Saturday, July 31, 2010

Together, they ran the Home Ministry. If Amit Shah is in the dock, Modi cannot remain unscathed

By Rana Ayyub-

SINCE THE sensational arrest of Gujarat junior Home Minister Amit Shah last week, the BJP has been crying hoarse about a Congress conspiracy; about the CBI being a “Congress bureau of investigation”; and of how the case against Shah is built on legally flimsy grounds. There are grains of truth in all of this. Shah’s arrest measures very high on India’s political Richter scale. It is not just that he is the first serving minister in the history of independent India to be arrested on charges as serious as murder, extortion, suppression of evidence and conspiracy, among other things. What makes his arrest even more explosive is the fact that a political hyphen joins him to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Not only did Shah hold an astonishing 10 ministries in the Modi dispensation, he was the Minister of State for Home, which was helmed by Modi himself. There is very little Shah could have been doing without Modi’s knowledge: there is very little mud one can throw on Shah which would not stick to his mentor.

So, yes, it would be difficult to deny the ambiguous roles the CBI has played recently in cases involving Quattrocchi, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Congress certainly has a lot to gain from trumping Narendra Modi, and through him, the BJP. And it is true some aspects of the evidence against Shah would probably look thin in court. But unfortunately for the party, the scales weigh heavily in favour of Shah’s complicity and direct involvement in a vast spectrum of crimes. TEHELKA has been tracking the Sohrabuddin ‘encounter’ story since 2007 and was the first to publish the call records that proved to be Shah’s undoing (Gujarat Home Minister called cops arrested for killing Tulsi Prajapati, 3 July). Now, it has fresh information that proves Shah will find it extremely difficult to subvert the wheels of justice that have begun to grind around him.

“There is no doubt this arrest is a big challenge, but we will fight it legally. How can you call this evidence?” says a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity. “What value do the stings have? Will they stand in court?”

To counter these questions, the story so far in a nutshell. Sohrabuddin, an extortionist, was killed by Gujarat police on 26 November 2005. His wife Kauser Bi was raped, sedated with chemicals and burnt. Sohrabuddin was declared an LeT terrorist on a mission to kill Modi, the ‘encounter’ touted as a badge of Gujarati pride. A year after the first ‘encounters’, in December 2006, Tulsi Prajapati, the only eyewitness and a Sohrabuddin accomplice, was also shot dead.

Soon after the murders, the cover-ups began. The case was handed over to the CID, which functions directly under the Home Ministry — Shah and Modi — and was batted to several police officers, who either diluted the evidence under political pressure or were transferred if they failed to comply. And so the case straggled on. Finally, dismayed by the obfuscations, Sohrabbudin’s brother Rubabuddin petitioned the Supreme Court, which handed the case over to the CBI in January 2010, with a directive to uncover the “possibility of a larger conspiracy”.

Since then, the skeletons have been tumbling out. On 29 April, the CBI arrested Ajay Chudasama, DCP (Crime) and Joint Commissioner of Police, who has 197 complaints of extortion and harassment against him. Chudasama features in another TEHELKA story, in which a Muslim boy who admits to being part of a terror conspiracy speaks of the officer forcing him to implicate innocents (8 August 2009). Alarmed by Chudasama’s arrest, the state CID arrested several other officers to prevent the CBI from taking them into custody. But the truth had begun to spill.

So no matter how much the BJP tries to blunt the issue, Shah and Modi face a minefield of evidence and uncomfortable questions. And there are many new developments they need to fear. First of all, there is a battery of disgruntled and complicit police officers now willing to turn approver or prosecution witness. IGP Geeta Johri is one of them. Handed the case twice, she is an example of the complex ways in which Modi and Shah seem to have weighed in on officers handling the case. Johri was forced to go along when ex-CID chief OP Mathur allegedly tampered with Shah’s call records. She filed a secret note to the Supreme Court complaining of “political pressure.”

Despite this, Johri changed course and was later chastised by the Supreme Court for “not conducting the investigation in a fair manner”. Now the CBI is set to make her a witness when she returns from London on August 8. Johri should have much to reveal. For instance, when she and fellow officer VL Solanki asked GC Raigar, ADGP CID, for permission to interrogate Tulsi Prajapati, they were fobbed off till Prajapati was shot a week later.

Another officer thwarted in the line of duty was DGP CID Rajnish Rai, who arrested killer cops DG Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandyan and Dinesh MN in 2007. When he sought to put them through narco analysis, he was swiftly sidelined. He is now on study leave.

Damagingly, a CID note to the CBI talks of “uncalled for restrictions on the movement of officers” and of how “progress in the investigations was communicated to the accused persons allowing them the opportunity to influence witnesses”. It also speaks of how Rai’s arrests were frowned upon by the “political dispensation”. As a “consequence”, it says, the government issued an order dated 27 March 2007 stating that Raigar would henceforth oversee the case.

No comments:

Post a Comment