Mangaluru Aug 18, 2016: Vinayak Baliga, an RTI activist and a devotee of Venkatramana was brutally murdered by hired killers on the 21st March and five months have elapsed since. Some of the accused have been arrested including the alleged master mind accused no.1 Mangalpadi Naresh Shenoy. He had disappeared from the scene a few days after the murder and was arrested nearly after three months of being on the run in June and is now in judicial custody.
Though two months have passed since the arrest and judicial custody of the prime accused, there has been no progress reported in the investigations. While it is clear that it was not one but several master minds behind the crime, few others have been let off the hook. While the accused in judicial custody had tried several means to get out on bail, get hospitalized under the pretext of chronic renal failure nothing seems to have worked so far and his application for bail has been rejected on the 9th of August.
The investigations seem to have come to a standstill. One of the methods to go further into the murky depths of this crime was to subject the accused no.1 to NARCO analysis and that has been opposed by him. It is a question as to why who claims innocent has to refuse that! One can see that he is keen to protect the others behind this crime and so far he seems to have succeeded.
Again one wonders as to how the gang of plotters went ahead with a plan of murder. For that we have to go back to four years on the intervening night between 2012-13. That night one Nandakumar Prabhu alias had allegedly murdered one Mahesh Prabhu with a knife and an FIR was registered at Bunder police station no 2-10-2012. The case came up in the sessions court where more than a dozen witnesses turned hostile! In fact, there was no single prosecution witness. Two of the accused in the Baliga murder case Naresh Shenoy and Manju had played very important roles in scuttling this case. When the accused was acquitted, it was Naresh Shenoy who stood surety for him and later on he said to have employed the accused. That one could get away with murder seems to have emboldened this gang to go ahead with another one.
There is yet another issue of the re-audit of the temple accounts. An exposure of the irregularities therein would have caused problems for the previous auditor who had signed the balance sheet. Baliga had asked for it and one Nitin Shetty had agreed to do the re-audit. But after Baligas brutal murder Mr. Shetty developed cold feet and the task has not been taken up so far. We would like this task to be transferred to a govt. department so that the check will happen. The brutal execution of Baliga has scared many others too. We do hope that the court will order the police to give protection to the staff of the auditor so that they can carry on their task fearlessly.
Some of the letters that Baliga wrote have disappeared without a trace. He had been meticulous in filing a number of copies of his correspondence and some of them are missing. The onus seems to lie on the police official who had confiscated them from his house and it looks as if a systematic effort has been made to destroy incriminating evidence. Some of these strong letters have disappeared without a trace. There is a video of a talk of Baliga to the group of supporters of Raghavendra Theertha, the deposed shishya of Sudhindra Theertha. In that he had mentioned some technical points about why the incumbent Samyameendra was not the one for the post of the head of the Kashi math but it was Raghavendra because he had the Saligrama in his possession. This could have been one of the reasons why Baliga was eliminated. All these threads seem to have remained unexplored so far.
Again, when Naresh Shenoy was on the run for three months where was he hiding? The whole thing seems to be a mystery because the only one who has been accused of supporting him and abetting his escape is Manju. It is very clear that he was not the only one. There seem to have been at least half a dozen people who have abetted his escape and supported him on the run. Why are they being shielded? There seems to be a lot of political pressure as some of them are highly placed in those circles. Naresh Shenoy could not have survived for three months without substantial financial and personal support. The question is who did that and why? Again the whole process of trying for anticipatory bail is a very expensive one and it would have cost millions. Who provided that much financial support?
Coming to the question of bail for the accused the Baliga family are living in dread because they know that while some of them are ruthless hired killers, the others are highly influential people. Once they are out on bail the family fears, that they too will come to harm.
While some of the crucial evidence seems to have been destroyed, the witnesses too could be intimidated. The very sight of them going around freely would strike terror into them to go back on their testimonies. This being a brutal well planned murder the accused should not be out on bail for the duration of the trial but it looks like one of them has already managed to get it due to reasons best known to the prosecution. Anyway we urge them to go on appeal to get the same cancelled as there is grave danger to the lives of the surviving members of Vinayak Baliga’s family.
We urge the Govt. of Karnataka to constitute a special task force to go into further investigations of the Baliga murder. While we applaud the excellent work done by the commissioner Sri Chandrashekar, we also understand his problems and responsibilities would not permit him to take the investigations into his own hands. The investigations have come this far only due to his commitment in the case and the diligence with which he had pursued it without succumbing to any pressure.
Narendra Nayak, On behalf of the Baliga family and Deshapremi Sanghatanegala Okkuta