THE WHEELS of justice might grind slow, but they do grind, it appears. In a major setback for the Narendra Modi-led government, on 21 November, the infamous Ishrat Jahan killing was officially declared a fake encounter by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Gujarat High Court, exposing the blatant lies of many officers in the state police. This reaffirmed Metropolitan Magistrate SP Tamang’s explosive findings in an earlier report.
According to the Gujarat Police, Ishrat Jahan, 19, and three others had been shot dead on 15 June 2004 in an encounter. However, using forensic and other material evidence, both Tamang and the SIT have found that they had been shot in cold blood at an earlier date. Twenty-one police officers are implicated in the case. Of these, suspended DIG DG Vanzara and ACP NK Amin are also the prime accused in the notorious Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and the murder of his wife Kauser Bi. Both officers are currently in jail for this.
Apart from nailing the complicity of these cops, however, in a significant gesture, the court has suggested the Ishrat case now be handed over to another investigating agency — either the CBI or the NIA (National Investigation Agency). “The probe agency would need to find out who played the key role in the encounter, what was the motive, and what was the actual time of the death of the four people,” the court said.
This inquiry into “motive” and “key roles” is likely to prove very damaging for Gujarat’s political leadership. Defenders of the Modi government often argue that encounters — even fake encounters — are not exclusive to Gujarat and that the numbers are much higher in other states. This is probably true. However, what makes the Gujarat fake encounters particularly disturbing is the cynical and false propaganda that was mounted around them. All those killed in these fake encounters were publicly billed as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists out to kill Chief Minister Modi, then deputy PM LK Advani and ultra-Hindutva firebrands such as Pravin Togadia and Jaideep Patel. In the communally polarised aftermath of Gujarat 2002, such false propaganda was like a match to tinder. It can be no one’s case that absolutely no Muslim boys were involved in terror blasts in the country but to cynically manufacture threats and bill petty criminals as “terrorists” only served to tar the entire Muslim community as anti-national and helped consolidate Modi as the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ — a man not only capable of teaching “Hindu enemies” a lesson, but one under constant threat from jihadi groups.
However, these cases — and the brazen political use they were put to — are likely to keep haunting the Modi government till justice has been done. Ishrat Jahan is not the only murder case that is gathering steam. The Sohrabbudin encounter case has already landed many high-profile police officers in jail and forced the former home minister and a staunch Modi confidant Amit Shah to lose his job.
(An earlier TEHELKA story had demonstrated that Sohrabbudin, who was a petty criminal and extortionist, was well known to Shah before he was killed and had raised uncomfortable questions about why he was bumped off and billed as a terrorist. It is significant to remember that Shah was not only the home minister during this time — and directly responsible for the workings of the state police — but a man who was so close to Modi that he held over a dozen ministerial portfolios. Discredited police officer Vanzara, in turn, was very close to Shah.)
Now, in another blow for the Gujarat government, TEHELKA has accessed a damaging paper trail about another encounter: Sadiq Jamal. Killed in January 2003.
Startlingly, this trail suggests that both intelligence inputs and evidence were being cynically tailored to frame the victim and fit a larger negative discourse about Muslims. In a crucial detail, it is important to remember that the police teams involved in the Sohrabbudin, Ishrat Jahan and Sadiq Jamal encounters were all led by Vanzara, who was one of the most trusted officers of Shah and Modi.
THE FIRST disturbing document in the Sadiq Jamal case is the FIR about his death filed by the Gujarat Police on 13 January 2003, the day he was supposedly killed. Far from being the precise factual report it should be, the FIR is filled with broad theorising.
Sample the first paragraph: “After Partition in 1947, two nations, India and Pakistan, came into existence. Pakistan was created on the basis of religious fundamentalism, whereas India remained a secular state. In order to grab Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan fought three wars against India, the last insurgency was made in Kargil. It was the continuation of Pakistan’s warring tendency. In Gujarat, the Godhra carnage was followed by largescale riots and arson. The ISI and jihadi organisations from Pakistan, in association with underworld gangsters and notorious gangs, took advantage of the situation arising from the riots to target Gujarat. This fact is clearly established by various acts of terrorism such as the attack on Akshardham, the conspiracy to kill Narendra Modi and Pravin Togadia in Ahmedabad by local LeT terrorists, namely Shahid Bakshi and Samir Khan Pathan, and the firing on VHP general secretary Dr Jaideep Patel.”
