SIT trying to decode diary for evidence in Gauri case

SIT trying to decode diary for evidence in Gauri case

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The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing senior journalist Gauri Lankesh's murder is trying to break the codes they have found in a diary and other documents recovered from the houses of the arrested suspects.

The suspects, Amol Kale alias Bhaisaab; Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen; Amit Degwekar, Manohar Dundappa Edave and K T Naveen Kumar, are in judicial custody, while Gauri's shooter Parashuram Waghmore is in police custody.

Kale's diary, written both in Marathi and Hindi, had information of a hit list of at least 10 rationalists and progressive thinkers, who they believed were against Hindu religion in their works and ideologies, SIT sources said.

"A few names mentioned included Girish Karnad — whom they had planned to target even before Gauri — personalities like B T Lalitha Naik, C S Dwarakanath, pontiff Veerabhadra Channamalla Swamy of the Nidumamidi Mutt and K S Bhagawan," a senior official said.

Kale's dairy will be used as key evidence to prove that he coordinated Gauri's murder as it had sketches of her house, office and areas where she often visited. For example, the code, 'Amma', referred to Gauri at all places. However, senior SIT officials neither confirmed nor denied the use of this code.

It appears from Kale's diary that he had coordinated the killing of rationalists Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi and Gauri using three different shooters. Investigating agencies of the other two murders have taken a look at the diary.

'Same gun, different shooters'

Though the gun used in the Gauri Lankesh and Kalburgi murders were the same, the shooters are different, said the SIT. The physical description of Kalburgi's shooter does not match that of Waghmore.

Arrests done, gathering evidence a challenge: SIT

SIT officials said gathering evidence, which is permissible in a court and that can stand its scrutiny, was more challenging than the detection and the arrests.

"We have to get the gun," said an officer privy to the investigation. "We are working on information that will help us get the gun. At the same time, we are apprehensive that it may have been destroyed following the wide publicity to this sensational crime. However, we are sure that even without the gun, other evidence is 'solid' regarding the conspiracy and recce conducted using the diary, documents and statements corroborated by witnesses, which will establish the role of the accused. We have also obtained forensic evidence, which will prove the accused's involvement."

Delay due to challenges

It took nine months for the SIT to crack Gauri's case and make arrests of the six accused, including the person behind the conspiracy and the shooter. Three to four are yet to be arrested. This delay, the SIT pointed out, is due to challenges they faced during the course of the investigation.

One of the main challenges was that information leaked in the media made the accused wary. For instance, four accused in the Gauri case were supposed to attend a wedding in Udupi on February 25, 2018. But when a section of the media broke the news that four SIT teams would be lying in wait for them at the wedding, the accused stayed away.

Another challenge the SIT faced was from certain Hindu organisations, backed by a battery of lawyers who kept badgering the witnesses. The activists would arrive at the witnesses' doorsteps and pressure them to retract their statements to sidetrack the investigation.

Statements of two witnesses, Abhishek and Giri, were recorded by the SIT, establishing K T Naveen Kumar’s involvement. But the two now have filed affidavits in the court, saying they wish to retract their statements after alleged badgering from Hindu organisations, said an SIT officer. However, the magistrate has rejected their application.

Sri Rama Sene leader summoned

The SIT officials have summoned Rakesh Math, the Vijayapura district president of fringe right-wing outfit Sri Ram Sene, for questioning. The SIT decided to question him after they learnt that accused Parashuram Waghmore was an active member of the organisation.