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Key suspect in Gauri Lankesh murder held in Jharkhand

A key suspect in the September 5, 2017 murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru was arrested by a Special Investigation Team of the Karnataka police in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district on Thursday.

Rushikesh Deodikar alias Murali, 44, who is linked to the radical outfit Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, is named as accused number 18 in a chargesheet filed by the SIT in November 2018 in connection with the murder.

Deodikar is among the 18 persons named in the Gauri Lankesh murder case to be arrested by the SIT. He is alleged to have been one of the key plotters who provided resources to carry out the murder, including training and guns for the assassins.

“He was arrested in Katras, Dhanbad district, Jharkhand. His house is being searched for clues. He will be produced before the jurisdictional magistrate tomorrow,” said a statement issued by an SIT official.

Jharkhand DGP KN Choubey said, “Bangalore Police SIT with the help of Dhanbad police arrested the accused, who was working at a petrol pump in Katras area of Dhanbad. His period of stay is not known yet. He will be produced at a local court Friday.”

Deodikar was closely associated with the Sanatan Sanstha’s Hindu Janajagruti Samiti till around 2010. Several articles on the website of the HJS during the period have recorded his presence at meetings of the Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS.

According to the Karnataka SIT, Deodikar is a founding key member of a crime syndicate created in 2011 by former HJS activist Virendra Tawade to carry out assassinations of persons perceived to be anti-Hindu.

The group is alleged to have also carried out the killings of the Maharashtra rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, in 2013, Leftist thinker Govind Pansare, 81, in 2015, and Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi, 81, in 2015.

Deodikar is alleged to have been part of a group of men, including Tawade, who were among the first in the radical right-wing group to receive training in the use of arms and ammunition by Rajesh Bangera, who has been arrested by the SIT.

Though Tawade, was arrested in 2016 by the CBI for Dabholkar’s murder, the group reassembled under the leadership of Amol Kale, 37, a former HJS convenor from Pune, according to the SIT.

“The leadership was taken over by Amol Kale. Other important members of this syndicate are Amit Degvekar, Vikas Patil alias Dada and Rushikesh Deodikar,” the SIT has stated.

The secretive group had members who were “indoctrinated and actively underwent arms training, shooting practice and were trained in the manufacture and use of bombs with the intention of promoting insurgency and creating fear in society,” the SIT said in its note

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