This FIRwas filed by Inspector JG Parmar — who was also involved in the Samir Khan Pathan and Ishrat Jahan encounters — and interestingly, in so far as the theorising goes, the FIRs in the Ishrat and Sohrabuddin cases read almost verbatim to this one.
Unfortunately, while filing the FIR, the Gujarat Police couldn’t have predicted that the two ‘terrorists’ it cited — Samir Khan Pathan and Shahid Bakshi — would later be exonerated. The Pathan encounter has already been termed a fake one and Bakshi, who was profiled by TEHELKA in its investigation SIMI Fictions, has already been acquitted.
As a CBI investigator probing the case said, “They were so confident their crimes would never be exposed that they did not even bother to change the script of the concocted stories, however unbelievable they were.”
The FIR goes on to say: “Sadiq Jamal Mehtar, residing in Dubai, was originally a resident of Bhavnagar and had gone to Mumbai where he came in contact with the underworld. In Dubai, he was staying with Tariq Parveen, who was originally a resident of Mumbai. Parveen was Chhota Shakeel’s brother-in-law and closely associated with Dawood Ibrahim. Dawood’s brother Anees and Shakeel’s confidant Salim Chiplun used to visit Jamal in Dubai. Meanwhile, Jamal had seen on television channels the news regarding incidents of communal violence in Gujarat that had erupted after the Godhra carnage. On seeing such incidents, he had made up his mind to kill Narendra Modi.”
A simple question bears asking: if the police killed Sadiq Jamal in a genuine encounter on 13 January 2003, how could they know such precise psychological details about him in the FIR filed that day — that he had watched the Gujarat riots on TV and decided to kill Narendra Modi?
However, not all elements of the FIR are false. Of the little that is known about Sadiq Jamal, these appear to be the facts.
A Class IX dropout, Jamal used to work odd jobs at his father’s garage in Bhavnagar and play cricket in the backyard. In 1997, when he was 16, he got into an altercation with a neighbourhood youth and was hauled up by the police. Chided by his family for his wastrel ways, he ran away to Mumbai where he stayed in the bylanes of Mohammed Ali Road, a Muslim ghetto, home not just to traders, businessmen and hoteliers but also crooks and gangsters from the underworld.
Working odd jobs, Jamal apparently came in contact with men who promised to land him a job in Dubai. He took the offer. As it turned out, the teenager found himself deposited as a domestic help at the residence of Tariq Parveen, a relative of Chhota Shakeel, and a key lieutenant of the Dawood Ibrahim gang.
If this is where Jamal’s biography had ended, the Gujarat Police’s FIR might have had an element of plausibility. But in a curious twist, another man entered the picture at this stage: a Mumbai-based journalist called Ketan Tirodkar. Tirodkar’s explosive account of what really happened with Sadiq Jamal, filed as an affidavit in the Gujarat High Court, blows the lid off a cynical conspiracy and raises many uncomfortable questions for the Gujarat government.
IN 1996, Tirodkar, a crime reporter with a Mumbai tabloid, had self-confessedly crossed the line and become involved with the underworld. Occupying a grey zone, he claims he infiltrated the Dubai mafia and worked with the police to nab several fugitives and even led the Interpol to Chhota Rajan in Australia once. He also accused Mumbai police commissioner D Sivanand and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar (killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack) of protecting the mafia.
However, in 2002, according to Tirodkar, he became friends with Mumbai’s controversial encounter specialist Daya Nayak and got into the extortion business with him, travelling often to Dubai to demand crores of rupees from don Chhota Shakeel.
In November 2003, possibly as the result of a falling out between them, Tirodkar filed a complaint in a MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) court exposing Nayak’s racket. This could have been dismissed as an act of malice except Tirodkar also implicated himself in the case and was arrested. Nayak denied knowing him and escaped jail, because the police commissioner AN Roy refused to sanction an investigation against him. However, Nayak was later suspended from the force for possessing disproportionate assets.
In 2008, after almost 30 months in jail, Tirodkar was granted bail. Around this time, first accounts in the media began to appear that Sohrabuddin had been killed in a false encounter and Vanzara came prominently into the news.
Watching Vanzara in the media, many things apparently clicked into place for Tirodkar, and he filed a fresh and explosive affidavit against Daya Nayak in the MCOCA court, which would come to have a huge bearing on the Sadiq Jamal encounter.
