The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday sought a detailed report from the Karnataka government on the killing of senior Kannada journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh, an official said.
“Ministry of Home Affairs has asked for a report from the Karnataka government on the killing of senior journalist Gauri Lankesh,” a Home Ministry official said, requesting anonymity.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday said a Special Investigation Team will probe the killing of Lankesh, even as protests erupted across the state condemning the murder.
“An SIT has been formed, headed by an Inspector-General-level officer, to investigate the journalist killing,” the Chief Minister told the media here after meeting top police officers at the state assembly Vidhan Soudha.
Asked if the investigation could be handed over to a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team, Siddaramaiah said: “Have left it to the Director General of Police (R.K. Dutta) who will speak to the state Home Minister (Ramalinga Reddy) and decide.”
“I have an open mind,” the Congress leader said, adding that if the family members insist on a CBI investigation, the state could think about it.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani on Wednesday condemned the killing of Gauri Lankesh.
“Condemn killing of… Gauri Lankesh. Hope speedy investigation is conducted and justice delivered. Condolences to the family,” Irani said in a tweet.
Lankesh, 55, was shot dead by three unidentified men who fired seven bullets at her when she returned home from her office in the city. Two hit her in the chest and one in the forehead.
She was the editor of popular Kannada tabloid “Gauri Lankesh Patrike”.
In November 2016, she was sentenced to six months in jail after a defamation case was filed against her for a report against Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
Her last rites will be conducted on Wednesday 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 on Wednesday at the Victoria Hospital, where her post-mortem was being conducted.
“Her mortal remains will be kept at Samsa Bayalu Rangamandira (an open air theatre) for public viewing,” Lankesh said. “Gauri’s eyes were donated as per her wish,” he said.
He also expressed confidence in the probe: “Investigations have been going on since last night. I’m very confident that the killers would be caught soon,” Lankesh said.
“CCTV footage has been taken by the police and I’m sure the killers will be identified soon,” he said.
Earlier, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) M.N. Anucheth said: “Three special teams were set up to crack the case. They are on the lookout for the suspected assailants. We are tracking the movement of people and vehicles at check posts and inter-state borders.”
“We have alerted our counterparts in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as well,” said Anucheth.
Lankesh has also demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the death.
“I don’t have any words to say. It is shocking that my sister, a journalist and activist, was targeted this way,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“There must be a CBI investigation into the death and there must be severe punishment for the killers,” he said.
The Commissioner meanwhile said that police have “extracted the footage from CCTVs around the house and will examine it closely”.
“We will register a case of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and set up a special team to nab her killers,” a police official said.
Karnataka’s new Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy, who rushed to the spot with the Police Commissioner, told reporters that the assailants probably fired seven rounds.
“Within minutes, seven rounds were fired at close range. She was attacked outside her residence. As she had not sought police protection, no security was provided to her,” Reddy said.
Congress state unit chief G. Parameshwara called her death a “great loss to the community of independent journalism”. “Lost a dear friend, an accomplished journalist and a wonderful human being,” he said.
A prominent Left thinker and a staunch critic of Hindutva politics, Lankesh was convicted last year in a defamation case filed by Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker Pralhad Joshi.
Her siblings Indrajit Lankesh and Kavitha Lankesh are both film-makers in the Kannada film industry.
The manner in which Lankesh was shot dead was reminiscent of the way Kannada progressive thinker and researcher M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead in August 2015 at his residence in Dharwad in the state’s northwest region, about 400km from Bengaluru.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday expressed her “alarm” over Lankesh’s killing and demanded justice.
“Saddened at the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru. Most unfortunate. Very alarming. We want justice,” she tweeted.
Biotech firm Biocon’s Chairman and Managing Director Kiran Mazumdar Shaw tweeted: “Shocking and blood curdling to hear about the murder of Gauri Lankesh. These monstrous criminals must be nailed n dealt with sternly”. EP