People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIV

No. 13

March 28, 2010

GUJARAT

SC Focus on Functioning of SIT:

Hope Blossoms for Carnage Victims

Teesta Setalvad

 

WHEN the Supreme Court established the Special Investigating Team on March 26, 2008, the victim survivors and legal rights groups felt that maybe, finally justice would emerge after the interminable delay. Trials of the critical nine cases, the worst of the carnage of 2002, had been stayed by an order of the apex court five years earlier, on November 21, 2003. It was affidavits filed by victim survivors pointing out the farcical investigations by the Gujarat police, the hasty and irregular granting of bail to powerful accused, and the dropping the names of accused close to the police or political establishment that had led the court to take this historic step of constituting the SIT. In its judgement appointing SIT, the Supreme Court had held that ‘Communal harmony is the hallmark of democracy… If in the name of religion, people are killed, that is a slur and blot on democracy.’ 

In January 2008 even the centre had backed the demand of the petitioners for a transfer of the investigation to the CBI. Instead of the central investigating agency, the apex court hand picked the chairperson for a specially constituted SIT, the former director, CBI Dr R K Raghavan and retired, senior officer, Satpathy for this historic task. On the issue of who should constitute the rest of the team, a hasty agreement by the apex court to suggestions made by the state of Gujarat (itself accused of grave interference in the investigations) and the amicus curiae Harish Salve has, two years later proved to have been a serious mistake.

With the March 15, 2010 decision of the apex court to seriously investigate the allegations into SIT’s professional functioning, hope has again blossomed for the beleaguered victims of the Gujarat carnage.

 

FAULTY

COMPOSITION

Survivors and citizens groups had, on March 26, 2008 objected to the appointment of Shivanand Jha, a senior officer who had not  only been in Ahmedabad at the time and therefore responsible for the breakdown of law and order in that city but who also, in subsequent years was chosen by the Narendra Modi administration to be Home Secretary during which period he had actively opposed any transfer of investigation in these cases. Jha is also one of those accused in the Zakia Ahsan Jafri and CJP criminal complaint of mass murder and conspiracy against Modi and 61 other accused. The supreme court had directed SIT to interrogate this complaint by an order dated April 27, 2009. A K Malhotra, an official retired from the CBI is handling this high profile investigation. The second officer, Geeta Johri, recommended by the state of Gujarat and Salve had proven herself wanting in the Sohrabuddin murder investigation (the extra judicial killing of Sohrabuddin, his wife Kauser and eye-witness to the murder, Tulsiram Prajapati has led to another historic verdict by the apex court dated January 12, 2010. Johri has been indicted for concealing evidence and not investigating phone records of the accused). It was only the raw courage of her junior colleague, Rajnish Rai that had led to the arrest of DIG Vanzara in April 2007. Ashish Bhatia who has been put in charge of both the Gulberg and Naroda Patia and Gaam investigations has been responsible for filing incomplete chargesheets, and worst of all pressurising the special public prosecutor to function unprofessionally against the interests of the prosecution.

Two years after the SIT was appointed raising hopes of the survivors, the apex court has been compelled to look again at its composition after serious allegations of deliberately weak and unprofessional investigations made by CJP and victim survivors were found to have substantial merit. In early April 2010, the apex court will hear an application for the reconstitution of the SIT due to the complete failure of this specially created body to do any justice to the complex and challenging investigations. Gopal Subramaniam along with Harish Salve has been asked by the court to assist it in arriving at a just decision.

 

UNPROFESSIONAL

AND WANTING

There are six broad areas that the investigations by the SIT are unprofessional and wanting. Firstly its investigations into the involvement of police officers, especially seniors or those who are the favourites of the politicians, civil servants, ministers and politically influential individuals in these grave offences (both by way of active involvement and by way of complicity, i.e deliberate inaction) are absent.