This is what Tirodkar’s affidavit summarised. On his money collection trips to Dubai, Tirodkar had apparently met Sadiq Jamal in Tariq Parveen’s house. Jamal, it appears, was pretty unhappy because he was not getting his full pay. At some point, therefore, he escaped and went back to Bhavnagar, where he got involved in a gambling case and was picked up by the police. He also had a minor stone-pelting case against him already. Fearing he was now on the radar and would constantly be harassed by the police in post-riot Gujarat, Jamal made his way to Mumbai and tracked down Tirodkar, whom he knew from his Dubai stint as a “Mumbai policewalla’s man”. He asked Tirodkar to use his police contacts to help him get out of the gambling and stone-pelting case.
But destiny had other plans. Around that time, if Tirodkar is to be believed, Daya Nayak and Tirodkar were asked to supply a Muslim boy with some criminal background to the Gujarat Police. Jamal, unfortunately, proved handy.
Tirodkar says in his affidavit, “Sadiq Jamal had come to me for help. Taking advantage of his helplessness, I asked him to come to the traffic police post on the Andheri flyover on 11 January 2003. I met him there and took him to the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Daya Nayak had kept two police officers from the Gujarat Police waiting there. In recent times, I have seen the photographs of Vanzara and as far as I can recall, one of the persons waiting that day was him.”
A detail that adds to the authenticity of Tirodkar’s affidavit is the fact that back in 2004, in one of his many affidavits against Nayak, Tirodkar had already made a mention of Jamal, alleging that apart from the extortion business, Nayak was responsible for killing many innocent people.
His 2008 affidavit, however, elaborated the Jamal case in much more explosive and elaborate detail. As the affidavit made news, Jamal’s brother Shabbir Mehtar mustered the courage to file a petition in the Gujarat High Court, along with Tirodkar’s affidavit, seeking a CBI probe into Jamal’s encounter.
“We approached the courts only after we saw the truth about Sohrabuddin coming out in the media,” says Shabbir. “It took us five years because we were constantly under threat from Vanzara, who was one of the officers involved in my brother’s case. When we had gone to receive Jamal’s body, he told my father the same would happen to me if we didn’t keep quiet.”
Finally, almost three years after Shabbir’s petition was filed, on 16 June 2011, despite high resistance from the Gujarat government, Justice MR Shah handed the Sadiq Jamal encounter case to the CBI.
In the months since, the CBI has sent summons to Tirodkar, but he has ducked an appearance so far. Speaking to TEHELKA, Tirodkar said he feared for his life. “I met the CBI officers earlier but I haven’t been able to meet them after the summons were issued. I want to know if they are calling me as an accused or a witness.”
Pravin Salunkhe, DIG (ACB), who has sent summons to Tirodkar, told TEHELKA, “Why should we pre-decide whether Ketan Tirodkar is a witness or an accused. Until we hear the details from him, it will be premature to talk of what role would be attributed to him.”
Another CBI officer added: “Whether Tirodkar’s statements are genuine facts can only be checked as and when we get the corroborative evidence. We have also sent summons to Daya Nayak, which he’s been avoiding. We are looking at the legal recourses available to us. Once we have interrogated both of them, the veracity of Tirodkar’s affidavit will be proved.”
TEHELKA has tried to reach Nayak for his version but he has refused to respond.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR the Gujarat government, the incriminating trail in the Sadiq Jamal encounter does not end here. There is other official evidence that corroborates Tirodkar’s affidavit and points to elaborate conspiracies being hatched in Gujarat, leading to false encounters and manufactured terror threats. This corroborative material includes police chargesheets and — most damagingly — even central intelligence inputs, exclusively accessed for the first time by TEHELKA. These intelligence inputs on the Jamal case are likely to be a major source of discomfort for both the Intelligence Bureau officers involved and the Gujarat Police.
But first, the sequence of events: two months before he was killed, Sadiq Jamal Mehtar and five others were arrested, presented before a magistrate and chargesheeted in a Bhavnagar court. The time and date of their offence is shown as 0410 hours, 9 November 2002. The chargesheet — a copy of which is with TEHELKA — was filed on 15 November 2002. Nowhere does it state that the accused are absconding.
Clearly, Jamal was on the police radar — they knew who he was; he had been presented before a magistrate; and he seemed to be adhering to the rule to appear periodically at the police station as there was no complaint then or subsequently that he was absconding. This part of the story ties in with Tirodkar’s assertion that Jamal had got involved in a gambling case in Bhavnagar and approached him for help.
