Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ghost Of Fake Encounters Comes Back To Haunt Gujarat

By Rana Ayyub / Ahmedabad

A CBI progress report on the four fake encounters of 2004-2007 in Gujarat establishes what INN has been saying all along. Now, senior policemen and IB officials face arrests in these cases.

Everything seems to be going Narendra Modi’s way. Starting with the BJP national executive in Mumbai, which was a showcase of his clout, the Gujarat chief minister must be feeling his position is secure, now that Sanjay Joshi, his biggest detractor within the party, has also resigned from the BJP.

However, a CBI investigation into four police encounters between 2004-2007 in Gujarat might just throw the proverbial spanner in the works. The investigation, which is nearing completion, has made some startling recommendations. Documents in INN’s possession, including progress reports of the CBI and statements of witnesses and IB inputs, show that the agency has proposed the arrest of eight senior IPS officers in Gujarat.

A closer look at the documents and the CBI’s investigation into the cases validates INN’s stand on the fake encounters of Sadiq Jamal and Tulsi Prajapati. Soon after the high court orders to investigate the Sadiq Jamal encounter, INN had published (Dead Man Talking, 3 December 2011) IB inputs and documents that belied the Gujarat CID theory of the case. Discrepancies were found in the FIR filed by the Gujarat Crime Branch, which stated that 22-year-old Sadiq, a resident of Bhavnagar, was a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant and was on his way to assassinate Chief Minister Modi, BJP patriarch LK Advani and VHP leader Pravin Togadia. Interestingly, intelligence inputs given by Joint IB Director Rajinder Kumar to the state police contradicted the two previous IB inputs issued in the same case.
Not just that, a chargesheet filed by the Gujarat Police in a lesser-known case of gambling against Sadiq also exposed the lie of the Gujarat Police and provided evidence that the encounter was staged. Forensic reports and the testimony of an IB official substantiated the claim that Sadiq was killed in a fake encounter.

The CBI has now taken cognisance of the IB inputs and other documents published by INN and the testimony of the IB official. Officials investigating the case have confirmed that Sadiq’s was indeed a “fake encounter”. Further, the agency has also questioned police officials from Maharashtra whose names figured during the investigation. Suspended officers Daya Nayak and Pradeep Sharma of the Mumbai Police have already been questioned, as have been conduits of the underworld who were “absconding” in the FIR filed by the Gujarat Police.

From its initial investigation in the Sadiq case, which includes statements from brothers Tariq and Zahid Parveen (Sadiq worked as a domestic help at Tariq’s residence in Dubai), along with a statement from local police officers in Gujarat and Mumbai, the CBI has come to the conclusion that Sadiq was indeed handed over to the Gujarat Police. “It is now clear that Sadiq was not killed because of an underworld connection,” says a CBI official. “He was working for Tariq Parveen, who is the brother-in-law of underworld don Chhota Shakeel. Sadiq had an altercation with the family, and was sent packing to Mumbai. Parveen allegedly asked Daya Nayak to ‘fix him up’ in a case.”

CBI officials believe that Daya Nayak had not done the ‘fixing’ alone. They say that it was done in connivance with the Gujarat Police and two Central IB officials, who played an active role in identifying Sadiq Jamal as a target. The progress report recommends custodial interrogation of these two officials (names withheld). Besides, the arrest proposal also includes the name of DSP, Gujarat Police, Tarun Barot, then a Senior Inspector. The Mumbai Police had handed over Sadiq to Barot.

While the investigation into the Sadiq case was on, the Gujarat High Court had directed the CBI to take over the encounter of another alleged terrorist, Ishrat Jahan. Ishrat’s case has been mired in controversy from the day the team of officers considered close to Modi, and led by DIG DG Vanzara, claimed that they had killed a dreaded woman terrorist in June 2004. Newspapers across the country were fed meticulous details of how Ishrat’s movements were monitored and how the CID and IB’s alacrity managed to do what most states could not — neutralise another terror attempt on the same troika of Modi, Advani and Togadia.

