Prakash Raj on 'hit list' of Lankesh killers

Prakash Raj

Bangalore: The suspected killers of journalist Gauri Lankesh had allegedly planned to eliminate senior actor Prakash Raj too for his comments against the Prime Minister's silence on the murder.

Sources in Karnataka police's special investigation team (SIT) probing Gauri's murder said it suspected that Parashuram Wagmare, arrested last week, had claimed during the interrogation that Raj was on the hit list that included several other rationalists from the state.

The popular actor, who has played the comic villain in many Bollywood potboilers, is known for his stand against Hindutva. He had repeatedly questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who didn't utter a word on Gauri's killing.

Veteran actor Girish Karnad, rationalist scholar K.S. Bhagawan, writer and Congress leader B.T. Lalitha Naik, author C.S. Dwarakanath and pontiff Veerabhadra Channamalla Swamy are also on the list of targets, according to the SIT probe.

Immediately after the revelation, the state police provided armed security to Raj, like the others who are believed to be under threat.

"Bangalore police provided me with armed security soon after the SIT found out about the plot. Now that I am in Hyderabad, the police here have deployed an armed policeman to accompany me," Raj told The Telegraph on Wednesday from a shooting location in the Telangana capital.

"I am not afraid of them. But what I have been saying has come true," the actor said, alluding to his past statements that Hindutva forces would go to any extent to target those who speak against them.

"What I am really worried about is how these people manage to brainwash these youngsters (like those arrested in the Gauri case)," Raj said.

He questioned the logic behind Modi crying hoarse about the Emergency imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. "Our Prime Minister says Kishore Kumar was not allowed to sing during the Emergency. What is his government going?"

Raj, who has built a reputation with his strong stand against communal and fascist tendencies, said anyone who believed in the ideology being promoted by the BJP would be extremely dangerous to the society and the nation.

"My voice will only get louder with these threats," said Raj.

Allegedly a member of the Sri Ram Sene, Wagmare is one of the six men in SIT custody over the September 5, 2017, killing of Gauri. He was arrested from his hometown Sindagi in Bijapur district on June 11.

K.T. Naveen Kumar, a member of the little-known Hindu Yuva Sene, was the first to be arrested in the case. That was followed by the SIT arresting his handler, Sujith Kumar alias Praveen.

The SIT later arrested Amol Kale and Amit Degwekar from Maharashtra and Bijapur resident Manohar Dundappa Yavade on the suspicion of plotting to kill rationalists. They have since been linked to the Gauri murder case as the SIT unearthed information connecting them to Wagmare and the others.


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