However, in a startling development, on 24 November 2002 — 10 days after Jamal had already been produced and chargesheeted in the Bhavnagar court — an intelligence input was sent from the IB (Central Intelligence) Joint Director Rajinder Kumar to the Commissioner and DCP of Gujarat Police (copies of which are with TEHELKA), which says, “According to reliable information from a channel, one Sadiq Jamal, a Dubai-based person, was recently contacted by Salim Chiplun, a Pakistan-based gangster and a close associate of Anees Ibrahim and has reportedly been briefed about the task of targeting three important targets from the list of ISI and LeT. The targets are Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia. Sadiq has reportedly landed in Mumbai and it is learnt that he has vowed to finish off the first available target during the ensuing Assembly election. He has been reportedly on the move between Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bhavnagar and Delhi. He is a native of Gujarat and closely associated with the Dawood gang. He is 22, unmarried and a heavy drinker. He is awaiting the delivery of weapons and money through hawala. He also holds a fraudulent Indian passport.”
This intelligence input beggars even a common man’s credulity. Jamal had already been arrested and chargesheeted by the Bhavnagar police in the gambling case but let off. They knew about his antecedents and whereabouts. At which point had he metamorphosed into the dreaded terror operative Rajinder Kumar’s input made him out to be? Could he really have been “reportedly on the move between Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bhavnagar and Delhi” and “awaiting delivery of weapons and money through hawala” while he was under the Gujarat Police’s watch? And if they really did have fresh credible evidence on him, why did they not arrest him again?
The message said Sadique@Ayyub Islam on Nov 29 till 1700 hours will be available at 1. Ajju Bhaiyya: maternal uncle of Sadiq. STD booth, behind bus stand; 2. Garage of Rafique bhai: near Navrangpura, Kurtanmal Gate; 3. Telephone No. 02782516308 (Information also technically shared with SP, Bhavnagar, Gehlot)
It seems the input was kept deliberately vague. Upon receiving this information, 15 officers from four police stations in Bhavnagar visited the locations mentioned in the input but failed to trace Jamal.
“The police team went to all the three locations but did not find the concerned person,” an officer, who wishes to stay anonymous, tells TEHELKA. “We could locate only the first two places and not the house because the whereabouts were not mentioned clearly. We also had to search each and every telephone booth. Logically, we gave a nil report. Also there was nobody by the name of Sadiq Ismail. But when we went to the garage that was in the name of Ajju Bhaiyya, we found out that he had a nephew named Sadiq Jamal who had been away for the past five years. The next day, when we got his antecedents checked, we informed the Central Intelligence that this boy was only involved in a case of stone pelting when he was 16.”
However, on 9 December 2002 — almost a month after Jamal had been arrested in Bhavnagar — the Central Intelligence sent a third input to the Commissioner of Police in Gujarat. A copy of this too is with TEHELKA. This input said: “It is reliably learnt that on 24 November 2002, around 2400 hours IST, the Dubai-based associates of Dawood Ibrahim were eagerly waiting for some spectacular terrorist action to happen in Ahmedabad. When contacted by one of the associates in Ahmedabad, those in Dubai said that they were watching television to hear the news. Incidentally Modi’s election office in Maninagar was inaugurated at 2100 hours the same day. This could be a possible link to the conversation. There had been reports earlier that Dubai/Pakistan-based underworld elements are planning to eliminate Modi and senior BJP leaders. In light of the above threats, the Gujarat government is requested to make immediate review of the security of these leaders.”
According to the anonymous officer, these inputs had begun to sound dodgy. “It looked as if it was all scripted,” he says. “Isn’t it surprising that an LeT operative, who was supposedly sent on a mission from Pakistan and Dubai, should sit around playing cards on the streets of Bhavnagar and even get caught in that act?”
On 13 January 2003, according to Tirodkar, after the hapless Jamal had been handed over to the Gujarat Police by him and Daya Nayak and killed in cold blood, the FIR that was filed by Inspector Parmar refers to these intelligence inputs now in TEHELKA’s possession as seeming justifications for the encounter.
The FIR says, “According to intelligence inputs received from Central agencies, a startling information was received on 24 November 2002 that when Chief Minister Narendra Modi was to inaugurate his election office in Maninagar, Jamal was present in the crowd dressed as an activist. As the security around the chief minister was tight, he probably realised that he may not be successful in his ulterior motive and gave up.”
