Journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh’s name was on an apparent ‘hitlist’ that had the names of 33 other people, including theatre personality Girish Karnad, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Karnataka police has revealed.
According to an Indian Express report, two such ‘hitlists’ were found in the possession of Amol Kale (36), who was arrested in May. Lankesh’s name was second on a list that had a total of eight names. Theatre legend Girish Karnad’s name topped the list. The other list included 26 targets.
The SIT believes the lists were drawn up in July 2016. Lankesh was shot dead outside her residence on September 5, 2017.
The SIT has arrested two more suspects in relation to the killing, taking the total numbers of suspects arrested in the case, to nine.
A Mangalore-based state government employee working for the education department was recently arrested for training the killers how to fire a gun, according to the Indian Express.
All the suspects are linked to extremist Hindu groups such as Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) and were active members of both the groups.
Amol Kale, in whose possession the diary was found, is a resident of Pune and a former convenor of the HJS.
The SIT said that Lankesh and others on the lists were chosen as targets because of their opposition towards radical Hindutva and superstitious practices.
All the people mentioned in the hit list have been provided state security.
“These lists were some kind of tentative collection of names compiled at the end of discussions by a small group of people. They seem to be random lists which would undergo changes. Though Lankesh was named at no. 2, she was targeted first,’’ reported the Indian Express, quoting a police source, because she was apparently a soft and easy target.
Mysuru-based writer and academic K.S. Bhagwan, Kannada writers Yogesh Master, Chandrashekhar Patil and Banajagere Jayaprakash and former Karnataka backward castes commission chairman C.S. Dwarkanath were also listed as targets of the group.
Nidumamidi Swamiji, a seer opposed to superstition, was also a target.
The police have also provided security to literary figures Patil Putappa, Nataraj Huliyar, Baragur Ramachandrappa and Chennaveera Kanavi. Rationalist Narendra Nayak and S.M. Jamdar, the former IAS officer and proponent of separate religion status for the Lingayat community, were also provided state security.
Other documents found in Kale and associate Sujeet Kumar’s possession reveal a network of at least 30 people engaged in planning and execution of killings of those opposed to Hindutva.
Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti
Sanatan Sanstha, established in 1999, has been accused in several high-profile killings and 2008 Thane and Vashi bomb-blasts, claims a report in the The Wire.
A member of the organisation is a key accused in the murder of writer and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
The Sanathan Sanstha had also been accused of being responsible for an explosion in Goa in 2009, and for bombings in Vashi, Thane and Panvel in 2007, according to a submission which was part of a plea filed by Vinay Rokade in the Bombay High Court, which sought a ban on the organisation under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
In his petition, Rokade had told the court that the state government had forwarded a proposal to the Centre in 2012 recommending a ban on the organisation, but that the Centre did not act on it.
The Maharashtra government’s proposal was based on Anti-Terrorism Squad reports and inputs.
“The government of Maharashtra has reached to the conclusion that Sanatan Sanstha organisation is liable to be banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act,” the government had said in an affidavit filed in connection with the case in 2012.
The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, registered in 2002, is an offshoot of the Sanstha. The HJS’s stated aim is to establish a ‘Hindu nation’.