Within days of an inconvenient Sreekumar being shifted out from the sensitive post of ADGP Intelligence, and the post handed over to a more malleable ADGP (Intelligence), Gujarat, a series of ‘encounters’ read extra judicial killings are were unleashed in Gujarat, between October 2002 and January 2007.
Read Part One of this Insight here
22 illegal killings in all, 16 that take Muslim lives, six Hindu. All these killings are followed by a post facto explanation from Gujarat’s intelligence bureau (often backed by the Centre) that the men and women shot in cold blood were all part of a plot to kill the chief minister or the then BJP president. Senior sources withing the Gujarat police confirmed that no prior information or intimation is recorded of intelligence about, ot the movements of such individuals who present such a high security threat. Neither is there any official documentation of any security nor protocol measures were taken by the Gujarat police to protect the lives of the powerful under threat by these men, or women, it is reliably learned.
Does Pandya’s murder fall within the parameter of a political killing masterminded by forces irked by his stances or was it an act of vendetta by Muslim militants for the 2002 carnage? Could the masterminds behind the former have used the ire instigated in the latter by the 2002 killings, to sustain and satisfy a different kind of revenge?
Means, motive and the mastermind
In any whodunit investigation into Pandya’s assassination, even without the colourful parameters provided by the master detective Hercule Poirot, political vendetta would surely be listed as one of the likely motives. Pandya had to pay a heavy political price… before he paid with his life. Forced to resign from the cabinet of ministers, post the carnage in 2002, he was also denied a ticket in the December 2002 elections from Ellis Bridge his well-groomed assembly constituency. Furious and rebellious as he was vocal in the media, some national level BJP leaders even 'dared' to speak out at the injustice meted out to him.
Days before five bullets had been pumped into him at point blank range minutes after he left for his daily morning walk to Law Gardens, the Bharatiya Janata Party had announced his political rehabilitation at the centre. Pandya was to be inducted into the party’s national executive on April 4, 2003. Back to centre-stage, his move to the capital would bring him into the close proximity of the most powerful men and women in the nation’s capital, within and outside his party where he would spit out, albeit in loud whispers, his bitter tale. Modi and his moves on, before and after Feburary 27, 2002 would be known first hand, from one who had seen the man operate at dangerously close quarters.
It was not to be. Eight days before the date, Pandya met his end and lay in cold blood, unattended for several hours while his faithful secretary and family waited in vain for his return from his morning walk. The raw and uncontrollable grief of Pandya’s family, his father Vithalbhai, sisters Chayabehn and wife Jagrutibehn was directed at Modi. His sister threatened to gouge his eyes out.The anger of his fans later that day at the hospital and at the condolence meeting a few days later was palpable, close to a political rebellion. Most of this anger was directed at Modi. Advani stepped in swiftly to dilute and diffuse both.
Did Advani, CBI and media divert attention or play things down?
So many aspects of the mysterious killing raise more questions than the CBI ---brought in within two-three days of Pandya’s death to investigate the killing --- has bothered to answer. Advani’s first dilatory move was to bring in the CBI in charge by March 29, 2003, and stem the public anger, forcing Modi to abide by the decision. The move was clever and it helped cooled tempers down. By September 2003 when the CBI concluded its investigation and filed its chargesheet, the agency’s conclusion confirmed the prognosis of the crime as pronounced by Advani the day he handed over charge to the CBI. A terrorist underworld nexus was behind the assassination Advani said, CBI charged and the trial court decreed. Between 2002 and a few years thereafter, the story was over, game set and match. Pandya’s life that ended dramatically had been reduced to the margin by his old friend but ruthless rival Narendra Modi. Even the drama of his death despite all the questions has shaken the composure of the man who could still be the ruthless mastermind behind the act.
Was Advani influencing CBI before it could even begin its work? As deputy prime minister and union home minister he is known to have thrown his weight behind supremacist groups allied to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) before.
Following the triple murder by burning of Graham Staines and his young sons, Advani was quick to absolve the VHP and Bajrang Dal of any involvement in the crime (The Times of India had reported his comment). Or did the CBI, the day it was given charge of the investigation already have information on who the killers were?
