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Key suspect in Gauri Lankesh case produced to the Court

The Special Investigation Team probing the murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has brought key accused Rushikesh Devdikar to Bengaluru. Devidikar, who was arrested on January 9 in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad, was produced before the court on Monday and he was remanded to police custody.

Rushikesh Devdikar has been accused of planning and recruiting people involved in the murder of Gauri Lankesh. He is believed to be one of the key figures, who allegedly conceptualised the murder plot along with prime accused Amol Kale.

A native of Kolhapur, Rushikesh Devdikar moved to Maharashtra’s Aurangabad in 2012 and lived with his parents, wife and a seven-year old daughter. Rushikesh ran a franchise shop that sold Patanjali products in Aurangabad after a man named Jagadish Kulkarni rented the shop space to Rushikesh.

In 2012, SIT sources say that Rushikesh began attending events organised by the radical right-wing outfit Sanathan Sanstha, whose members have been accused of killing Gauri Lankesh. SIT sources say that Amol Kale and Virendrasinh Tawde recruited Rishikesh Devdikar to help recruit and train people for Gauri’s murder. Virendrasinh Tawde is one of the key persons allegedly involved in planning the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in Maharashtra.

SIT sources say that in July 2018, Rushikesh absconded and took refuge in Jharkhand’s Katras in Dhanbad area. Rushikesh was allegedly working as a serviceman at a petrol pump. Sources say that Rushikesh formed the plan to dispose the murder weapon and had appointed accused persons Sharad Khalaskar and Sachin Andhure, both from Aurangabad to dispose the murder weapon.

“Rushikesh recruited Sharad Khalaskar and Sachin Andhure. While Amol Kale planned the murder, Rushikesh was involved in the plan of eliminating the evidence. He also recruited people upon Amol Kale’s request,” the source said.

Gauri Lankesh was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar on September 5, 2017. The SIT has so far arrested 18 persons in connection with the crime. SIT sources say that one more accused Nihal is yet to be nabbed. Investigators believe that Rushikesh’s arrest would help them track down Nihal.

Meanwhile, the Sananthan Sanstha has admitted that Rushikesh was a member of the organisation. “We have come to know that Karnataka police has arrested Rishikesh Devadikar in relation to the Gauri Lankesh murder case. We are enquiring more about this matter. He was an active member of Sanathan Sanstha but has not been active for over 8 years. We also came to know that he was working in some other organisation in the meantime. It is totally inappropriate to blame Sanatan Sanstha when someone involved in Sanatan’s activities long back gets arrested in a case now,” Sanatan Sanstha national spokesperson Chetan Rajhans said in a statement.

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