For example there is documentary evidence about the actively conniving role of former joint commissioner of police M K Tandon. SIT has simply left this aspect uninvestigated. Witnesses, including police witnesses, have deposed on his visit to Gulberg society around 10.30 a.m. on February 28, 2002 accompanied by a fully equipped striking force that is capable and armed to deal with a violent mob. Though he sees a gathering and restive mob, he leaves and his  juniors have wondered why he left without leaving the force behind. He moves to Naroda area where also a full scale attack is underway but vanishes from there too without leaving the armed force behind. Why? At least four eye-witnesses from Gulberg have testified to Tandon’s callous role in destroying evidence. The evening of the brute attack, around 5.30 p.m. when they were being rescued by a police van, survivors Saeed Khan Pathan and Imtiyaz Khan Pathan requested to take the bodies of their near and dear ones who had been raped and killed with them. “You look after yourself, we’ll take care of the dead.” Tandon told them. The bodies of the 69 killed, naked and butchered were still recognisable. When they buried their relatives on March 3, 2002 at the Kalandari Masjid Kabrastan however these bodies had been reduced to charred ashes. Is Tandon not culpable of allowing this to happen after 5.30 p.m. on that day?

Tandon’ s actions on that day have not been questioned by the SIT. Worse still the special public prosecutor (PP) Shah’s resignation letter reveals that his evidence in court was also rushed through without documents being supplied to the PP. Tandon, the records of his mobile show, visited Naroda Patiya after speaking to the then police commissioner Pandey. Once there, he found the crowd restive and so was compelled to order a curfew, at 12.29 p.m. (it is a mystery why no curfew was ordered till so far into the afternoon) Yet he left the area at 12.33 p.m. without ensuring that it was implemented. Naroda went up in flames soon after. Similarly former mayor of Ahmedabad and an influential lawyer Jagrupsingh Rajput named by witnesses in their statements and in court as also Manish Patel, the son of a BJP corporator have escaped the SIT net.

In the Naroda Patia massacre, although numerous witnesses have referred to the active involvement of Inspector K K Mysorewala (now a Superintendent of Police) in ordering police firing on Muslims after discussions with former minister Mayaben Kodnani (then local MLA), but he has not been arraigned as accused.  Incidentally, Maya Kodnani was arrested following investigations by the SIT in the early phases. According to witnesses, Mysorewala is said to have told those seeking protection that there were instructions/orders from higher authorities not to protect you. “There is no order to save Muslims, you have to die today.” The SIT has also ignored several other witness statements that have referred to the actual involvement of SRP personnel especially SRP officer, K P Parekh in firing on fleeing Muslim victims, in encouraging the mob to attack Muslims and in categorically refusing to protect Muslims. Parekh had informed hapless victims that, “ Today you have to die. No one can save you. We will never save you. We have orders from higher authorities to kill you.” Despite the statements of the SIT that record this indicting comment of Parekh, he has not been made an accused.

 

NOT INVESTIGATING

BUILD UP TO GODHRA

Secondly, SIT has deliberately and consciously failed to investigate the carefully planned build up of arsenal, men and arms in the lead up to the Godhra tragedy of February 27, 2002. This build-up of bombs, swords, gas cylinders and chemical powders in preparation for the carnage that followed Godhra has been exposed both in Tehelka’s Operation Kalank and the affidavits filed by former ADGP R B Sreekumar before the Nanavati Shah Commission. Now, eight months after the trials have begun, this ominous build up is being corroborated by testimonies of eye-witnesses leading to the inevitable question whether the omission  by SIT is part of a planned effort not to probe the sinister build up in Gujarat prior to February 27, 2002. Any exploration into this would expose once and for all the ‘conspiracy’ theory behind Godhra that has been used by Narendra Modi’s government and the Bharatiya Janata Party in general to justify the post Godhra genocidal carnage. Interestingly as far as the Godhra trial is concerned, the SIT has swallowed the ‘conspiracy’ theory of the state government, hook line and sinker and not even bothered to file a fresh chargesheet.

The SIT has failed miserably by its deliberate reluctance to investigate thoroughly documentary evidence, including phone call records, mobile van records, control room registers and fire brigade registers, a scrutiny of which would have indicated the levels of and extent of pre-planning and conspiracy that went into the post Godhra violence.

