The Special Investigation Team conducting inquiries in the Gauri Lankesh murder case has denied a report published in The Indian Express on Thursday that claimed four absconding members of Hindutva outfit Abhinav Bharat had trained several suspects with links to the Sanatan Sanstha who are believed to have killed the journalist, PTI reported.
The newspaper reported that the police made the claim in documents submitted to a court in Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru. The absconding members of Abhinav Bharat are wanted for their alleged role in the Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Dargah and Malegaon blasts. Two of them, Ramji Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange, are also among the 13 accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case along with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur, the newspaper said.
However, the investigators denied either Abhinav Bharat or Thakur had links to Lankesh’s murder. “SIT has not found in its investigation or mentioned in the chargesheet any link to Sadhvi Pragya, Malegaon blasts, Abhinav Bharat,” the SIT said in a statement. “There is no evidence to suggest the same. No documents purporting the same have been submitted to the court.”
According to The Indian Express, the Special Investigation Team alleged in its chargesheet that three men associated with the Sanatan Sanstha, who have been arrested, and four witnesses who attended the Hindutva group’s camps said a “Babaji” and four “Gurujis” had instructed them about bomb-making techniques. The “Babaji”, linked to the Ajmer Dargah blasts, was identified as Suresh Nair, who was arrested in November.
Three other suspected bomb experts who attended the camps were identified as Dange, Kalsangara and Ashwini Chauhan, all “proclaimed offenders” in the Samjhauta Express case, The Indian Express quoted sources as saying. Another suspected bomb expert is Prathap Hazra, who is linked to the Hindutva outfit Bhavani Sena in West Bengal.
The police, according to the newspaper, told the court that Sanatan Sanstha organised 19 camps across India to provide training in firearms, improvised explosive devices and subterfuge tactics. The five suspected bomb experts attended five camps in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka to provide training to dozens of people allegedly recruited by a covert unit of the Sanatan Sanstha that has been accused of orchestrating the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, activist Govind Pansare, Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi and Lankesh.
A few of the suspects who attended these camps have been identified as Amit Degwekar, Kalaskar, Pangarkar, Suryavanshi, Ganesh Miskin, Amit Baddi and Bharat Kurne.
Meanwhile, Abhinav Bharat also held five training camps – in Maharashtra’s Jalna district in 2011 and January 2015, in Karnataka’s Mangaluru city in August 2015, in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat in November 2015, and in Maharashtra’s Nasik district in January 2016 – the police said in the court documents, according to The Indian Express.
In March, the Supreme Court had directed that the murder case of Kannada writer MM Kalburgi be transferred to the same special investigation team that is looking into Lankesh’s killing. In February, the Supreme Court had noted that the murders of Kalburgi, Lankesh, Dabholkar and Pansare were part of a “very serious case”. However, Lankesh’s sister Kavitha Lankesh challenged the suggestion to club the investigations.