New Delhi: The ongoing probe by the special investigation team (SIT) into the September 2017 murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has revealed yet another link to the extremist Hindutva group Sanatan Sanstha based at Ponda in South Goa, and its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS).
According to an Indian Express report, Mohan Gowda, Karnataka’s HJS spokesperson, put K.T. Naveen Kumar, the key accused in the case, in touch with the Sanatan Sanstha unit during the planning phase of the Lankesh murder.
It was in June 2017, when Naveen was invited to a workshop of Hindu organisations at an ashram Sanatan Sanstha in Goa’s Ponda, that Naveen first talked about how Hindus must ‘weaponise’ themselves to save the religion, the statement said, according to the NDTV report.
This was the same Hindu Conclave at Ponda where god woman Sadhvi Saraswati also made the controversial statements demanding that those who eat beef must be hanged. Several speakers told the audience that men should gift their sisters swords on Raksha Bandhan day.
The SIT has taken into custody four more persons. A total of six persons are now arrested in the case. Among them are Sujith Kumar alias Praveen, who reportedly informed Naveen about the plot to kill Lankesh 15 days before the murder, as the person who ‘recruited’ people for the cause of Hindu dharma; Amol Kale, a Pune resident who is said to have been the main planner who “identified targets”; Amit Degvekar, a Hindutva activist who lived at the Sanatan Sanstha’s ashram in Ponda in Goa; and Manohar Edave, a resident of Vijayapura in north Karnataka.
Amit Degvekar has a direct link with Sanatan Sanstha as he has been living at the Sanstha’s ashram in Ponda, Goa, for nearly ten years and is very actively involved in all the activities of the Sanatan Sanstha to the extent he is a full-time worker or employee or permanent volunteer of the organisation, the charge sheet reveals.
Amit aka Pradeep has been living at the Sanatan Sanstha ashram in Ponda since the 2009 Madgaon blast where one of his former roommates lost his life while allegedly trying to plant a bomb. He was detained but no charge sheet was filed at the end in Madgaon blasts case.
A college dropout, who was deeply interested in the task of spreading and safeguarding Hindu dharma, Naveen says he started ‘Hindu Yuva Sena’ in Mandya district. Other than running various programmes for the same agenda, Naveen also ran a few WhatsApp groups such as ‘Hindu Yuva Sena’, ‘Jago Hindu Maddur’, ‘Bajrang Maddur’, ‘Kaveri Boys’ for the greater cause of Hindu dharma.
Naveen Kumar, an activist of the Hindu Yuva Sena, was arrested in March 2018 and four of his associates taken into custody last week for the murder of Lankesh and plotting to kill Kannada writer K.S. Bhagwan.
Gowda, according to the Indian Express, had knowledge about the existence of an “extremist unit” in the parent organisation. Based on a voluntary statement by Naveen Kumar, Gowda allegedly connected him last year to Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen, a 37-year-old Udupi resident, who was among the four arrested on May 31.
The others arrested are Amol Kale alias Bhaisab (39) an activist of the HJS from Maharashtra, Amit Degwekar alias Pradeep (39) a Sanatan Sanstha activist and resident of Goa and Manohar Edave (28) a resident of Vijayapura in Karnataka.
Gowda, however, told the daily: “It is a police conspiracy. We will hold a press conference soon on behalf of the HJS to speak on these issues.”
In his statement, Naveen Kumar made a reference to an annual convention of the Sanstha he attended in Goa’s Ponda in June 2017, where he spoke about the necessity of using weapons and arms for the protection of Hindu dharma.
“Impressed by my speech, many people congratulated me. Mohan Gowda praised me a lot. I told him I can procure guns and bullets. He told me there were many like-minded people and they would be contacting me in the coming days,” he claims.
The police chargesheet had earlier revealed the accused had killed Lankesh because they “were angry with her for speaking against Hindu dharma, Gods of Hindu dharma and insulting Hindu dharma.”
Following the convention, Naveen Kumar claims he was put in touch with one Praveen and asked to “carry on working” with him.
Praveen, as per the written statement, visited Naveen Kumar and and his wife soon after and collected some bullets that were in his possession to verify whether “they could be useful’’. Soon after, he told Naveen Kumar that he needed assistance to kill Lankesh.
“He told me Gauri Lankesh had been speaking in an insulting manner about Hindus and Hindu Gods, and that they had decided to kill her,’’ Kumar claims, adding that he then travelled to the Sanstha ashram in Mangalore on the invitation of a local HJS leader on September 5 last year and learnt the next day from reports that Lankesh had been killed.
The Wire had earlier reported how Gowda when questioned about the men’s links to the HJS, he had claimed that some of the men involved “may have attended HJS programmes”.