Eminent film and theatre personality Girish Karnad and several litterateurs and rationalists were on the hit list of those suspected of killing journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, officials said today. Besides Karnad, a recipient of the Jnanpith Award, the highest honour in literature, politician-litterateur B T Lalitha Naik, pontiff Veerabhadra Channamalla Swamy of Nidumamidi Mutt and rationalist C S Dwarakanath also figured in the list, sources in the SIT probing the Lankesh murder case said.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) has recovered a diary from the suspects with entries in Devanagari script. The diary has the names of these personalities, known for their strong views against hardline Hindutva, who were to be targeted, sources told PTI. Some entries, they said, are coded and efforts are on to decipher them. The SIT had said yesterday it had arrested 26-year-old Parashuram Waghmare from Sindhagi in Vijayapura district of Karnataka but his role in the conspiracy and other details would be revealed later as doing so now would affect the investigation. Speculation is rife that Waghmare could be Lankesh’s assassin as his physical appearance matched that of the man in the CCTV footage recovered from her residence who was suspected of having shot her. Waghmare was said to have links to Hindu right wing groups.
Inspector General of Police B K Singh, who heads the SIT, had told PTI yesterday that nothing had emerged during the probe so far to suggest that Waghmare had shot Lankesh. Karnad is known for his strong anti-Hindutva stance and so is Lalitha Naik. Veerabhadra Channamalla Swamy is also a vocal critic of hardline Hindutva, while rationalist Dwarkanath had once even questioned the existence of Lord Rama, raising the hackles of pro-Hindu outfits. “All these people were either admirers or supporters of Lankesh or had a viewpoint similar to hers. The others mentionedin the diary too were vocal about Hindutva,” SIT sources said.
The SIT has so far arrested six people — Parashuram Waghmare, K T Naveen alias Hotte Manja, Amol Kale, Manohar Edve, Sujeeth Kumar alias Praveen and Amit Degvekar. While Naveen Kumar is from Maddur in Mandya district of Karnataka, Amol Kale and Amit Degvekar are from Maharashtra. Four others were caught while planning to kill writer K S Bhagawan, who has come under repeated attack from Hindu outfits for speaking “scornfully” about Hindu Gods. Gauri Lankesh, a journalist with strong Leftist views and anti-Hindutva ideology, was killed at the entrance of her house here on September 5 evening last year,triggering a nationwide outrage.