Was the subsequent conclusion reached by the CBI an independent and rigorous professional assessment? Or did the bureau, as it has done often in the past bow to the will of political masters affecting its credibility as the country’s premier investigating agency??
There are several questions that the CBI does not even begin to answer, many empirical and forensic lapses that will go down as a black mark in any objective history of the agency. One that is most significant lapse is CBI’s staunch refusal, despite the anger and conviction of Pandya’s closest family to even examine the plausibility or possibility of political vendetta being the mens rea, or motive behind the gruesome crime. The CBI, the country’s premier investigating agency concluded in its chargesheet that it was a terrorist underworld nexus that was responsible for Pandya’s death.
Though the local media reported lapses in the CBI investigation with declining consistently from the day of the murder in 2003 to the conviction of the “terrorist accused” in 2007, national editions of neither The Times of India nor the Indian Express tenaciously carried the tale outside Gujarat. The scandal remained confined to the western Indian state alone. Just like the coverage of the eight critical trials currently afoot (2009-2010) in Ahmedabad, Mehsana and Anand districts of the state, the national print and television media colluded to confining the coverage of serious lapses in investigations by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) then headed by another former CBI director Dr RK Raghavan, and the bias and prejudice of the local courts by confining coverage to their local editions.
Media’s own participatory role in fracturing its impact, region by region has not only confined critical news coverage to local editions. It has helped perpetrators of crimes, often the state or agents of the state by damage controlling or limiting national outrage and public perceptions building up against injustices. In the case of the media coverage of the Gujarat genocide justice process, media coverage has been fleeting and inconsistent. Television has no patience for diligent process, or the raw and rigorous courage of survivors, the grit and itch to the system caused by activists and rights groups. It prefers the screams of the genocide itself, the blood and the gore, the impotent tears before they are converted into an empowered struggle. The helplessness of disconnected sensation and images are preferable to a mourning and unified movement for resistance, justice and peace.
The CBI’s investigation had glaring loopholes. The carefully chosen trial court judge, Sonia Gokhani coming from a family committed to strong political views, did not even begin to exercise her powers under the criminal procedure code to force further investigation where several were necessary. The man who oversaw this historically poor investigation through was the then CBI director PC Sharma. PC Sharma took personal interest in the case, even visiting Ahmedabad on April 3, 2002 smilingly offering himself to news photographers and interviews. He appears to have been well rewarded for his efforts overseeing the Haren Pandya murder investigation by the ruling NDA’s home minister and deputy prime minister, LK Advani and promptly appointed to the National Human Rights Commission on March 3, 2004, soon after his retirement. The country’s largest civil liberties organisation, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) challenged his appointment in the Supreme Court of India, on grounds that a policeman serving on a statutory human rights body defeated the very purpose of the NHRC’s creation. The court dismissed the petition stating that nothing in the law constituting the NHRC (the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1991) precluded such an appointment. The court stuck to the technicalities of the law and refused to honour its premier commitment to the fundamental rights guaranteed in our Constitution and its mandate to intervene whenever these may be seen to be violated. Further, the failure of our apex court to see the nexus behind such critical appointments have allowed not just this appointment, but so many other similar and significant abuses of power by governments and those elected. When perpetrators of unprofessional acts are rewarded, not only is the soul and spirit of our Constitution violated. The message the system sends out to those who violate the law and Constitution is that these actions will not only go unchecked. You may even be rewarded. PC Sharma remains a member of the NHRC to this day.
Tragically two equally potent and possible theories could fit the motive for this gruesome murder. Pandya’s calculated action in speaking to a citizens tribunal, albeit one headed by former members of the Indian judiciary exposed state complicity in the genocide and surely could have been one of the motives behind the murder. The CBI dismissed this possibility as non-existent, refusing to even consider it as a potent motive. By leaving this motive conspicuously un-investigated, by refusing to record the evidence of close family members, by refusing to call as witnesses the first among three to reach the spot --including Nilesh Bhatt, Pandya’s private secretary—where Pandya’s body lay in white Maruti car, the CBI investigation has laid itself open for contempt and scrutiny.
