Karnataka govt forms SIT after outrage over Gauri Lankesh’s killing


New Delhi/Bengaluru, September 6

The Karnataka government on Wednesday decided to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the killing of senior journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh.

Briefing reporters after a meeting with top police officials and state Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the SIT would be headed by an Inspector General-level officer.He said the state government was firm on tracking down the culprits at the earliest, and directed the Director General of Police to form the SIT.To a query, the chief minister said he had an “open mind” for a probe by the CBI in the case.“But let the SIT investigate. If family members (of Gauri) are very particular, I have an open mind,” he said.The murder of Lankesh, an outspoken critic of Hindutva politics, who was shot dead at her Bengaluru house on Tuesday night, has drawn shock and outrage from across the country.Lankesh, 55, had returned home in her car and was opening the gate when motorcycle-borne assailants fired at her indiscriminately, with two bullets hitting her in the chest and one on her forehead, police officials said. She died instantaneously.Her body has been shifted to Victoria hospital for post-mortem and the cremation will take place on Thursday.Lankesh was the editor of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a magazine described as an ‘anti-establishment’ publication. She was the elder daughter of P Lankesh, a man who brought in a new brand of Kannada journalism.She had faced opposition and criticism for her alleged Leftist and anti-Hindutva views. In November 2016, she had been found guilty of defamation in a case involving BJP MP Prahlad Joshi and sentenced to six months in jail. She was out on bail.She never complained of threat: PoliceBengaluru Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar said Gauri Lankesh did not complain of any threats, adding that if there were any, they would be thoroughly investigated.He said Lankesh was found lying in blood and four empty cartridges were found from the scene. “Out of four, how many entered Gauri’s body, only the post-mortem report will tell,” Kumar said.


Meanwhile, Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said there were two CCTV cameras near Lankesh’s house; three teams had been formed and the footage was being scanned to identify the murderers.Karnataka Law Minister TB Jayachandra termed the murder as shocking saying, “Tuesday night, when I came to know that she was brutally killed, I immediately came here. She was always committed to secular credentials. It is very sad that she has been killed. There must be some conspiracy behind this. It is a serious matter, we will take it up,” he said.

Brother hopeful of breakthrough

Indrajit Lankesh, Gauri’s brother and a filmmaker, meanwhile, has expressed confidence that the culprits will be traced soon with the help of concrete evidence from the CCTV footage and the journalist’s mobile phone.“The CCTV camera (in the premises) has captured the whole incident. I am confident the culprits will be caught soon,” he told reporters.“In fact, her mobile phone contains a lot of evidence and clues. Investigation is underway. I will provide details later in the day,” he said.Noting that the police had secured the CCTV hard disk, Indrajit said, “I am requesting them to open it in front of me or my mother.”“The two CCTV cameras (near the gate and door) even without lights have captured the whole incident and in fact from the footage we can make out what actually happened there. Planning and execution, everything is recorded there,” he added.Indrajit said that after the post-mortem, the mortal remains would be taken to Samsa outdoor auditoriums at Ravindra Kalakshetra for well-wishers and friends to pay their last respects.The body will, thereafter, be taken to Chamarajapete burial ground for the last rites, he said.IB Minister Irani condemns killingInformation and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani condemned the killing and hoped there would be a speedy investigation and justice delivered.“Condemn killing of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh. Hope speedy investigation is conducted and justice delivered. Condolences to the family,” the minister said on Twitter.This should not be tolerated: SoniaCongress President Sonia Gandhi expressed shock and distress over the murder saying “this can’t and should not be tolerated”.“Known for her fearless and independent views, Gauri Lankesh had extraordinary grit and determination to take on the system,” an AICC statement quoting Gandhi said.“The series of killings of rationalists, free thinkers and journalists in the country has created an atmosphere that dissent, ideological differences and divergence of views can endanger our lives. This cannot be and should not be tolerated.”“It is an extremely sad moment for our democracy and a chilling reminder of the fact that intolerance and bigotry is raising its ugly head in our society.”Condemning the attack, the Congress stands as one with the rationalists, thinkers, journalists and the media fraternity, Gandhi said.Journalists slam attack on pressPress Club of India (PCI) president Gautam Lahiri lamented the death and deemed it as a “sad day for democracy”.Lahiri said, “As the President of the Press Club of India, I think it is a sad day for democracy and freedom of press. A journalist who exposed the wrongdoing of the country was shot dead. It is difficult to accept this as a journalist.”The PCI president urged the journalists around the country to come together in support of the murder. He said, “The government should explain how this happened. They should book the culprit without further delay.”The Puducherry Journalists Association also condemned the murder. Association president D Sivakumar, in a release here, termed the murder as “beastly and highly condemnable”.The moment the news of Lankesh’s murder broke out, fellow journalists, activists and celebrities took to Twitter to express their shock and anger.Senior journalists termed the incident highly despicable and called on Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to order an immediate probe to find out the perpetrators.“What happened was highly despicable. I expect the Karnataka government to order an immediate probe and find the guilty and punish them,” journalist S Venkat Narayan said.

Bollywood mourns death

Bollywood celebrities, including Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das have expressed grief over the death.Akhtar wrote on Twitter, “Dhabolkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, and now Gauri Lankesh. If one kind of people are getting killed which kind of people are the killers.”Urging punishment for the culprits, Azmi wrote on her Twitter handle, “#Gauri Lankesh shot dead outside her home. Shocking, devastating. Dabholkar Pansare Kalburgi Culprits must be punished.”Nandita, who was one of the admirers of the late journalist, tweeted, “Shocked & devastated…A person I knew & admired. In recent times we have seen a sharp decline in human rights, free speech, civil liberties.”Filmmaker Shirish Kunder wrote, “When “intellectual” becomes an abuse, words are replied with bullets. RIP #GauriLankesh.”Co-producer of T-Series Films Priya Gupta shared, “A dissenting voice is the backbone of a democracy. Murder of #GauriLankesh is a shame & a crime. Handover her case to CBI.” With agencies