The Central Bureau of Investigation on Sunday told a court in Pune that the murders of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar in 2013 and journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 were linked, PTI reported.

The CBI appeared before the court to seek an extension on the custody of Sachin Prakasrao Andure, the prime accused in the Dabholkar murder. He was arrested on August 18. Judicial Magistrate HR Jadhav extended Andure’s CBI custody till August 30.

“During the interrogation of accused Sachin Prakashrao Andure, it is revealed that one of the arrested accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case handed over one 7.65 mm country-made pistol and three bullets to Sachin Andure,” the CBI said in a remand application, according to the Hindustan Times. “Sachin Andure passed this country-made pistol and three bullets with magazine on August 11 evening to his brother-in-law Shubham Surale in Aurangabad.” This is the first time the agency has established a direct link between the murders.

Special Public Prosecutor Vijaykumar Dhakane said Surale had given the weapon to Rohit Rege, from whose house the CBI seized the pistol with a magazine and three 7.65 mm bullets. Dhakane said the agency was investigating if the pistol was used to kill Dabholkar.

“The weapon will now be sent for ballistic tests to determine whether it had anything to do with Dabholkar’s murder,” said CBI counsel Vijaykumar Dhakane. “CBI is in the process of taking custody of another accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case being investigated by the SIT [Special Investigation Team] Karnataka,” the remand report said.

The CBI also told the court that the agency will seek the custody of Sharad Kalaskar, who is suspected to be a shooter in the Dabholkar case, PTI reported. Kalaskar is among the five people who have been arrested earlier this month in connection with the explosives seized across the state.

The CBI in its chargesheet had named Virendrasinh Tawde of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, an alleged offshoot of right-wing outfit Sanatan Sanstha, as a conspirator in the killing of Dabholkar. It had also identified Sarang Akolkar and Vinay Pawar as the assailants, who fired bullets at Dabholkar.

The murders

Gauri Lankesh, a journalist and vocal critic of right-wing groups, was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017. Dabholkar was shot and killed during his morning walk in Pune on August 20, 2013. Before his murder, he had tried to get a law against superstition and black magic enacted in the state of Maharashtra. The Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance Bill was passed soon after he was killed.