Days after the Special Investigation Team probing the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh filed its first charge sheet in the sensational case naming alleged gunrunner and Hindutva activist T Naveen Kumar as an accused, a 12-page confession statement in Kannada signed by him has been filed in court.
The 650-page charge sheet filed before the First Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate details the role of Kumar as an accomplice in the murder, which triggered nationwide outrage.
As per the confession, accessed by CNN-News18, Kumar, the first accused in the murder probe, started off as someone who would run WhatsApp groups to spread messages to ‘save Hinduism’.
Kumar said that he had attended a workshop in June 2017 in Ponda, Goa (where the Sanatan Sanstha has its ashram) where he first talked about why “we need to weaponise ourselves” to safeguard Hinduism.
It was there that he came in touch with one Mohan Gowda, a Hindu Janajagruti Samiti activist from Bengaluru, who told him that there were “many like-minded individuals” who share that opinion. He also told Gowda he had a gun and bullets with him for this purpose, as per the confession.
Kumar was subsequently introduced to one ‘Praveen’, who went to his house to check out the bullets. Then, in August 2017, he attended a programme in Bengaluru and had a chat with ‘Praveen’, who told him about the plot to kill Lankesh.
‘Knew of Lankesh’s murder 15 days in advance’
On 5 September, 2017, Kumar and his wife were asked to go to an ashram in Mangalore and spend two days there, to which he complied. Two days later, he realised Lankesh had been killed in the interlude. Police sources say ‘Praveen’ is the alias of Sujith Kumar, who was arrested along with three others on 21 May.
As per the confession, between November 2017 and January 2018, a plot was hatched to attempt a similar attack on KS Bhagwan, a professor. Kumar was asked to do surveillance on Bhagwan’s house: Whether there are CCTVs, security etc. He enlisted the help of another person, ‘Anil’ in Srirangapatna, for this. He also told Anil to practice target shooting, with an air pistol, for which he gave him some money.
On 13 January, Praveen and three others—all Hindi speakers—met him in Maddur in Mandya and they went to a farmhouse where the plot was finalised to ‘finish off’ Bhagwan. The Lankesh murder probe ultimately helped foil the attack on Bhagwan as it led the SIT to arrest of four accused in the case.
While Kumar seems to have helped with logistics for the plot to murder Bhagwan, he confessed that he already knew of the plot to do away with Lankesh at least 15 days before her murder.
Kumar has been charged under Section 302 (murder), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 118 (concealing a conspiracy) and 114 (abetment to the crime) of the IPC, and also under provisions of the Arms Act, SIT sources told PTI. The charge sheet contains the statement of about 131 witnesses, the sources said. The SIT had submitted that it would submit more documents relating to the case in future.
Lankesh, 55, known for her Left-leaning and strong anti-Hindutva views, was shot dead in front of her house on 5 September, 2017.
Kumar was arrested for alleged illegal possession of firearm and ammunition on 18 February. During the probe, the SIT claimed it had found evidence of his involvement in the killing of Lankesh and also arrested him in that case.