Lankesh murder mastermind has Aurangabad connection

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Lankesh murder mastermind has Aurangabad connection

Aurangabad (Maharashtra): The alleged mastermind of Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh’ killing, Hrishikesh Devdikar, who was arrested from Dhanbad in Jharkhand late on Thursday, has connections to the tourist destination of Aurangabad, official sources said here on Friday.

Devdikar alias Murli had been holed up in Katraj area in Dhanbad and was nabbed by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Karnataka Police.

Commenting on the arrest, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said here that the state government was aware of the progress in the case and was monitoring all the developments.

“Now it remains to be seen how the (Lankesh) killing is linked to the murders of other prominent intellectuals in the past few years,” Deshmukh added.

The reference was made to the shooting of rationalist medico Narendra Dabholkar (Pune, August 20, 2013) and the killing of leftist writer Govind Pansare (Kolhapur, February 16, 2016), both in Maharashtra.

Later, noted author M.M. Kalburgi was shot dead in Dharwad on August 30, 2015, followed by Lankesh who was gunned down on September 5, 2017 — both in Karnataka.

The alleged brain behind the Lankesh murder, Devdikar arrived in Aurangabad from Kolhapur in 2012 and lived in Sector N-9 in the CIDCO complex with his parents, wife and a seven-year old daughter.

Devdikar had acquired a franchise for a reputed Ayurvedic products company. He ran it in a shop hired from a local, Jagdish Kulkarni, but vacated it in 2016 for reasons not known.

However, while running the Ayurveda shop, he also spent a lot of time attending activities of a right-wing organisation, the Sanatan Sanstha, sources said.

In August 2018, the Maharashtra Police and the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) had busted what came to be known as the sensational ‘Nala Sopara arms haul case’ in Palghar, north of Mumbai, which included a bomb and gun manufacturing factory.

Investigations into the Palghar case led to the arrest of one Sharad Kalaskar who spilled the beans on his friend from Aurangabad, Sachin P. Andhure, and their joint involvement in the Dabholkar killing. The CBI arrested Andhure from Aurangabad in August 2019.

In the Palghar case, which was unearthed just seven months before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the ATS said after investigations that all the accused had planned to carry out several high-profile killings.

Some of their targets included Nationalist Congress Party leader from Thane and present Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, Pune-based rationalist Mukta N. Dabholkar, All India Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti President Shyam Manav and activist Ritu Raje.

All the concerned probe agencies — SIT, ATS, CBI and the police — in both Maharashtra and Karnataka believe that the four killings may be linked and are attempting to unravel the extent of the nexus.

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