BENGALURU: Journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh had noticed strangers hanging around near her house days before she was shot dead by unknown assailants, but did not see it as a threat.
Gauri visited her sister Kavitha's place on September 2 and talked about strangers loitering near her residence, her mother Indira revealed.
"None of us, including Gauri, took it seriously. I'm not sure whether it were the same persons who killed her," she said.
Highly-placed Bengaluru police sources said Gauri was shot with a 7.65mm pistol. A similar weapon had been used in the killings of writer M M Kalburgi, rationalist Narendra Dabholkar and left leader Govind Pansare. The ballistic reports are expected in a week, the sources added.
Two 7.65mm pistols were used in the three killings, the Criminal Investigation Department of Karnataka and the Maharashtra police had confirmed.
Police sources said the murder weapon was not a revolver. "One thing is for sure — it's a pistol and not a revolver as thought earlier. If a revolver was used, there would be no cartridges left behind at the crime scene. Based on the size and shape of the bullets, we have concluded that a 7.65mm pistol was used to kill Gauri," police sources said.
The sources, however, said they are yet to firmly establish if it was a country-made pistol. If it was a country-made pistol, the assailant must have been well-versed in handling it, they added.
"Usually, magazines of country-made pistols will not work quickly, particularly while pumping bullets in quick succession. The magazine gets jammed, requiring the weapon to be reloaded. Also, the pistol gets heated once the bullet is fired. In this case, the assailant used the weapon so confidently that he fired the bullets one after the other," a senior police officer said, adding that the assailant could be a contract killer.
"But we have not been able to establish whether the shooter was alone or worked with others," he said.
The special investigation team (SIT), which is probing Gauri's murder, visited her residence in RR Nagar on Thursday. SIT chief B K Singh and his team arrived at the residence around 1pm and carried out preliminary investigations, including collecting evidence and marking important clues such as bullet marks on walls. Singh was seen explaining the crime scene to his colleagues.
"SIT officials were seen clicking pictures of the bullet marks and the spot where Gauri collapsed," police said. The team inspected the spot where Gauri parked her car and sought to zero in on the places from where the assailant would have shot her. "The assailant shot Gauri from within a distance of 10 feet," an SIT member said.
Investigators also collected call record details (CDR) of Gauri's mobile phone and two landline phones in her office and at home.
"Between August 2016 and September 5, Gauri had received or dialled around 650 numbers that were not on her contact list. The team will filter all calls and sort names based on their relationship with her," police said.
Meanwhile, Gauri's associate Bhaskar Prasad approached the police and said unidentified people were threatening him. "I was working with Gauri Lankesh for various social causes, drawing criticism from some sections of the society. I received a call on September 6 midnight and the caller said they would kill me in three days. Please give me protection," Bhaskar Prasad told the DG-IGP after meeting him.
Over the last three governments, one helmed by the NDA followed by two under the UPA, women ministers were confined to ministries that symbolised “soft power” — Social Justice, Information & Broadcasting, Women and Child Development, Health, Tourism and Culture, etc. With Sunday’s Cabinet reshuffle, there are now two women on the coveted Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which forms the core of the government and is headed by the Prime Minister.
After Indira Gandhi, as prime minister, held occasional charge of ministries under the CCS, it took another 30 years before Sushma Swaraj took charge as External Affairs Minister in 2014 and became a part of the committee. On Sunday, Nirmala Sitharaman became the Defence Minister to join Swaraj, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the CCS, apart from the PM.
The last three governments did not have more than 10 women ministers on the Council at any one time. Prominent among those in that select group were Swaraj, who was in charge of Information and Broadcasting, and Health, and Mamata Banerjee as Railways Minister in NDA-I.
On Sunday, Sitharaman’s promotion came in for praise from women leaders across party lines — with some words of caution.
I Have An Extremely Competent Successor
“I welcome it. I am sure she will do justice to this,” said former minister and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kumari Selja. “But it should not end at this. We know the way things are in the country, especially in BJP-ruled states. On the ground, there is nothing like ‘beti bachao (save the girl child)’, there is only sloganeering. But I welcome her elevation as Defence Minister,” Selja said.
