'Gauri killing was planned for Aug, not Sept'

'Gauri killing was planned for Aug, not Sept'

Gang wanted to slay journo in line with Kalburgi, Dabholkar, says SIT

The gang accused of assassinating journalist Gauri Lankesh on September 5, 2017, had actually aimed to kill her in August, as part of a carefully crafted plan to murder well-known personalities hostile to its ideology in the same month every two years. 

Gauri’s killing was scheduled for between August 20 and 30 so that the gang keeps alive its tradition of assassinating writers, researchers and activists in the eighth month of the year. The gang’s murder spree began on August 20, 2013, with the killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune. Two years later, Kannada researcher M M Kalburgi became their second target in his Dharwad home on August 30, 2015. Gauri was third on the hit list. 

But Ganesh Miskin, a Hubballi resident who was integral to the gang’s planning, lost his father on June 28, 2017, and could not take part in the second-stage training scheduled to be held from July 1 to 20. Amol Kale, the suspected mastermind, had imparted training to Miskin, Amit Baddi, Parashuram Waghmore, Bharat Kurne and two others in May but tasks such as who will ride the bike to Gauri’s house and who will shoot her dead were not assigned to anyone. 

Miskin completed the first stage of training on June 25 and could not attend the training for a month. Kale decided to postpone the training for Miskin as he had played a crucial role in Kalburgi’s killing and won the gang’s confidence. He asked Miskin to join the training after 15 days but the latter took a month to recover from his father’s death and joined the training only on August 1, 2017. 

Miskin eventually rode the motorcycle to Gauri’s house on September 5, 2017, with Waghmore on the pillion, according to the Special Investment Team (SIT). 

The gang’s planning details were shared with SIT officials by one of the suspects who said their aim was to leave their stamp on all the three killings by carrying them out in August.  

‘Kale got pistol from Pune’

An SIT official said Kale instructed another suspect, Rajesh Bangera, to give 15 days’ firearms training to Miskin. Later on August 21, he went to Pune and returned with the pistol used in Kalburgi’s murder. He gave it to Waghmore and asked him to kill Gauri. The gang met one last time on August 27 at Kurne’s shed in Belagavi and dispersed from there. 

Meanwhile, on Friday, M N Anucheth, Chief Investigating Officer, SIT, interrogated Sudhanva Gondhalekar who is under the custody of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS). Gondhalekar is suspected to have collected the pistol from H L Suresh — who allegedly harboured the suspects in Seegehalli — 10 days after Gauri’s murder. The weapon is among 16 pistols seized by the ATS.

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