Suspended police officer DG Vanzara has been in jail for the past six years for his role in four fake encounter cases. In a damning 10-page resignation letter to the Gujarat government, the former DIG, ATS, Gujarat Police, says a lot of things that should be a cause for worry to Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
“Gujarat CID/Union CBI had arrested me and my officers in different encounter cases, holding us responsible for carrying out alleged fake encounters. If that is true, then the CBI investigation officers of all the four encounter cases of Sohrabuddin (Sheikh), Tulasiram (Prajapati), Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators also as we, being field officers, have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters… I’m of the firm opinion that the place of this government, instead of being in Gandhinangar, should either be at Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai or at Sabarmati Central Prison in Ahmedabad.”
Why it’s damning
This is one of the most damaging excerpts from the letter written by Vanzara from his prison cell at the Sabarmati Central Jail to the Gujarat government earlier this week. The suspended IPS officer offered his resignation, blaming former Minister of State for Home and now the Uttar Pradesh poll in-charge of BJP, Amit Shah, for his decision. In what has come as a major embarrassment for the Modi dispensation, Vanzara, an accused in the Ishrat Jahan and three other fake encounter cases, has lashed out not just at Shah, but also indirectly at Narendra Modi, who he refers to as his god and then criticises for refusing to take action against Shah or controlling his unconstitutional activities.
“I have been maintaining my graceful silence only because of my highest respect for Narendra Modi, whom I used to adore like a god. I am sorry to say my god did not rise to the occasion under the evil influence of Amit Shah, who usurped his eyes and ears and has been successfully misguiding him by converting goats into dogs and dogs into goats for the last 12 years. Amit Shah introduced the dirty policy of use the officers and throw them by deliberately spreading disinformation about them.”
Why it’s damning
Damaging as it is, the letter might have many serious ramifications for Narendra Modi and the BJP, which has nominated the Gujarat CM as the poll in-charge of the 2014 General Election. Significantly, the BJP top brass is slated to meet senior RSS officials in the capital on 9 September. The agenda for the elections as well as the decision on the the formal announcement of its PM candidate is likely to be discussed. This adds a new dimension to the fake encounter cases being probed by the CBI. But the question that arises is why has Vanzara, who was among the officers closest to Modi and has been in custody since 2007, gone all out to speak and critique his own government.
In 2007, Modi began his election campaign with a speech in which he praised Vanzara for being a valiant officer. Why is it that the same officer now wants to speak the truth? Vanzara’s letter comes close on the heels of statements given by his colleague in the ATS and co-accused in the Ishrat Jahan case, GL Singhal, who also provided the CBI with an audio sting scooped by TEHELKA last month.
Those close to Vanzara say that he was upset with rumours about him being circulated in the media that he had so far remained silent because of his loyalty to Modi’s government. He was appalled at the callous manner in which he and his fellow officers were being treated by the same government.
“I realised that this government was not only not interested in protecting us, but it also has been clandestinely making all efforts to keep me and my officers in jail so as to save its own skin from the CBI on one hand and gain political benefits on the other…”
“The logic is very simple, ie, government and police officers, are sailing in the same boat and have to swim or sink together. No one should try to outsmart the other and try to swim at the cost of the other, neither the government nor the police officers”
“I therefore, would like to categorically state in the most unequivocal words that the officers and men of Crime Branch, ATS and Border Range, during the period of years between 2002 and 2007, simply acted and performed their duties in compliance of the conscious policy of this government”
“Mutual protection and reciprocal assistance is the unwritten law between the police and the government in such cases. As the government has miserably failed in protecting its encounter police, there remains no one-sided obligation on part of me to protect the traitors sitting in this government who have almost pushed patriotic and nationalist police officers into the jaws of death”
“On the contrary, apprehending the arrest of political leaders of Gujarat by the CBI, all efforts, legal and political, were made by this government to ensure that none of us was released on bail so as to prevent the investigation going from the hands of Gujarat CID to the Union CBI. The most heartless and shameful act of betrayal on the part of this government was that when (IPS officers) Dinesh MN and Narendra Amin got released by their own individual efforts, it got their bails cancelled at the earliest opportunity and pushed them back behind the bars…”
Why it’s damning
Through his criticism of Amit Shah, Vanzara seems to be making obvious hints, especially vis-à-vis those high-profile cases of the time when Vanzara was serving directly under Shah. He states in the letter that it was from 2002 (Shah joined as MoS, Home, in December 2002) that the dispensation started crumbling. He also talks of a divide-and-rule formula used by Shah. Those close to him believe that this is directed at the late home minister of Gujarat, Haren Pandya, who was mysteriously killed in 2002.
It is alleged that Shah created a rift between Modi and Pandya. In fact, Pandya’s father and his wife had alleged the role of the state in what they called a political murder. It was also from 2004 that Gujarat saw a spate of encounter killings— Samir Khan Pathan, Sadiq Jamal, Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati — in which Vanzara headed the team of officers. Probes by the Special Investigation Team appointed and monitored by the Supreme Court found these encounters to be fake. All the four significant cases are now with the CBI, which had in 2010, arrested Shah, taking into account key evidence produced by TEHELKA: call records between Shah, Vanzara and another key aide, Rajkumar Pandian, who is now in jail.
Shah’s bail hearing comes up next month around the same time as the supplementary chargesheet is to be filed in the Ishrat Jahan case. While Shah has been out on bail and carrying about his political activities, the jailed police officers had been shifted to the Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai.
Vanzara’s statement could not have come at a worse time for Shah, who has been termed as Modi’s Achilles heel. In fact, some senior BJP members suggest that Shah was brought to Uttar Pradesh to save Modi the political embarrassment of being chief minister of a state, whose senior minister could be behind bars soon. Vanzara, whose statement might not hold evidentiary value, unless he gives a similar statement to the CBI or gives proof of the same, has perhaps already made a dent in Modi’s prime ministerial prospects. Talks of his coronation have already taken a backseat. What could be even more damaging are indications of similar statements by at least three other senior IPS officers, who are now in custody, coming out in the public domain. It was no surprise then that most of the senior BJP leaders refused to comment on the case. More than a confession, Vanzara’s letter looks more like a warning to Modi and Shah. As he remarks towards the end:
“It would not be out of context to remind (Modi) that he, in the hurry of marching towards Delhi, may kindly not forget to repay the debt which he owes to jailed police officers who endowed him with the halo of Brave Chief Minister.”