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat described Sitharaman’s promotion as a “happy occasion”. “I am glad that we have a woman Defence Minister. I would not say that it is a question of gender empowerment. But certainly, it is a happy occasion,” said Karat, CPI(M) Politburo member and former Rajya Sabha MP.
“It is good that they have women in the CCS. It is certainly a positive message. But if it is not to remain as just tokenism, it is important for the Prime Minister to take the next logical step of passing the reservation Bill for women. That is critical. Why is he hesitant to take that step? There is absolutely no reason for them to not have the Bill,” she said.
Another Congress MP, Sushmita Dev, described the presence of two women on the CCS as “great optics”. “I think it is great optics. There is a message there. She has been appointed as Defence Minister. But there is also Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister. They should not just become symbols of women empowerment. They should be allowed to function with freedom,” said Dev.
“Swaraj is doing a great job. She is experienced and has huge potential, but they have not allowed her to bloom. Sitharaman should be given an opportunity to actually act as a Defence Minister, to prove to the world that she has a mind of her own,” she said.
However, a senior minister told The Indian Express that gender was not the sole criterion that went in favour of Sitharaman. “The first thing was that Arun Jaitley was keen to relinquish the Defence portfolio. With very few alternatives available among senior leaders, Sitharaman fitted the bill. She is serious, uses measured language, has a staunch nationalistic streak and has so far behaved in a way that no accusing finger has been pointed towards her,” the minister said.
Another minister said that the other seniors in the Cabinet — Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad — were crucial to their portfolios and could not have been replaced.
Party sources said that Health Minister J P Nadda could not be considered either, since the party is yet to decide on whether he should be sent to poll-bound Himachal Pradesh.
Besides, sources said, after M Venkaiah Naidu’s exit from the Cabinet, Sitharaman’s entry and induction in the CCS would fit the BJP’s gameplan of deepening its presence in the south. Born in Tamil Nadu, Sitharaman has spent a part of her life in Andhra Pradesh and represents Karnataka in the Rajya Sabha.
In a note sent to the Central Agency Section of the Department of Legal Affairs (Ministry of Law and Justice) dated June 22 this year, the CBI has stated that it did not file the SLP (Special Leave Petition) against the judgment of Justice R S Sodhi since it did not get permission from the “competent authority.”
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has told the government, on record, that it could not file an appeal against the 2005 Delhi High Court order in which the Hinduja brothers were acquitted because the investigating agency was not permitted to do so by the then UPA government. In a note sent to the Central Agency Section of the Department of Legal Affairs (Ministry of Law and Justice) dated June 22 this year, the CBI has stated that it did not file the SLP (Special Leave Petition) against the judgment of Justice R S Sodhi since it did not get permission from the “competent authority.”
The “competent authority” for all decisions on appeals to be filed or not for the CBI is the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) which, in turn, approaches the Law Ministry for specific opinion on cases. In the Bofors matter, the CBI was specifically asked by the government to give its opinion on the challenge to the Justice Sodhi order filed by Delhi-based lawyer Ajay Agarwal who last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an early hearing in his case.
This is what the CBI has written to the Department of Legal Affairs: “The CBI as the investigating agency was of the view that SLP should be preferred against order of the Delhi High Court dated 31st May 2005 quashing all proceedings against Hinduja brothers. However, since permission for filing SLP was not accorded to the CBI by the competent authority, no SLP was preferred.”
The CBI has made this admission almost 12 years after its then Director U S Misra signed a 36-page confidential file on the subject of filing an SLP against the R S Sodhi judgment. Official records with The Indian Express show that the agency dealt with the file from June 26, 2005 on and that almost all officers who handled the Bofors case were of the view that an SLP should be filed against the quashing of charges against the Hinduja brothers in the apex court.
The only official who stated on file that the case was not a fit one for appeal was the agency’s Director of Prosecution (DoP) S K Sharma — an officer of the Law Ministry — who ended his 12-page opinion by writing, “Viewed from every angle, I am of the view that the judgment of the High Court lays down the correct proposition of law and accordingly, I am not inclined to recommend SLP against the order…” The Director of Prosecution also put down that the limitation period for the case expired on September 19, 2005.
