“Time is money” in solving any crime scene. Unearthing pieces of evidence, probing deep into the witness accounts and a broad and out of the box mindset goes a long way in deciding how quickly you get results, especially in a murder probe, when the entire police department is behind solving the mystery surrounding it. If good crime investigators are chosen and a proper mindset to follow the protocol and procedures involved in a murder probe are carried out with precision almost half of the work in solving a murder mystery is done. However if no conclusive evidence is gathered over the first few hours, or within the first week of a murder, the case almost derails from the track, and by every passing day, the cobweb surrounding the crime becomes more complicated and mysterious. 45 days is a long, complicated and strangulating laborious cobweb in probing a murder. That is the exact fate of the murder case of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist turned pro-Naxal activist from Karnataka.
The fate of the investigation probably started derailing from day 1. As soon as the news of Gauri’s murder was out, many journalists, activists and liberals and some in the government had also accused this as a murder for ‘Ideological differences.’ Some went on to claim that ‘Hindu extremist’ groups killed Gauri. Even before the investigation had started some people decided that the murders of Gauri, Dabolkar, Panasare and MM Kalburgi fell in same lines and had a common motive and group involved in the murder. Probably SIT the special investigation team, which carried out these investigations were also influenced by these claims and doubts raised by these people. The investigation which can be called ‘confusing,’ ‘irregular’ and ‘driven by predefined ideas’ never had the promise or vigour to find and bring the culprits to justice. Here is the account of a few decisive aspects to show how the investigation lost track and lost all important time and thereby ended nowhere in figuring out the motive and hence the assassin (s).
- Lack of electronic fingerprints ( Or failure to track them): The moment the murder news came out, police and the forensic experts decided to pursue evidence in the form of telephone calls, CCTV footages, fingerprints, bullet signatures, and weapon used in the crime. Sadly the probe ended nowhere. The assassin(s) were either careful enough to not leave any of these trails or the police failed to unearth any pieces of evidence that linked a person to this murder. Thanks to full face helmets, blurred CCTV footages and a cunningly wise act of the criminals who allegedly did not use mobile phones in crime.
- Police gave up in the Golden hour: The fate of a murder investigation is decided by what evidences police collect and what direction the probe takes in the first few hours or days of the murder. However, this murder investigation was not promising ever since the police came out in open to announce a reward to anyone who gave key details about the murder in the first 3- 4 days after the Gauri Lankesh murder
- Releasing the suspect images 40 days after the murder: It is hardly possible to remember the person you see once for 5 days, and 40 days can go a long way in trying to remember some person. But according to SIT, it is quite possible! The murder which drew a lot of media and political attention in and outside the country saw a bizarre move when the SIT released sketches of suspects 40 days after the murder. To add on to that there was a “saffron and vermillion” Tilak on the forehead of the images of the suspects released by SIT. The initial accounts from police and eyewitnesses had claimed that full face helmets and lack of CCTV evidence was hindering the investigation. All of a sudden the police had got detailed Images that pinpointed tilaks on the forehead of the murderers.
- Blaming Hindu Groups and absence of a Naxal viewpoint: Some media houses had linked a Hindu group called Sanathan Sanstha to the murder. The SIT ruled out its involvement later. There were allegations of Naxal involvement in the murder. However, not enough probe or investigation in this area was carried out. It seems like there was a strong and collective efforts to deem this murder an act to silence “Voices against establishments and fascism” Gauri who wanted to get Naxals into mainstream had faced the heat from Naxals who were against it. There was not much of probe from this angle.
- Confusion: Initially the police said one person carried out the murder. Later the CCTV images showed a two-wheeler headlight pattern which showed movement during the murder linking it to two male suspects. This was derived from the technical team of forensic experts and information from locals. However, on the contrary, there were three sketches drawn and released based on different accounts. Cops also said that her murder was not related to her professional career.
- We have got some Clues: 30 days after the murder, the home minister of Karnataka Ramalinga Reddy had claimed that the police and investigators had zeroed down on conclusive evidence and clues. He had told media that, “ We have got clues, but we cannot tell things to the media for now because we should have correct evidence for the clues we have got. If there is no proper evidence when we file a charge sheet at the court, it won’t stand. So we are trying to collect the evidence correctly” But then 45 days into the probe nothing has evolved.
Looking into the way the investigation has gone in, this murder joins the list of 3 murders before( MM Kalburgi, Govind Panasare and Narendra Dabolkar) where activists and liberals blamed the government, right-wing groups and fascist mentality before the culprits were zeroed down or caught, returned awards given to them citing intolerance and ‘oppression against opinion making’ and gained some publicity and fame. The murder investigations ended nowhere and brought no one to justice. This murder case also is following the same trails. But the points mentioned above make it clear that it was more of Police investigative negligence and lack of probe, in addition, a cunningly intelligent crime by the murderers. Let us hope that the criminals are tried and prosecuted and brought to justice, and let us all pray that the soul of Gauri rests in peace.