Same set of pistols used to murder four activists
SIT informs court Pansare killing linked to the Dabholkar, Kalburgi and Lankesh casesAbhishek Sharan
The two pistols tied to the murder of rationalist Govind Pansare in 2015 were also used to shoot dead activists Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, investigators have concluded.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing Pansare’s killing made the submission in a Kolhapur court last month, strengthening long-held suspicions that the same group of ultraright-wing elements were behind the four murders carried out between 2013 and 2017.
Mirror has seen the document shared with the court. In all, three firearms were used in the four cases, according to the SIT’s findings. “Out of two pistols (used to kill Pansare), one was used in the murder of Narendra Dabholkar and the other in the murder of MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh,” the document states.
Different agencies, including the CBI, are investigating the cases and they are yet to recover the firearms. According to a source in the SIT, formed by the Maharashtra police, forensic tests of recovered bullet shells helped it establish that the same set of weapons were used in the killings.
Pansare was shot near his Kolhapur home on February 16, 2015. According to the SIT’s probe, the alleged assailants, Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar, saw him as a ‘durjan’ (bad person) because of his progressive views. The two men are absconding. A supplementary chargesheet filed in the case in November 2016 named Virendrasinh Tawde as one of the accused. Tawde is also an accused in the Dabholkar case, which is being by probed by the CBI.
The SIT has identified and apprehended three more suspects, Amol Kale, Vasudeo Suryawanshi and Bharat Kurne, in the Pansare case. The arrests followed progress made by other agencies, which are now almost sharing the same list of suspects. Cops in Karnataka recently made a breakthrough in the murder of Lankesh, who was also a journalist; the Maharashtra ATS recovered arms, ammunition and explosives in Nallasopara; and the CBI made five arrests in the Dabholkar case.
Kale is now linked to the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Lankesh. According to the SIT’s probe, he conducted a recce in Kolhapur in 2013 and visited Madhya Pradesh “for the purpose of acquiring ammunition”. He allegedly also met Tawde a month before Pansare was killed, and stayed in touch with him and Akolkar through emails. Suryawanshi allegedly provided one of the two pistols used in the murder to Tawde, while Kurne is suspected to have provided the bike. Kurne is also an accused in the Lankesh killing and the Nallasopara arms haul.
Tawade, Kale, Suryawanshi and Kurne have denied involvement in all the cases.
In an application submitted to a Pune court last month, the CBI alleged that the accused in the Dabholkar and Pansare murders had links with rightwing organisation Sanatan Sanstha and its alleged sister group Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. Members of the two groups were also involved in the Kalburgi and Lankesh cases, the application claimed.
So far, the Sanstha or Samiti have not been named as accused in any FIR or chargesheet in the four fatal shootings and the Nallasopara arms haul. The Sanstha’s spokesperson, Chetan Rajhans, and the accused men’s lawyers have rubbished theories of the CBI, SIT and Karnataka investigators as figment of their imagination.
Lawyer Sameer Patwardhan, who is representing Tawde and other accused in the Pansare case, said his clients were innocent. “These men have no link with Hindu Janajagruti Samiti,” he said. He also alleged inconsistencies in the theory that the same set of firearms were used in different incidents.