CBI investigation a blot on the institution’s legacy?
By latching onto the theory, first propounded by political masters but not at all improbable in its own right and further compounding its unprofessionalism by botching up key empirical investigations, the CBI’s investigation into the Haren Pandya murder remains a major slur on the agency’s reputation.
After February 27, 2002, the date of the Godhra incident, on May 22 2002, there occurred a series of tiffin bomb blasts in local buses all over the state of Gujarat. These incidents were booked as offences under five different police station areas. The state's police did not opine publicly as to who had done it. Thereafter the attack on the Akshardham temple on September 25, 2002 took place after which there was a so-called attack on the VHP leader, Jaideep Patel. On March 26, 2003, Haren Pandya was killed and four days after CBI is handed charge, the accused were arrested on April 4, 2003. The claim is that they were arrested from Parimal Garden in Ahmedabad. The CBI states that weapons have been found on them and also that they had returned to Gujarat as part of a conspiracy to kill Hindu leaders (including Narendra Modi) after being trained in Pakistan. The crime branch and CBI traces the nexus to Hyderabad. The CBI seizes files form the local crime branch within 3 days. It takes over all records related to the murder.
This means that for nearly one year (after the tiffin blasts in May 2003) the investigating agencies had no notion or clue of this wider conspiracy by the accused and only after Pandya’s murder does this theory of an overall conspiracy crop up. The distraught Pandya family wails out in anguish alleging political motives but as far as we know no investigations on these lines are ever made.
This also means that from May 2002 until March 2003, neither the crime branch nor the state had followed any theory of a largescale Muslim conspiracy. Did they have no clue until then, as to who planted the tiffin bombs? No photographs of the alleged accused in the bus blasts had been constructed from descriptions of co-passengers or bus drivers of the different buses. No statements of bus drivers or co-passengers had been obtained.
There were three separate trials for these offences. The Haren Pandya’s murder trial was linked to the murder of Jagdish Tiwari, a VHP leader. This joint trial arises out of the killing of Haren Pandya and of the assault on JagdishTewari who survived. There are twelve accused in this assassination case, the mastermind Mufti Sufiyan allegedly a radical cleric from Lal Masjid area in Ahmedabad is absconding. The circumstances of his disappearance are suspicious and also remain un-probed.
The Haren Pandya killing is alleged to have taken place within or outside Law Garden but there is nothing in the investigations or charge-sheet, no description to show the condition in which the body was found. Neither are there are no reports or investigations in this connection. Ellis bridge police station officials reach the spot after the Navrangpura police station officials reach, though the Ellis Bridge is the relevant police station area and roster details reveal that there were enough policemen deployed around for a more prompt intervention. Incidentally the evidence of the policemen recorded by the trial court reveals no consistency on the spot of the crime, whether the murder was committed at Parimal Gardens or Law Gardens. There is much dithering over the location and who should have reached the spot first. The first time that the police reach there after the incident is around 10.40 a.m. though the incident is alleged to have taken place approximately between 7 and 8 am.
Procedural lapses in handling the body
Fifteen minutes after reaching the spot, around 10.55 am the police takes the slain body of Haren Pandya to the VS hospital about 2.5 kms away. Curiously, the hospital does not declare Pandya dead nor do they record his body temperature (This is a normal procedure followed that helps corroborate both whether a person is alive and if not, helps ascertain the time of death). But they do record that his vital symptoms not responding. When they send the body for the post mortem there is no reference to his wearing shoes.
The CBI appears to have overlooked the fact that we are dealing with the murder of a former state home minister. For inexplicable reasons, two police stations had been called to assist. Only one reaches and when the other is about to reach, (Ellis Bridge) the policemen are directed in the wrong direction, they are told to go to Parimal gardens, then re-directed to Law gardens.
