‘The calls made by the minister are not part of official decorum. Their frequency is unnatural and uncommon in nature.’ — Gujarat CID report on Amit Shah’s calls to encounter cops
Rana Ayyub reports from Gujarat
THE YEAR was 2007. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was beginning what was billed as his most crucial election campaign. He had won the 2002 election on the back of a post-Godhra polarisation but this, they said, was different. Modi had to prove he could make it on the development work he did for Gujarat. His first pitch would set the tone. “Sohrabuddin,” Modi began, using the name as a sort of magic word. “What do you want me and my men to do with a man like Sohrabuddin?” he asked. The Ahmedabad crowd roared, “Kill him.” Sohrabuddin. The name became a word and stuck on, in a state polarised on religion.
Sohrabuddin became Modi’s trump card, a Muslim name. A name that drew hatred on 26 November 2005, when he was gunned down for allegedly being an LeT hit squad member on his way to assassinate Modi. As Modi stepped off the dais, pumped up by the crowd response, I grabbed the opportunity to squeeze in a question. “Can you, Mr Modi, afford to call Sohrabuddin a terrorist when your own cops were in league with him?” I asked. Modi gave me a cold stare. He then walked away.
The year is 2010. Sohrabuddin’s name still has political value. But Modi is now handicapped by how events unraveled after Sohrabuddin’s killing. Sohrabuddin was shot dead in a fake encounter in November 2005. Tulsiram Prajapati, an extortionist, was the only witness to Sohrabuddin’s killing. Apparently he was travelling with Sohrabuddin but it hasn’t proven beyond doubt. Later, Prajapati was also killed in a fake encounter in December 2006.
TEHELKA had published the details of the call records between Shah and the policemen, DIG Vanzara, SP Rajkumar Pandyan, Dinesh MN, and Vipul Agarwal, in December 2006, at the time of the Prajapati killing. On July 3, a day after the TEHELKA issue hit the stands, the Gujarat CID sought custody of the three police officers from the CBI, which was investigating the Sohrabuddin killing. The CID already had the call records with them. So, the CID’s delayed move to seek custody looked specious. Finally, on July 7, the CID took custody of Vanzara and Dinesh in the Prajapati case.
There was worse for Shah. Modi is understood to have told the state BJP seniors that Shah was not to be seen with him at any public event. There was an irony in this because Modi is a pariah in parts of India outside Gujarat, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in particular not wanting to be seen with Modi in public.
There is a reason why Modi is seeking to distance himself from Shah. TEHELKA now has more details of Shah’s calls, which are pointing to things worse than may have been imagined. Call records between September 2006 and January 2007 show that Shah was in constant touch with the three officers, making 155 phone calls to them. This implies that Shah was not merely talking with the policemen during the week of Prajapati’s killing, but he was doing it each time there were developments in the case.
For instance, Shah made 20 calls on 7 September 2006, when the first petition was filed in the Supreme Court. He made a staggering 73 calls to the police officers in January 2007, up from 28 in September and 42 in December of 2006. The raw data of 400 calls shows that the frequency of conversations also shot up in June and December 2006. This is the time former IGP, CID, Geeta Johri started inquiring into the Sohrabuddin encounter of November 2005. Since Prajapati was the only witness to Sohrabuddin’s killing, there may have been an urgency to do away with Prajapati.
In contrast, there were barely four to nine calls a month in July and August 2006, when there were no developments in the Sohrabuddin case. This is not all. There were 277 calls between Shah and SP Rajkumar Pandyan in five months between October 7, 2004 and March 7, 2005.
This was the time when Sohrabuddin and Prajapati fired shots at the office of Popular Builders to scare them and extort money. This incident put them in the spotlight and drew attention to the link between Sohrabuddin and DCP Abhay Chudasama. Chudasama was arrested and his alleged links with Shah were exposed.
The talk time between Shah and Pandyan, a man whose role has more or less been established as a key conspirator in the Sohrabuddin and Prajapati cases, is 331 minutes. Calls were made from Shah’s landline and cell phone, 9824010090, 9825049392, and 079-26404230. The calls were monitored in a case under the Official Secrets Act, 2005, being investigated by the Gujarat CID’s ND Solanki and Commissioner of Police PC Pande.
So astonishing were Shah’s call records that the case diary in the investigation says: “There have been phone calls exchanged between MoS Amit bhai Shah and SP Rajkumar Pandyan whose frequency is unnatural and uncommon in nature. The calls made by the MoS are not a part of official decorum.” Oddly, this case too was closed in 2009 without investigation. TEHELKA has accessed a copy of the case diary.
ALL OFFICERS who dared raise a voice against Shah or indicate the involvement of people close to him have been summarily transferred. Rajnish Rai, the officer in charge of the Sohrabuddin case before it was handed over to Geeta Johri, was transferred after he arrested Pandyan, Vanzara and Agarwal in an unexpected move in 2007. This, when he was brought into the case in the hope that he would save them.
