The Supreme Court of India has taken note of the unimpressive performance of the investigative agencies probing the cases of political assassinations of the rationalists in the country.
Since the investigation into the case of Gauri Lankesh established the involvement of the Hindutva extremist organisation Sanatan Sanstha in these assassinations, it has become clear that these cases cannot be looked at in isolation. Saying exactly the same, Uma Devi Kalburgi, the widow of M M Kalburgi – a scholar of Vachana Sahitya, who was assassinated on August 30, 2015 – had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking a Special Investigative Team (SIT) probe into his assassination. In this petition, Kalburgi had alleged that there is a common link between the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi.
The apex court, on November 26, 2018, reminded the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Karnataka and the state government that the case is not a joke. A report in the Bangalore Mirror said that the bench comprising RF Nariman and Navin Sinha asked the Karnataka government, “What have you done so far?” They also reportedly said, “You have done nothing, but are just fooling around.” The Court has given an ultimatum of two weeks to the investigative agency to submit its investigation report. If not satisfied with the report, the SC is determined to shift the case to the Bombay High Court, where the cases of Dabholkar and Pansare are being heard.
Also Read: Assassination of Dr Kalburgi – A Conspiracy to Eradicate the Culture of Dissent
All those, who had been named so far in the case of Kalburgi, are associates of Hindutva extremist outfits. The CID investigation, even after three long years, has not yielded anything. Shankar Narayan alias Kaka, who was named in relation to the case, is dead. Ganesh Miskin and Amit Baddi, who were arrested by the SIT in the case of Lankesh, are said to have conducted a recce of Kalburgi’s residence in Dharwad before he was killed. Miskin is a member of Hindu extremist group Sri Rama Sena, and was arrested in July on suspicion of being the person who rode the motorcycle pillion with Gauri Lankesh's assassin. While interrogating him, the SIT has reportedly learnt that his recruiter, Amol Kale – the former convener of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) (who also is already arrested) – is allegedly the killer of Kalburgi. And now, Kale is taken into custody by the CBI.
The political assassinations of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare are being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and SIT of Maharashtra respectively. CID of Karnataka and Karnataka SIT are investigating the cases of M M Kalburgi and Lankesh respectively. The four cases are being handled by four different investigative agencies in two different states. However, it is only in the case of Lankesh where the investigations seem to be moving forward. After a long period of investigation and 15 arrests made related to the case, the SIT has filed a 9,235-page chargesheet in the city court of Bengaluru on November 23, 2018. Apart from this, none of the investigative agencies has claim to any progress.
Also Read: Delay in Investigations: What Are the CBI, CID and SIT up to?
The Investigation and progress
As mentioned earlier, except for the Karnataka SIT, none of the other investigations have yielded any result. The Karnataka SIT in August had invoked the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) in the case, thus claiming that an unnamed organisation had carried out the murder. In the recent 9,235-page additional chargesheet filed, the SIT has mentioned the names of 18 accused, and has sought court’s permission to investigate further, reported Hindustan Times. According to a report in the Livemint, the chargesheet also names the Sanatan Sanstha.
The investigations in Dabholkar’s case, the CBI had claimed, had reached a deadlock. However, the investigations of the SIT in Lankesh’s case and fresh arrests made by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in the case of possession of explosives, proved the CBI wrong. The arrests made in the case of Lankesh and the information shared by the SIT have given a new direction to the investigative agencies in Maharashtra. Sachin Andure, along with Sharad Kalaskar, both arrested by the ATS, have confessed to have shot Dabholkar on August 20, 2013, while Virendra Tawade, who was the first suspect in the case, and is out on bail, had have planned the whole conspiracy, ATS has found. Even though this is not and should not be the end of the investigation, it is relieving to finally see the investigation moving forward after five long years.
Also Read: Hindutva Terror: Story of the Common Link Between the Four Murders
The Pune Sessions Court in August had given the CBI 90 days – till November 18, 2018 – to file chargesheet in the case of Dabholkar, which the CBI failed to do. According to a NDTV report, on November 17, the CBI told the court that it has invoked terror charges against the accused – Sharad Kalaskar and Sachin Andure – in the case, as the murder was committed to create "terror" in the society. The CBI has also urged the court to grant a further extension of 90 days to file chargesheet against the accused. However, the court has now granted only 45 days.
On December 1, 2018, the SIT Maharashtra has arrested Vasudev Suryavanshi and Bharat Kurne in the case of Govind Pansare. These, however, are not new names to appear in the investigations; former was arrested earlier in Nalasopara explosives seizure case by the ATS Maharashtra, and the later in the case of Gauri Lankesh.
Also Read: Sanatan Sanstha Terror: Govind Pansare’s Assassination and Security Threat To Megha Pansare