Published: 05th July 2022
#WhatTheFAQ: Gauri Lankesh murder trial begins today, July 5. What has police investigation revealed so far?
Almost five years after the murder of Gauri Lankesh, an outspoken journalist and activist, the trial begins today, July 5. Let’s find out what the investigation has revealed until now
Gauri Lankesh, a journalist turned activist was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017. The murder triggered widespread protests across the country against right-wing sponsored violence, with #IamGauri as the campaign line.
But what happened with the investigation that began over four years ago? Who are the accused and what allegations have been made against them? Let’s find out about the work that Gauri did and the status of the investigation so far.
Who is Gauri Lankesh? What kind of work did she do?
Gauri Lankesh began her career in journalism by working for the Times of India in Bengaluru. Her father, P Lankesh, who was also a journalist and a poet, established a weekly tabloid in Kannada called the Lankesh Patrike. After his death, Lankesh decided to continue running the tabloid for him along with running other publications. She openly criticised right-wing and Hindutva politics and also spoke vehemently against the caste system in India.
She was also a strong advocate of freedom of speech. She wrote on issues that people would usually find provocative such as religion and religious organisations. In fact, in November 2016, she was convicted of criminal defamation after she published an article in 2008 wherein she criticised BJP leader Prahlad Joshi and two of his colleagues, and suggested that the three of them had cheated a jeweller.
What exactly happened on the evening of September 5, 2017?
On that day, as Lankesh was returning home from work, a man approached her on a bike. As she ran towards her house, the man shot her with a pistol before she made it inside. Autopsy reports later revealed that she was shot twice in the chest and once in the back. Additionally, security camera footage from that night showed that there were two men on the bike who were involved in the murder. Further police investigations also revealed that two other men were also involved, who followed the first bike.
What is the timeline of the trial?
After the murder on September 5, 2017, the Karnataka forensic science laboratory’s ballistic report found out that Lankesh was killed with the same gun that was used to kill scholar MM Kalburgi in Dharwad in 2015.
Following this revelation, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) started monitoring the activities of right-wing activists and found references to their involvement in Lankesh’s murder and other plans to carry out another murder while they were intercepting phone conversations.
Between February 2018 and January 2020, 17 people were arrested in the Lankesh murder case for setting up a syndicate to carry out the killings. The arrested and the accused were allegedly trained by a secretive right-wing group in using guns and explosives and are alleged to have targeted Lankesh for being “anti-Hindu”.
Additionally, multiple petitions have been filed by the accused that sought bail, discharge and quashing of charges. Reports pointed out that around 14 petitions were filed in the Karnataka High Court alone between September 4, 2018 and June 5, 2021.
What has the police investigation revealed until now?
So far, police have pointed out that the accused targeted people who were hostile to their ideology and beliefs. They also found that the 7.65 mm country-made pistol that was used to kill Lankesh was allegedly the same gun that was used to kill Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi. In fact, the same gun was also found to have allegedly been used to shoot Leftist thinker Govind Pansare, in Maharashtra, on February 16, 2015. The investigation basically revealed the existence of a network of Hindutva extremists in the country.
SIT officials also pointed out that the revelations in the Lankesh murder case will also have an impact on the investigations into the murder of the other rationalists — MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dhabolkar — which have not made progress.