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One year on, justice for Gauri Lankesh still a long way off

A rally in support of Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, Wednesday. Photo: PTI

Bengaluru: A year after her assassination, supporters of free speech, rationalists and others came together on Wednesday to highlight their belief that activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed by Hindu right wing activists who did not agree with her views.

The special investigation team (SIT) probing the murder is yet to prosecute anyone for the assassination of Lankesh—and possibly three other rationalist thinkers. However, the police believe they are just a few steps away from solving the crime.

Allegedly silenced for her activism and views against the right wing, Lankesh was the fourth victim of what now appears to be a larger conspiracy to target free thinkers and rationalists that has sent investigating authorities into a tizzy in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

At least 12 people have been arrested so far in the case.

“We are just waiting for some reports from FSL (Forensic Services Laboratory) and CCTV analysis,” said a senior official of the SIT, requesting anonymity.

The SIT has invoked the stringent Karnataka Control of Organized Crimes Act, 2000, against those arrested so far, and is likely to file the final charge sheet by next month.

Lankesh, who ran Kannada language tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was shot by unknown assailants outside her home in Bengaluru.

Three other rationalists were similarly shot and killed. These include Narendra Dabholkar on 20 August 2013, in Pune, Maharashtra, senior Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Govind Pansare on 16 February 2015 in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, and M.M. Kalburgi on 30 August 2015 in Dharwad, Karnataka.

“To the extent they (SIT) have reached now, I am very happy that they have been very meticulous,” said Gauri’s sister Kavitha Lankesh, a filmmaker. She hoped that not just those who planned the plot or pulled the trigger, but also those who inspire such actions will be brought to justice and fast.

“Things are getting worse every day. The silence of the public is disturbing,” said Jignesh Mevani, independent legislator from Gujarat and Dalit activist. There is a need to mobilise all scattered organisations to raise their voices against “fascist forces”, Mevani contended.

“There is a larger conspiracy that at this time in this country Dalits are coming to the streets against these Hindutva forces. Dalits feel offended like never before,” he said.

Gauri Lankesh’s death anniversary was attended by many people, including activists Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Swami Agnivesh, who criticised the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Hindu right wing.

The Lankesh murder, according to investigating authorities, points to right wing organisations.

The SIT is said to have used the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence, forensic gait technologies and also scanned thousands of hours of CCTV footage to help build a watertight case based on scientific evidence.

SIT says that it has likely connected some vital dots from earlier cases and unearthed multiple conspiracies to assassinate more rationalist thinkers.

N.P. Amrutesh, a senior office bearer of the Hindu Vidhidnya Parishad and advocate defending the accused, said that the cases against all those arrested were false and the invoking of the organized crimes Act was aimed at covering up investigations’ inadequacies. “The KCOCA was invoked to please the leftists,” he said.

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