‘If, in the first 48 to 72 hours, they are just on a wild goose chase, then Gauri Lankesh’s murder will not get solved.’
B Gopal Hosur, who retired as inspector general of police in 2013, headed Karnataka’s intelligence unit under four chief ministers, including the incumbent, Siddaramaiah.
He was part of the special team put together to handle the menace posed by bandit Veerappan and survived a deadly ambush by the brigand in May 1993 that saw Hosur hospitalised for six months.
He was given charge of the state’s western range after Mangaluru erupted into national attention with church attacks in 2008 and the pub attack on women in 2009.
With 34 years of policing experience under his belt, Hosur explains the law and order situation in Karnataka to Rediff.com‘s Savera R Someshwar.
Who do you think should be held accountable for journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder?
There are two participants in this murder — one, the perpetrator or perpetrators of the crime.
The second set are the people who permitted such a situation to come about.
One could, to a certain extent, say it was negligence on the part of law enforcement authorities as well.
At the same time, you have to understand that the law enforcement authorities cannot prevent all crimes; that is an extremely difficult task in a society that is as complex as ours.
The people who have pulled the trigger and the people behind them, if any, need to be identified.
I think the state government is very serious about resolving this case.
You said the government is very serious about resolving this case. Two years ago, an SIT was set up to investigate the death of rationalist and Kannada writer M M Kalburgi who was murdered by two men who arrived on a motorcycle at his home on August 30, 2015. He too was shot in the head and the chest.
Last month, on August 29, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah instructed CID officials to fast track the probe into his murder.
If the Kalburgi case has not been solved in two years, do you expect Gauri Lankesh’s murderers to be arrested anytime soon?
The government has utterly failed. Utterly failed.
Do you expect that Gauri Lankesh’s murder case will be solved? Or do you think it will end up like the Kalburgi case?
It all depends on how seriously the police are able to gather the proof.
Do you believe that anything will come of the investigation?
It depends on the clues they are able to gather in the next 48 hours.
If they able to get the vital clues, this case will be solved soon.
But if, in the first 48 to 72 hours, they are just on a wild goose chase, then it will not get solved.
As someone who knows the force well, which officer do you think should handle this case?
There are a number of competent officers, officers with proven integrity and a good track record of resolving cases, who are very savvy with technology and can provide good leadership to the investigating team.
What if you were asked to suggest names?
I would not like to take anybody’s name because I know all of them well.
It won’t be good on my part. But there are definitely a number of officers who are capable.
Do you believe the state government should have provided Gauri Lankesh with security as she has been facing threats for many, many years now?
I have been head of the police intelligence in Karnataka under four chief ministers, including the present one.
I can tell you that providing security is a very complicated business.
The state can volunteer to provide security to a person, but that person should be willing to accept it.
At the same time, if the state starts making such a list, it will be an unmanageable number.
Do we have the kind of infrastructure and numbers to provide police security to all those individuals who are under threat because of their very open comments on various issues?
The alternative is that the person who feels threatened should approach the government and request for police security.
The police will have to verify the claims of the person who is making the request; the person too will have to provide proof that the threat is genuine.
There are cases where people want such security because they believe it raises their social status.
It is only when all these conditions are satisfied that protection is provided.
Gauri was a rationalist and was extremely vocal with her criticism.
Secondly, she was also a sympathiser of the Naxals and openly critical of the way in which the Naxal movement is being suppressed.
She has helped a few Naxals to surrender before the government and negotiated between the government and the people who were wanted for Naxal activities.
Everybody in society doesn’t appreciate, or understand, this kind of activism.
The police will check the evidence they are able to gather to see if there is any similarity between this murder, Kaburgi’s murder, (rationalist Dr Narendra) Dabholkar’s murder and (Communist leader Govind) Pansare’s murder.
The police will need to see if this crime was perpetrated by someone who was ideologically opposed to her or if it had anything to do with her personal life or her professional life as a journalist.
Do you believe social media has contributed to the kind of threats she was facing?
Social media is a very, very interesting phenomenon that has gripped today’s society.
The exchange of comments and views, unlike in the past, is instant, sometimes thoughtless and often bad.
Social media has actually ruptured the fabric of society.
I would say social media is like drugs — both can be used for good, both can be misused.
And, like drugs, the misuse of social media too is quite high.
It is addictive and it can affect the thinking of people.
As someone who has been in law enforcement for 34 years, how safe do you think Karnataka is today?
There is definitely a deterioration in law and order, but I would not say that it is unsafe.
Crimes like Gauri Lankesh’s murder gives rise to a perception that there is a failure of law and order.
The issue in Karnataka is that there have been four sensational murders in the recent past — two pertain to communal issues and two pertain to rationalists.
(RSS activist) Sharath Madiwala was murdered in the Dakshina Kannada district (on July 7, 2017) and (RSS worker) Rudresh R in Bangalore city (on October 16, 2016).
But the cases of M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh are the ones which are causing a lot of anxiety.
It may be too harsh to conclude that Karnataka is an unsafe place. Nevertheless, there has been a deterioration in the quality of policing.
And this has to do with the morale of the police force. The morale of the police force needs to be very high if law and order is to be maintained.
The respect for the rule of law needs to come from the citizen and needs to be enforced by a credible police force.
The credibility of the police force has come into question because they have not been able to solve the M M Kalburgi case.
Secondly, a large scale transfer of police officers took place recently. This was probably done keeping in mind the oncoming assembly elections in the early part of 2018.
These transfers have demoralised the rank and file to a great extent.
The morale of the force is not at the optimum level.
When you keep these factors in mind, crimes like the Gauri Lankesh murder throw up a serious question on the credibility of policing.
The fact remains, however, that Karnataka is still a safe place.
You were talking about the communal factor. How communal is Karnataka today?
The politicisation of society and the oncoming assembly elections have set in motion a lot of activity within the political parties.
You must remember that political parties like to capitalise on caste votes.
The division within society is being accentuated by the political forces.
Are you saying that the battle between the Congress and the BJP to win the state election has contributed to this situation?
You have not answered my question whether Karnataka has become communal.
Is there less tolerance for both religion and gender, especially in cities that Mangaluru which are now in the news for these reasons?
I won’t say gender. I would say there is a certain amount of religious intolerance all along the west coast, starting right from the upper part of Kerala and the Mangaluru region which is geographically adjoining it.
There is a lack of communal harmony and there is mistrust among the minorities and the Hindus.
This has been exploited by radicalised elements who create these incidents of violence.
It is becoming a little more communal because of the upcoming elections.
What are the things the government needs to do make Karnataka a safer state?
There are a number of steps the government can take.
- No 1: The government should appear to be fair to all sections of people and it should be seen to treat all people equally.
- No 2: They need to strengthen the police force and should not politicise it.
Officers of proven integrity and of a certain professional calibre should be identified and given important responsibilities instead of pushing them to side posts in favour of their favourites who hobnob with them, keep opening their doors, saluting them all the time and are seen at their houses.
Once they are able to do it for the top rungs of the police, the lower formations will automatically fall in line.
If you rate the law enforcement in Karnataka right now, how strong or weak would you say it is?
I would say it is definitely not strong.
And is that because of political interference?
And the demoralisation of the police force.