In November2011, an SIT was formed on the direction of the Gujarat High Court to investigate into the Ishrat encounter. The SIT submitted its report calling the encounter fake. Following the report, the high court ordered an FIR to be filed against 21 policemen, including Vanzara and NK Amin, both senior IPS officials (now in jail for their role in the Sohrabuddin case) and the then Joint Commissioner of Police, PP Pande.

The Ishrat encounter case was then handed over to the CBI by the court. The agency has filed a progress report of the initial investigation, which brings to the fore names never mentioned before.

Interestingly, the investigation has revealed that the mystery surrounding the intelligence aspect of the Sadiq encounter also finds its way in the Ishrat case. The CBI is now investigating documents that include an IB input issued in May 2004 by then Joint IB director (VIP Security) Yashovardhan Azad, who is incidentally the brother of BJP MP Kirti Azad.

The IB input states: “According to a recent and reliable intelligence information, Lashkar-e-Toiba have tasked their Indiabased operatives to monitor the movements of top BJP leaders LK Advani and Narendra Modi of Gujarat besides VHP leader Pravin Togadia and target them. In view of this, measures may be taken immediately.” This forms one of the most crucial bits that are being investigated into by the CBI, which the agency claims it is examining for the following reasons:
•The text of this IB input is uncannily similar to the IB information the Gujarat Crime Branch has quoted in its FIR in the encounter cases of Ishrat Jahan and Sadiq Jamal.

• The input was sent just a month before the Gujarat ADGP (intelligence) J Mahapatra was asked to monitor the Ishrat Jahan case specifically.

• The SIT in its report, while stating the encounter was fake, had asked for the intelligence input to be investigated. How was the initial IB input received and how was it disseminated. What preparations followed the dissemination of the input?

• As per the SIT, the initial intelligence input was verbally communicated to Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad City, KR Kaushik by the head of SIB, Ahmedabad. However, the SIT also says that there are contradictions in the versions of senior officers and that of Parixita Gurjar, the Investigating Officer (IO). Hence, the sharing of intelligence input by Joint Commissioner, Police, PP Pande with JG Parmar and JL Singhal becomes suspect. Parmar and Singhal were then commissioner and SP of the Anti-Terror Squad respectively.

The SIT has already given its verdict on the case and asked for all officers, including then ADGP, CID Intelligence and joint commissioner, to be brought to book. The CBI is also looking to investigate the IB input generated by the Centre, which it believes was the genesis of the Ishrat encounter.

It is for this very reason that the progress report of the CBI states that “the IO should investigate into the genesis of the intelligence about a possible terrorist attack comprising these four people who died in the encounter on the night of 14.6.2004 and 15.6.2004. He should also make efforts to find out the course of action and the decision taken by then Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad City, KR Kaushik, Jt Commissioner, Crime Branch, PP Pande, and Additional Commissioner, Crime Branch, DG Vanzara”.

Using the diary entries of JG Parmar and GL Singhal, the progress report blows holes in the Gujarat Police’s theory. According to the entries, Pande and Vanzara had given the intelligence inputs on 20 May 2004. Parmar was the complainant in the FIR in Ishrat’s case, which was registered by Singhal. Based on this, the CBI has questioned the motive of the FIR of the encounter dated 15 June 2004, which mentions that intelligence on the hits came about 15 days ago, when inputs for the same had already been given in May 2004. “It possibly means that the FIR was already drafted on 5 June 2004 and some of the deceased persons were already in police custody,” says the report.

The report further states that “the IO should also find out just how did all the four officers arrive at the conclusion that on 16 April 2004, the blue coloured Indica bearing No. MH024786 carrying the suspected terrorists would come to Ahmedabad and why is there an absence of record of any meeting that made all officers come together? And why is there an absence of minutes/documentary evidence/data entry of the meeting of these officers”. The CBI report thus concurs with the SIT version that the encounters were fake.

