judicial custody. Meanwhile, his co-accused Rajesh Bangera and Amit Digvekar have been remanded to CBI custody till September 10. Bangera had allegedly provided weapons training to Andure and Sharad Kalaskar, the two men who allegedly shot Narendra Dabholkar. Meanwhile Digvekar had helped recon Dabholkar’s house and keep tabs on his movement and routine. Digvekar was also a ‘saadhak’ in the Sanatan Sanstha. Sharad Kalaskar is meanwhile in the custody of the Maharashtra ATS in connection with the explosives seizure case.
Right Wing Affiliations
While the Sanatan Sanstha was quick to deny any direct linkage to Vaibhav Raut, it didn’t exactly throw him under the bus either. A statement released by the group said, “Reports of the arrested devout Hindu, Vaibhav Raut being a member of Sanatan are being falsely propagated by the media. Mr Vaibhav Raut is not a member of Sanatan; however he had been actively involved in numerous rallies and processions organised by devout Hindu organisations. Although Raut is not a seeker of Sanatan, we believe that any Hindu working for the cause of Hindutva and for Dharma, belongs to us.”