However, strangely, nowhere in the three IB inputs — including the one sent on 24 November — is it mentioned anywhere that Jamal was dressed as an activist and waiting to kill Modi in the crowd. And, in any case, if any of this were even remotely true, how is it possible that the police could not trace Jamal who had already been arrested and chargesheeted by them?
As the anonymous officer who gave the intelligence inputs to TEHELKA says, “At first, it had seemed these inputs were just loose information, along the lines of that which we get in the hundreds every day. But taken together and read in the light of what eventually happened, these three IB inputs seemed to be either deliberately misleading or pre-decided.”
A CBI official now investigating the case explains, “There are two possibilities we are looking at. The first possibility is that Sadiq Jamal was profiled after he was caught in the gambling case and the intelligence inputs were manufactured accordingly. We are also looking at the possibility that the gambling case itself was a ploy to hook him up in a case.”
While the IB inputs may not fit neatly to form a cohesive picture, they certainly seem to point to the fact that Jamal had been identified by the Gujarat Police as a target to be used. Probing the “motives” behind this — as the Gujarat High Court has directed in the Ishrat case — can only lead to very disturbing but seemingly logical conclusions.
IT MAY be relatively easy to concoct fabricated histories and motives for fumbling young men like Sadiq Jamal — out of favour with both family and luck — but bullet wounds have a difficult habit of telling the truth.
In the Ishrat Jahan encounter, the forensics clearly established that, contrary to the police’s story, Ishrat and the three men she was with had been shot at close range. In Sadiq Jamal’s case too, an impartial forensic examination is likely to establish its own truth.
Inspector Parmar’s FIR states, “I was informed that Sadiq Jamal was to visit his friend on the night at 2330 hours at Jay Ambe Traders in Saibaba Complex near Galaxy Cinema in Naroda Gam. So we boarded a private vehicle and reached Jai Ambe Traders. We kept a secret watch and saw a person coming towards us from Galaxy Cinema. When the person came very close, we identified him as Jamal. We tried to nab him but he became suspicious and started firing from his revolver. As he was a well-trained LeT terrorist, we had to resort to fire in self-defence.”
There seems to be a glaring disjunction here. The existing forensic report on Jamal says he was killed due to bullets entering from the right side of the brain and exiting from the left, which experts say can happen only when a person is shot with the barrel of the gun pointed to his head as opposed to someone shooting from the front.
What’s more, the Gujarat Police have failed to identify the friend that Jamal was supposedly planning to visit. If there was indeed information that Jamal was going to meet his friend, why is there no trace of this friend even in the list of witnesses and why was the friend not identified?
The concoction of evidence and facts does not end here. The CBI has asked the Gujarat High Court for permission to examine the service revolver used in the Ishrat Jahan encounter. The one used was a .38 bore revolver. Parmar was the same officer who shot at both Ishrat and Sadiq. The CBI is baffled because the enclosures given along with the FIR says that a .32 bore revolver was recovered from Sadiq’s body but the cartridges shown along with it are of a .38 make, which are a mismatch that points towards fabrication of evidence.
While transferring the Jamal case to the CBI in June 2011, the court had not designated it a false encounter. However, both the petitioners and the CBI officers probing the case believe that the answers to all these questions will have the same conclusion as the Sohrabuddin case: that Jamal was killed in a false encounter, engineered through an elaborate conspiracy. Only this time, there is the additional trail of the IB inputs that could end up nailing several top cops.
The high court has already directed the Gujarat Crime Branch to register a fresh FIR in the case. Taking cognisance of it, the petitioner Mukul Sinha has filed a fresh petition that has been forwarded to the CBI. “We have not just named Tarun Barot and Vanzara but also Intelligence officers such as IB Joint Director Rajinder Kumar, Commissioner of Police K Kaushik and ADGP Intelligence J Mahapatra for having acted on the basis of these concocted inputs,” says Sinha. The CBI is also set to take down the testimony of the anonymous whistleblower TEHELKA spoke to.
Altogether, there seem to be tough times ahead for all the officers who toed the government line in Gujarat. By sending summons to Tirodkar and Nayak, the CBI has set the ball rolling in a bid to expose the larger rot. The details of what transpired between Daya Nayak and the Gujarat Police hold the key.
Sohrabuddin, Kauser Bi, Tulsi Prajapati, Ishrat Jahan, Haren Pandya — each of these killings have dented Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s credibility on the national stage. If the investigation into Jamal’s death is taken to its most logical conclusion, it might just hammer one more nail into Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions.
Rana Ayyub is an Assistant Editor, Mumbai with Tehelka.