Bengaluru: Even as the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh gathers steam, allegations of accused KT Naveen Kumar trying to influence a witness have come to the fore.
In a startling revelation made before the sessions court where Kumar has applied for bail, public prosecutor TM Narendra told the magistrate that even while he is in judicial custody, the accused is trying to pressure witness Girish, who is also his cousin.
Kumar, who was arrested by the SIT in February, has been in judicial custody for over two months now. The accused had founded the Hindu Yuva Sena in his hometown Maddur and one of the organisation’s first members was his cousin Girish, who has now become a police witness.
SIT sources said Girish had recorded his statements before a magistrate on what he knew about the plot to kill Lankesh. Statements recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code are valid as evidence for related trials and Kumar’s legal team had made a filing before the same magistrate that Girish wanted to retract his statement.
Lankesh was killed by two bike-borne men on the night of September 5, 2017, just as she returned home from her office at around 8pm. The SIT probing the murder has, since then, arrested six people for the plot to kill her for what they feel were her “anti-Hindu” leanings. They are on the lookout for at least three others who they feel were co-conspirators.
At least four people who knew of the conspiracy and the role of various members have now become police witnesses. This includes Girish, two others who were part of the Sena and one Suresh who allowed his home to be used by the men who executed the plot to kill Lankesh.
The fact that Kumar and his legal team could indirectly threaten a witness is being presented as one of the main objections to his bail plea filed before the court.
The government prosecutor also submitted that they had found a match between the type of bullets and cartridges recovered from the murder site and those seized from Kumar by the SIT.
Meanwhile, Kumar’s lawyer argued that he was ready for a narco-analysis test. The accused had backed out of a test last month.
Who is Girish?
Girish, who became a police witness, is Kumar’s cousin who co-founded the Hindu Yuva Sena in Maddur near Bengaluru approximately three years ago.
According to Kumar’s confession, Girish knew about his meetings with the others who conspired to kill Lankesh.
Girish reportedly accompanied Kumar for a ‘Hindutva’ workshop in Bengaluru, where both of them met another activist Mohan Gowda. Gowda eventually put Kumar in touch with key functionaries of the network organisations. It was Gowda who allegedly introduced Kumar to Sujith Kumar, alias Praveen, of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.
Girish was also allegedly present at a clandestine meeting on January 13, 2018, in Maddur. It was at this meeting that Girish met three of the others accused in the Lankesh case — Sujith, Amol Kale and one Nihal ‘Dada’. While Nihal is absconding, the two others were arrested and are in judicial custody.
Kumar took the three accused to a farmhouse in Maddur, where they were allegedly plotting to kill professor KS Bhagwan, an academic in Mysore. He had been identified as the next “target” for his “anti-Hindu” stance and tabs were being kept on his movements.
The threat to Girish assumes significance in the light of the fact that the SIT has already spoken about the same group having other targets in mind.
SIT sources said they had recovered documents from several accused in the case which proved that they had identified other people who they wanted to target.
The team has already established that the weapon used to kill Lankesh was also used to murder rationalist MM Kalburgi three years ago and Left-wing thinker Govind Pansare before that.