The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday said that the killings of Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017 and Pune-based rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013 were “linked”.
The CBI, seeking extension of the custody of Sachin Andure, one of the alleged shooters in the Dabholkar murder case, told the Shivajinagar Magistrate’s Court in Pune that one of the accused in the Gauri Lankesh murder case had handed over a pistol and three bullets with a magazine to him.
Judicial Magistrate (First Class) H R Jadhav extended Andure’s CBI custody till August 30.
While, Dabholkar, 67, a rationalist who founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), was shot dead by two motorcycle-borne assailants when he was out on a morning walk near his Pune home on August 20, 2013, Gauri Lankesh (55), journalist-cum-activist, was shot dead outside her residence in Bengalaru on September 5, 2017.
The CBI told the court that it would seek the custody of Sharad Kalaskar, another alleged shooter in the Dabholkar murder case. Kalaskar was among the five persons arrested by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) earlier this month in connection with the seizure of crude bombs and firearms from various parts of the state.
Apart from Kalaskar, the ATS had arrested Vaibhav Raut (40), Sudhanwa Gondhalekar (39), Shrikant Pangarkar and Avinash Pawar (30) in the case.
Special Public prosecutor Vijaykumar Dhakane said that during interrogation Andhure revealed that one of those arrested for the Gauri Lankesh murder had handed over to him a 7.65-mm country made pistol and three bullets and he had passed those over to his brother-in-law, Shubham Surale, at Aurangabad (Maharashtra) on August 11.
Surale in turn passed the weapon to his friend Rohit Rege in the same city, according to the prosecutor.
The CBI had seized a black-coloured country-made pistol with a magazine and three 7.65 mm “live cartridges” (bullets) from Rege’s Aurangabad residence, Dhakane said, adding that the CBI was probing if the weapon was used to kill Dabholkar.
Andhure’s name was revealed by Sharad Kalaskar, who was arrested by the Maharashtra ATS after a major arms haul in Palghar on August 10. Kalaskar revealed that it was him and Andhure who went on a motorcycle and shot Dabholkar August 20, 2013.
(With inputs from agencies)