Finally, it was the then CBI Director Misra who over-ruled the DoP and, in his one-page opinion dated September 7, 2005, pointed out that the entire line of CBI officials who had investigated the Bofors matter were in favor of an SLP being filed. These included the Investigating Officer; the Superintendent of Police; the Deputy Inspector General, the Additional Legal Advisor; Joint Director and the Additional Director.
The Director had then written: “The judgment dated 31/5/ 2005 of the High Court of Delhi can have far reaching effects especially on the admissibility of certified photo copies as evidence…I am informed that such a situation has not risen before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India or any other court prior to this position by the Hinduja brothers…”
He sealed the subject by stating: “This matter needs to be clarified and decided. We may, therefore, recommend for filing of SLP agaianst the order dayed 31/5/2005 of the Delhi High Court to the Ministry of Law & Justice through Department of Personnel & Training for a decision in consultation with appropriate legal authorities.” The then UPA government, clearly, disregarded this recommendation.
Colombo: India on Thursday called for a peaceful, stable and secure Indian Ocean with its waters free of any traditional and non-traditional threats.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day Second Indian Ocean Conference in Colombo, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's concept of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) is a "clear, high-level articulation of India's vision for the Indian Ocean".
"But most of all, for the Indian Ocean economic revival to be sustainable, the waters must not only be better connected but they should remain free from non-traditional and traditional threats that could impede the seamless movement of goods, people and ideas," she said.
"Security is fundamental to the SAGAR vision. If the revitalised maritime economy of the Indian Ocean region is to be a force for global economic growth in the coming years, it is essential that the waters remain peaceful, stable and secure."
This year's Indian Ocean Conference, after the first edition in Singapore in September last year, is being jointly organised by the India Foundation, the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore, and the National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS), Colombo, with the theme "Peace, Progress and Prosperity". Over 35 countries are participating in the event.
Sushma Swaraj said that the economies of many of the Indian Ocean littoral countries depend heavily on the ports, the shipping and the vast natural resources that enrich these waters with an abundance of marine life.
"For India, of course, the Indian Ocean is of vital importance — we have an extensive coastline of 7,500 km and several hundred islands between Lakshadweep in the west and the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the east," she said.
"Our southernmost tip is just 90 nautical miles from Indonesia. Our Exclusive Economic Zone is 2.4 million square km and 90 percent of our trade by volume and almost all of our oil imports come through the sea. Clearly, it is but natural that India's role as the key pivot in the Indian Ocean region is a given, not only geographically but by virtue of a shared historical and cultural heritage that binds us all across these waters."
The Indian external affairs minister said the principles enshrined in SAGAR provide for a coherent framework to address some of the challenges relating to economic revival, connectivity, security, culture and identity, and India's own evolving approach to these issues.
"The challenge before us is to ensure intra-ocean trade and investment, and the sustainable harnessing of the wealth of the seas, including food, medicines and clean energy," she stated.
She referred to the emergence of the blue economy and said that it was "a promising new pillar of prosperity in the region, with immense economic and employment potential".
"We are already engaging our neighbours in blue economy initiatives, particularly in the areas of marine bio-technology, exploration and sustainable exploitation of ocean mineral resources, sustainable fishing practices, and harnessing of ocean energy."
Sushma Swaraj said that India was implementing targeted programmes for re-energising economic activity in its islands and coastal areas.
"There is also a renewed focus on strengthening marine research, developing eco-friendly marine industrial technologies, promoting sustainable fisheries and, ensuring the protection of the maritime environment," she stated.
"We remain committed to extending port connectivity among the littoral states of the Indian Ocean and beyond. This is the objective behind the Sagarmala initiative, which aims to establish new ports and modernise old ones."
Stating that connectivity was one of the major themes of India's Neighbourhood First policy, Sushma Swaraj said, "We continue to work on a range of projects to improve maritime logistics in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. Our other initiatives include the Kaladan transport project leading to Sittwe port in Myanmar; the Trilateral Highway to Thailand; and, the Chabahar port project in Iran."
Earlier on Thursday, soon after her arrival in Colombo, Sushma Swaraj held a meeting with Sri Lankan Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
She is also scheduled to call on Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and hold a meeting with new Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana.
Delhi is the capital of India and thus one of the most important cities of the nation. Many of the happenings and decisions that shape the course of the country are taken here and that is why the complete nation is always interested in knowing the Delhi news.