“Right now, we are in the process of gathering all the evidence,” says a CBI official involved in the investigation of Ishrat Jahan and three others. “At this stage, there is enough evidence to call it a fake encounter and arrest the police officials based on this. Once we record their statements we would be in a position to question if the IB input was to help the Gujarat Police or was that input used by the Central Director, IB, Gujarat and the state police as an alibi.” The CBI has also questioned three National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officials over press reports published in 2011 that spoke of the NIA findings that Ishrat was an accomplice of LeT operative David Headley.

The agency now faces an uphill task where the role of the IB is concerned. As some agency officials say, IB officials take refuge under the Evidence Act, which helps them escape scrutiny. “While investigating, we have come to the conclusion that the IB inputs were concocted. We are in the process of seeking permission to question the officials.”

MUKUL SINHA, advocate for the petitioner in both Sadiq and Ishrat cases, hints at a possible collusion between IB officials in Gujarat and Delhi. “Just before the Tamang Report was submitted, Gujarat saw a lot of activity,” he says. “Police officers in Gujarat used Rajinder Kumar, the then Joint Director, IB, Gujarat, now based in Delhi, to approach the Union Home Ministry to vouch that the encounter was genuine. Later, the home department in its statement to the Gujarat High Court, said the onus lay on the state to check the veracity of the input. The answer lies somewhere in all this. There was certainly collusion between IB officials in Delhi and Gujarat who had sent the input, and officials who carried out the encounter.”

Can the CBI crack this puzzle? “Everything rests on the CBI’s willingness to act against the officials,” says Sinha. “Yes, our laws and Acts protect intelligence officials, but not when there is evidence against them. If the CBI arrests the officials concerned, it is binding on it to also interrogate the source of intelligence.”

If CBI officials are to be believed, then the coming weeks will see the first set of arrests happening in Gujarat. Topping the list is GL Singhal, a man who has played a key role in most of the encounters and has evaded arrest on most occasions. Citing his role in the progress report, the CBI states: “While following the Indica car (that allegedly carried the terrorists), Singhal did not ask any of the other nakabandi team to intercept it. Moreover, the personnel deployed on the same route do not corroborate any such nakabandi.”

Besides these, the CBI is investigating two more encounters that are to be wrapped up in June, which could add to Modi’s troubles. Two years ago, INN had published the call records of Amit Shah with DG Vanzara and SP (ATS) R Pandian during the Tulsi Prajapati and Sohrabuddin encounters. The CBI had arrested Amit Shah during the investigation into the Sohrabuddin case. Tulsi Prajapati, the lone witness in Sohrabuddin’s encounter (exposed by INN) was also killed one year later. Shah’s lawyers contend that his arrest is a political conspiracy. BJP leaders dispute the CBI’s claim of the Andhra Police’s involvement with the Gujarat and Rajasthan Police on the ground that a Congress government was ruling Andhra Pradesh then.

In its investigation, the CBI has also elaborated on this aspect. According to the report, the Gujarat Police took the help of their Andhra counterpart. Sohrabuddin and Prajapati worked for the Gujarat Police, while Kalimuddin — reportedly helped the Gujarat Police stage the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin — was a Naxalite- turned-informer of the Andhra Police.

The CBI arrest proposal in the Tulsi Prajapati case could mean trouble for Modi. Topping the list of those proposed to be arrested is Geeta Johri, then Police Commissioner, Rajkot. In 2010, Johri had claimed she was being pressurised by the CBI to name Amit Shah. Interestingly, the CBI had taken over the Sohrabuddin case from the Gujarat Police following a Supreme Court direction. The list of those proposed to be arrested has been sent to the Additional Solicitor General for his legal opinion, with recommendations of a case against PC Pande, OP Mathur and RK Patel.

The CBI is asking for permission to take the officers in custody for the obfuscations in the probe of the Prajapati encounter. While Patel was the CID official from Gujarat who was given the charge of the Prajapati encounter, Pande and Mathur were the DG and Commissioner of Gujarat Police respectively.

With the investigation nearing completion and arrest proposals in place, will the CBI make the first damaging move? The evidence against the guilty is piling up. Will the CBI director take cognisance of the increasing evidence or, as a political observer from the state points out, wait for the notification for the Gujarat elections to make the first move? Will this finally set the ground for justice in Gujarat?
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