Prajapati case goes to CBI. Shah may face arrest again

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The CBI is expected to take the probe out of the blind alley into which the state CID had led it. Anumeha Yadav reports

Temporary reprieve Former Gujarat minister Amit Shah on his way to testify on 25 July 2010
Temporary reprieve Former Gujarat minister Amit Shah on his way to testify on 25 July 2010
Photos: AFP

THE TULSI Prajapati case has finally been handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court, a big jolt to the Gujarat government, which pulled out all stops to prevent precisely this. Last May, nearly four years after his death, the Gujarat CID had admitted Prajapati was killed by the police in a fake encounter. Now more lies will be unravelled.

The CBI’s arrest of Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted aide and Minister of State for Home Amit Shah last July (he resigned the next day) sent tremors across the political landscape. It exposed how fake encounters were dressed up as killings of dreaded Muslim terrorists, often supposedly Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives gunning for Modi. The Supreme Court’s latest move is expected to set off events that may rank even higher on the political Richter scale. Asked for a reaction, the state government spokesperson Jai Narayan Vyas said, “The Gujarat government will fully cooperate with the process of law.”

Haunting stories The late Tulsi Prajapati
Haunting stories The late Tulsi Prajapati

It is well known that Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Prajapati belonged to neighbouring villages in Nagda, Madhya Pradesh, and were accomplices in illegal activities, which allegedly involved extortion with the sanction of Shah and senior Gujarat Police officers. Sohrabuddin too was killed in a fake encounter along with his wife Kausar Bi (Death by Firing Squad, 12 May 2007).

It was TEHELKA that first published phone call records (Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah Called Cops Arrested for Killing Tulsi Prajapati, 3 July 2010) that showed how Shah was constantly in touch with Deputy Inspector General DG Vanzara, Superintendent of Police (SP) Vipul Kumar (both posted in Banaskantha), Dinesh MN (who was then SP, Udaipur) and SP Rajkumar Pandian of the Gujarat Police on the night these police officers orchestrated Prajapati’s encounter. Such direct contact is known to be a breach of protocol.

TEHELKA has reliably learnt that besides the phone call records, the CBI will be using statements made under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code by aides of senior police officers involved in the encounters and that an SP-level officer from Banaskantha is likely to turn approver for the CBI. Shah, who has been out on bail in the Sohrabuddin encounter case since last October, may be arrested a second time now in the Prajapati case.

FOR FOUR years, the Gujarat CID dragged its feet while investigating the Prajapati encounter, including ignoring crucial evidence such as call records. It was only last summer, when the CBI began making arrests in the Sohrabuddin encounter, that the state CID hurriedly took custody of Vanzara, Pandian and Dinesh in the Prajapati case. This was to pre-empt their arrest by the CBI. “They jailed these officers to protect them from being arrested and interrogated by the CBI; otherwise, why has none of them even become a witness yet?” asks an officer involved earlier in the probe.

Haunting stories The late Sohrabuddin Sheikh
Haunting stories The late Sohrabuddin Sheikh

Now, the noose also tightens around then DGP PC Pande and Geeta Johri, who was then IGP, CID (Crime) and supervised the early CID inquiry into these encounters beginning June 2006.

To counter the request of Prajapati’s mother Narmada Bai that the investigation be handed over to a central agency like the CBI, the Gujarat government contended that there was no need for this because the state CID was already on the job.

Five years ago, when Johri began the probe in June 2006, Inspector VL Solanki working under her supervision had submitted two reports on 1 September and 7 December 2006 that there was evidence Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi had been killed in fake encounters. Solanki asked for permission on 18 November 2006 to go to Udaipur to interrogate Prajapati to unravel the truth behind Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi’s killings.

The then Additional DG CID GC Raigar turned down this request. Prajapati was killed 40 days later.

Despite the evidence that the Sohrabuddin encounter was staged, the Gujarat CID abstained from the next logical question: why did the police kill Sohrabuddin, a man senior police officers describe as a petty extortionist? Similarly, with the arrest of Vanzara, Pandian and Dinesh last summer, the Gujarat CID acknowledged that the Prajapati encounter too was fake and yet it refrained from asking what was the motive behind Prajapati’s killing.

While in jail, Prajapati knew he was about to die. As a crucial witness in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, he wrote twice to a magistrate from Udaipur Central Jail that he feared for his life. When he got no response, he wrote to the National Human Rights Commission on 18 May 2006 that the Gujarat Police will conspire with the Rajasthan Police to kill him in a fake encounter. On 28 December 2006, Prajapati was shot dead by a police patrol in Ambaji town in Banaskantha district on the Rajasthan-Gujarat border.

Prajapati knew he was about to die, as he was a key witness in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case

Two days before this, the Gujarat Police had brought Prajapati to the state for a hearing in a prior offence registered in Ahmedabad. On the way back to Udaipur, when the train stopped at Himmatnagar station, the police said, two men threw chilli powder into the eyes of the policemen accompanying Prajapati and he escaped. A patrol killed him in a chase that followed when they spotted him two days later in Ambaji, went the official version.

Earlier this year, a complaint had been filed in the Meghaninagar police station by Inspector Solanki, who first uncovered how Sohrabuddin and Kausar were intercepted from a bus going from Andhra Pradesh to Maharashtra by Gujarat Police and taken to a farmhouse in Gujarat and killed in cold blood. He alleged that the Gujarat CID had fabricated his statement in its supplementary chargesheet in the Prajapati case in November 2010.

“Deputy SP RK Patel, who is investigating the Prajapati killing for the CID, inserted a fake statement in my name saying I found no link between Sohrabuddin and Prajapati’s killings. This is a blatant lie. Why would I have asked for permission to interrogate Prajapati in Udaipur if I did not think he knew something about Sohrabuddin’s death?” asks Solanki, describing how desperate the Gujarat Police has been to keep an outside agency from investigating the encounters.

More skeletons will tumble out of the closet in the next few days.

Anumeha is a Correspondent with Tehelka
anumeha@tehelka.com

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