In spite of cries for help, as is evident from the hours and hours of recorded phone records, no help came to the Gulberg Society, where 69 Muslims were burnt or hacked to death over a period of 11 hours. Congress party's former member of parliament, Ahsan Jaffri, was one of them. SIT had failed totally to inquire/investigate into the circumstances in which repeated calls for police assistance went unheeded. In this case the SIT has arraigned 25 persons, including Inspector K G Erda of the Meghaninagar police station, who was in the area at the time of the carnage. Erda’s phone records show that during the hours of the carnage on February 27 and 28, 2002, he made several calls to the police control room, Police Commissioner P C Pandey, Joint Commissioner M K Tandon and Deputy Commissioner of Police P B Gondia. While the SIT has interrogated Tandon, it has taken little action, say the petitioners. In fact, Tandon admitted to the Nanavati Commission that he was informed that Ahsan Jaffri was in danger. Pandey, the records show, had even visited Jaffri and told him that police protection would be provided. Phone records prove that both Tandon and Pandey were in touch with the police officers in the riot-hit areas. Yet, Jaffri was killed. The petitions point out that there were records to show that Jaffri made nearly 200 calls for assistance. Some of these were to the police control room. At the time, state cabinet ministers Ashok Bhatt and I K Jadeja were in the control room, but no one helped Jaffri.

 

CHILLING

REVELATIONS

An analysis of phone calls from Police Inspector K K Mysorewala’s  phone (who has mysteriously not been made an accused) shows that he received a call from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Jaideep Patel, who is accused in the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam cases. The timing of the call, as recorded, was when the massacre was at its worst. The SIT has not obtained mobile phone call records of calls made by senior and local officials in the Sardarpura and Odh massacrtes either.

One of the most chilling revelations that has come to light after Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) conducted a Citizen’s Investigation into five lakh phone call records and submitted them to the SIT was the locational details of police officials and key men from chief minister Narendra Modi’s coteries at Meghaninagar where Gulberg society is located and Narol where Naroda is located a day before the carnage, on February 27, 2002. The reason why it is noteworthy that DCP P B Gondia, O P Singh  and some key members close to Modi and some police officers were present at Naroda and Meghaninagar  is because they have been blithely claiming in all official statements that the reason for in adequate force deployment in Meghaninagar and Naroda is because these were not traditionally communally sensitive areas. Why then were key members of the Modi coterie in the very localities where mass carnage was allowed the next day?

The locational details of the politically powerful and accused analysed by the CJP make for chilling reading. On the day of the Godhra incident, while the chief minister was in Godhra, planning to bring the charred bodies to Ahmedabad (itself a controversial decision) at the unearthly hour of 5.10 a.m. then cabinet minister for health, Ashok Bhatt was at Nartoda-Narol. Why? The next day, before sitting in the control room at 9.55 a.m. (he is accused of sitting in the Ahmedabad city control room with the specific task of preventing police from doing their duty) on February 28, 2002 his mobile phone location shows Bhatt to be at Barol Naroda. This was around the time the massacre began. While there, he receives three crucial calls. One from Tanmay Mehta, PA to the chief minister, who was also at Naroda at 4.03 p.m. that day. Why? O P Singh, another PA to the chief minister, also calls him and is also found there that afternoon at around 4 p.m. Two more powerful persons present at Naroda that evening of February 28 were Ashok Narayan, additional chief secretary (home) at 5.41 p.m. and I K Jadeja (around 5.35 p.m.) the other minister who sat in the state control room at Gandhinagar through the day. Equally sinister are the locations of the powerful at Meghaninagar where the Gulberg society is located. Ashok Bhatt is present in and around the Shayona Plaza the building of a powerful businessman, Ghanshyam Patel at 3.48 p.m. on the day of the Godhra incident. Anik Mukhim additional principal chief secretary to the chief minister (3.33 p.m.) at 4 p.m. and then again that night at 10 p.m. Others present there at Meghaninagar which is the jurisdiction area where the Gulberg society is located the day the chief minister was in Godhra was O P Singh, PA to the chief minister at 3:48:16. P K Mishra, personal secretary to the chief minister is also present at Meghaninagar at 3:48 pm on February 27, 2002 and so also is Tanmay Mehta, PA to the chief minister (at 3.35 p.m.) Interestingly among policemen who are in the same area on the same day are P B Gondia DCP Zone IV who is there at 00:36  i.e on the early morning of that day (February 28 2002). On the day of the massacres at Gulberg society and Naroda Patiya and Gam, I K Jadeja, cabinet minister for urban development was at the Meghaninagar area at  3.56 pm and  minister of state for home, Zadaphia was there at 5 p.m.

(To be continued)

[Courtesy: Communalism Combat, March 2010 issue]