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Gauri Lankesh murder case: Mastermind Hrishikesh Devdikar has roots in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad

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

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

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said here on Friday evening that the state government was aware of the progress in the case and 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,” he added.

The reference was to the shooting of rationalist medico Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on August 20, 2013, and the killing of Communist writer Govind Pansare in the state’s Kolhapur on February 16, 2015.

Later, renowned author M. M. Kalburgi was shot dead in Karnataka’s Dharwad on August 30, 2015, followed by Gauri Lankesh who was gunned down on September 5, 2017.

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

However, while running the Ayurvedic shop, he also spent a lot of time attending activities of a right-wing organization, the Sanatan Sanstha, the sources said.
Devdikar has acquired a franchise for leading Ayurvedic products company Patanjali, and ran it in a shop hired from a local, Jagdish Kulkarni but he vacated it in 2016, for reasons not known.

Welcoming Devdikar’s arrest, the late Dabholkar’s daughter activist Mukta Dabholkar said: “It is a very significant development in the Lankesh killing case.”

She expressed hope that this would the investigators solve the cases of the shocking murders of progressives like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi.

In August 2018, the Maharashtra Police and 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 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 now Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, Mukta Dabholkar, All India Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti President Shyam Manav and activist Ritu Raje.

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