Similarly, Kuldip Sharma, then CID chief, was transferred to the Goat and Sheep Department after he filed a case of corruption against Shah in 2005, the first of its kind against a minister in Gujarat. Given this history of victimising honest officers, it was not surprising that after Johri submitted an interim report on the Sohrabuddin killing, Shah told her and other officers in a meeting that they were making things difficult for him.
Shah complained because Vanzara called him to ask why the Sohrabuddin case was being investigated. Vanzara was alerted by his men who saw a CID team heading to the farmhouse where Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauserbi were kept before they were killed.
Shah made 20 calls to the killer cops on a day when a petition against the fake encounter was filed in the Supreme Court. He made 73 calls in January 2007, when a CID inquiry began
CONSEQUENTLY, THE CID went cold on the case and did not send its officers to question Prajapati who was in an Udaipur jail. The call records corroborate every link in this chain of events. This glaring evidence should make it easy for Modi to act against Shah. But that isn’t happening yet.
So what does the state fear? Investigating officers have reason to believe that there is a far deeper conspiracy in the Sohrabuddin and Prajapati encounters, which was kept hidden. “The larger political games in the two encounters have been ignored. There is no reason to kill Sohrabuddin merely because he was causing trouble for the marble lobby. Sohrabuddin and Prajapati knew something that could have been damning for the minister,” says an investigating officer.
Why then is the CBI not arresting Shah? Could it be that they are claiming they don’t have the call records? Or is it the bungling of the investigation, as an officer says who was involved with the case in the past? “Where is the CBI’s own investigation? Why did the CBI not search Chudasama’s house the day he was arrested? It does not have to rely on the Prajapati records to arrest Shah. There is enough in the Sohrabuddin case itself on the basis of which Shah can be arrested”.
Some are asking deeper questions. Why should Modi, who holds the Home portfolio, and who sanctioned the transfer of Vanzara to the Border Range in December 2006, not be arraigned? This was the posting that facilitated Vanzara’s participation in the Prajapati encounter. If indeed Pandyan’s involvement as prime mover of the encounters has been proved by the Gujarat Police, then why should Shah, with whom he was in constant touch for two years, be left free and not even questioned? Would Modi’s answer again be a cold stare?
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‘The manipulation by the Gujarat government is now assuming infantile proportions’
MUKUL SINHA, Advocate & Convener, Jan Sangharsh Manch, Gujarat
THE WAR against “Islamic terrorism” fought in Ahmedabad would have scored many more heroic “victories” if it weren’t for Rubabuddin’s determined effort to expose the killings of his brother Sohrabuddin and sister-in-law Kauserbi. So long as they could kill with impunity, they did. From 2002 to 2006, a group of Gujarat Police officers led by Vanzara staged five fake encounters killing 15 “dreaded terrorists”, and the Hindutva brigade of Gujarat hailed the killings as examples of courage and vigilance. The police did not forget to include in each of the five FIRs, filed in connection with the five encounters, that the terrorists had come to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The first encounter claimed the life of Sameer Khan Pathan in which the sessions court threw out the terrorist conspiracy case of the Gujarat Government terming it as absurd. The next to die was Sadiq Jamal on 13 January 2003. In this case, a journalist has confessed that he had profiled Sadiq as a terrorist who was later handed to the Gujarat Police, on the request of a Gujarat politician.
Surprisingly, most of the fake killings are exposed by the Gujarat police themselves
Surprisingly, most of the fake encounters were exposed by the Gujarat Police themselves or the Gujarat judiciary. The exposure from within has set the alarm bells ringing and a desperate government started the manipulation game to sabotage the various investigations. But the reaction of the Gujarat Government to the disclosures in the Ishrat Jahan case is the most shocking.
The government challenged the findings of its own magisterial report of that the encounter was fake and not just that, the Advocate General appeared before the High Court imputing motives against the magistrate. A single bench of the High Court was persuaded to not only stay the operation of the Tamang report but also to pass strictures against the magistrate. The Apex Court expressed surprise at the manner in which the High Court had dealt with the matter, and has ordered the matter to be heard by a bench of two judges. It has expunged all remarks and observations of the single judge against the magistrate Tamang.
Thus, while the Gujarat Government is desperately manipulating the investigations of the fake encounters to save its skin, the manipulation is assuming infantile proportions. They reject their own magistrate but grab David Headley as their saviour, a person who was sentenced for drug trafficking in 1999 and jailed in the US and then became an undercover agent for American authorities and has never came to India before 2007. It is pertinent to point out that if David Headley indeed had inside information on LeT cadre, why didn’t he name Javed, Jishan or Salim as LeT operatives? David Headley, Jai Ho!