Protests of Gauri Lankesh Murder at Town Hall, Bengaluru
People protest against Gauri Lankesh Murder at Town Hall, BengaluruReuters

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad on September 12 took custody of two accused arrested for the 2017 Gauri Lankesh murder case. The team will interrogate them in connection with the alleged plot to conduct disruptive activities in Maharashtra.

The ATS has, since August 10, arrested eight people for allegedly planning to conduct attacks at various locations in the state, including the Sunburn festival in Pune. A large cache of arms, ammunition and explosives has been recovered from the accused.

According to ATS sources, the agency got custody of Lankesh murder accused Bharat Khurne and Sujeet Kumar from the Special Investigation Team (SIT) on September 12.

"Interrogation of the accused arrested earlier indicated that Khurne and Kumar also received training in handling arms and explosives along with them. We need to find out if, apart from the Gauri Lankesh murder, they also had an active role in any other crimes linked to the outfit," an ATS officer told The Hindu.

The ATS, after picking them up, first produced them in a local court in Bengaluru and got transit remand, after which they were brought to Mumbai. They were subsequently produced in a special Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) court, where they were remanded in police custody till September 17, officials said.

Khurne's farm is alleged to have been used to train Parshuram Waghmore, said to be the gunman in Lankesh's murder while Kumar is alleged to have been part of the murder plot. The ATS suspects that Khurne's farmhouse was also used while training Vaibhav Raut and his co-accused.

The alleged mastermind of the Lankesh murder plot, Amol Kale, is also said to be closely associated with Shrikant Pangarkar, who was arrested by the Maharashtra ATS in August.

According to a report in Firstpost, the development is just one more link between the alleged plot busted by the Maharashtra ATS and murders suspected to have been carried out by Hindu right-wing outfits. Earlier this year, the ATS, while interrogating arrested accused Sharad Kalaskar, had allegedly found out that he was one of the two shooters who shot Narendra Dabholkar in Pune in 2013.

The ATS subsequently picked up Aurangabad resident Sachin Andure, alleged to be the second shooter, and handed him over to the Central Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the case. The CBI subsequently got Kalaskar's custody from the court.