Special Team to probe killing: Chief Minister
Bengaluru: The Karnataka Police is on the hunt to trace and nab the killers of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh. A senior journalist, activist and anti-establishment voice, Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru last night by attackers who fired seven times at close range.
The 55-year-old editor, renowned for speaking her mind, had stepped out of her car and opened the gates when the attackers fired at her. Three bullets hit her, one in the forehead. Police suspect the role of hired killers and believe they may have been caught on CCTV cameras when they possibly surveyed the spot.
Chief Minister Siddharamaiah has ordered Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the murder case. Speaking to reporters at Vidhana Soudha after an emergency meeting with Police top brass this morning, Siddharamaiah said that the SIT team will be headed by an Inspector General and will be assisted by a Deputy Inspector General and a Superintendent of Police. “The team composition will be decided by Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy and Director General and Inspector General of Police,” the CM said.
“There are four CCTV cameras at Gauri Lankesh’s house — one at the parking area, one near the door and one at basement and backyard. Police have taken footages from the front ones. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) is formed, headed by IG-level officer. The team will look exclusively into the Gauri Lankesh murder case. We are not giving Gauri Lankesh murder case to CID as of now. The Kalburgi murder case is with CID now,” the CM said.
“We have instructed the Police to give protection for free speech activists and rationalisations and progressive voices. “We used to meet often on various issues. Gauri Lankesh never told me that she faced threats to her life,” the CM added.
POLICE ON HIGH ALERT
Meanwhile, Bengaluru and Mysuru continue to be on high alert. While there is nakabandi across Bengaluru, the entry points to Mysuru have been sealed. As a precautionary measure, check-posts have been erected on all main roads and Police were deployed at entry and exit points and all vehicles entering and exiting Mysuru and Bengaluru were subjected to stringent checks.
Three special teams set up to crack the case are on the lookout for the suspected assailants. Police counterparts in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have been alerted. Police sources in Mysuru said that all lodges where people have booked rooms beyond 10 pm yesterday are being scanned.
Among very few woman editors in Kannada journalism, she was a fierce activist, who openly expressed her pro-Naxalite and Leftist views. Born in 1962, Gauri was the daughter of P. Lankesh legendary Kannada journalist and founding editor of Kannada weekly tabloid ‘Lankesh Patrike’.
P Lankesh was a man who brought in a new brand of Kannada journalism. She followed in his footsteps, running her own Kannada paper with views that were never careful or circumspect. Her mother is Indira Lankesh.
Her siblings – Kavitha and Indrajit Lankesh – are film and theatre personalities. Gauri started her own Kannada tabloid ‘Gauri Lankesh Patrike’ in 2005 after quitting as editor of ‘Lankesh Patrike’ following differences with her brother and paper’s proprietor and publisher Indrajit.
She was convicted by a magisterial court in Hubballi last year in connection with a defamation case filed by BJP MP Prahlad Joshi who had objected to publication of a report against him in her periodical on January 23, 2008.
Gauri had in the past worked for the rehabilitation of Naxalites who wanted to return to the social mainstream and was one among those involved in the founding of Citizens Initiative for Peace (CIP) in the State
“A total of seven bullets were fired out of which four missed the target and hit the wall of the house. Three bullets had hit her – two in her chest area and one in the forehead,” Bengaluru Police Commissioner T. Suneel Kumar told reporters. She was shot with a 0.32 pistol.
“Usually, she left office and reached home only after 9 pm. But yesterday, she was early by an hour. But still the assailants managed to get her, which suggests that there was a proper ground work by them,” he said.
Police teams have obtained CCTV footages of her house between 6 pm and till the time Gauri was shot. “Visuals from the Rajarajeshwari Nagar entrance till her house and beyond have been obtained and we are in the process of scanning them,” the Commissioner said. Police are hoping that CCTV footage from cameras Gauri Lankesh had put up at her home — at the insistence of friends — may yield some clues on the identities of the killers.
ROAD POORLY LIT
The location of the house was an advantage for the assailants as the road was poorly lit and has many cross roads. There are no houses for more than 100 metres on both sides of her house as 3-4 sites are vacant.
In front of her house there are two under-construction apartments and no one had seen the assailants. In addition the roads were sparsely lit. While there is one street light is front of her house, the next one is around 400 metres away. The locality also has many cross roads, making it easy for the assailants to escape.
The last rites of Gauri Lankesh will be conducted this evening in Bengaluru, her family said. “Gauri’s last rites will be held at Chamrajpet Cemetery in the city,” her brother Indrajit Lankesh told reporters here this morning at the Victoria Hospital, where her post-mortem was conducted.
Her mortal remains were kept at Samsa Bayalu Rangamandira (an open air theatre) at Ravindra Kalakshetra. Thousands of fans, well-wishers, Chief Minister Siddharamaiah, Ministers T.B. Jayachandra, Umashree, former Union Minister Veerappa Moily, colleagues and public paid their last respects. Gauri’s eyes were donated as per her wish.