All through the trial no one from the prosecution has explained—nor called upon by the court to explain-- the mystery of Parimal gardens figuring in the initial instructions to the police when they were called upon to reach the spot of the crime.
Mysteriously, also, the police do not summon an ambulance though the VS hospital is not too far away. The police load Pandya’s body in their own jeep and take him to the hospital where the hospital authorities also record that they cannot feel a heartbeat, but still choose not to record his body temperature. At 12 noon, Haren Pandya is declared dead and we still have no explanation where his shoes are (though he was said to have been taking a morning walk when he was shot dead). In the post mortem report conducted on Haren Pandya’s body, the column meant to specify “estimated time of death” has not been filled.
Bullets that change colour and trajectory?
The post mortem shows five bullets in the body and the forensic experts at the hospital have described them as white metal bullets. Later the same experts describe the bullets seized as grayish (lead). The bullets displayed by the prosecution during the trial appear not to have been the bullets found from Pandya's body. The judge overlooked another serious lapse.
The prosecution claim that Pandya was found dead slouched in his car is not supported by the angle of the bullet wounds nor by the absence of blood and gunshot residue inside the car. The investigation has failed to explain the absence of any intermediary targets that shots fired inside a car would necessarily pierce and produce.
On March 28, 2003 itself the CBI had taken over the investigations and also seized the cell phone belonging to Haren Pandya. The mobile forensic team meanwhile had gone to examine the site of the killing on the day of the murder. In their report, they do not describe condition or position of the car or its windows but a photo is taken. They make no mention of any gunshot residue in the car though they mention that some colouring that could be blood coating was found on the neighbouring seat. There are twelve accused and after the initial spot visits the prosecution has made no further investigations at the scene of the crime.
Site of Murder
Medical evidence provided by both a prosecution witness and a defence witness rules out the possibility of the killing of Haren Pandya inside the car. The spot where the body was found appears not to have been the scene of the crime. The photograph of the car that is documentary evidence supplied by the prosecution leads to this conclusion.
Experts during the trial opined that there were serious questions over the positioning of the body as well: the assailant and the weapon can never be in a spot to straightaway hit the scrotum inside a closed car. Ballistic evidence, by and large supported by a prosecution witness suggests that the circular injuries reflect a perpendicular entry into the body. The six bullet injuries each one circular are almost impossible through such a small opening of the window of the car. Despite this improbability Dr V Gupta, the IO in this case, from the CBI and a doctor have narrated these 'facts' in the charge sheet.
The defence during trial first and then before the Gujarat High Court, pointed out that expert prosecution witnesses have unabashedly said that they failed to investigate the position of the body inside the car at various points – from the time of assault to removal of the body from the car. The ballistic expert, during evidence has not stated that the man was killed in the car. Discrepancies are evident from their own reports. Six of the wounds are on the right side of the slain man and in an 'up to down' position (that is the bullet has been fired from a height and travelled downwards). One wound is left to right and 'down to up'.
From the photographic evidence of the car collected by the authorities, a careful calculation as to whether it was possible with a 3.5 inch opening of the window to fire rounds of bullets that would injure the victim in the position and fashion that they did, reveal that this was near impossible. Injuries on Pandya’s body were on the other side. There was no way the prosecution had proved their case that Haren Pandya was killed at the spot where he was found in the car, were the strong arguments of the defence.
Dr. Narayan Reddy, serving head of department Osmania department of forensics, and a nationally recognized forensic expert stated in his testimony that such injuries that Pandya had sustained were not possible unless the victim was standing and assailant was crouching. Or, if the victim was lying flat on a surface with the revolver being pointed down towards him, a position that rules out Pandya being shot through a three and a half inch window gap while inside a car.
Discrepancies in Bullets Produced. Significantly, the post mortem report indicates seven bullet injuries even though only five bullets were recovered. The position of these wounds raised questions about the position of the victim when he was attacked. No explanation has been provided by the prosecution. Out of seven injuries one has followed a track from left to right below, upwards. On the face of it, such an injury is impossible to sustain inside a car, especially if the assailant is seated to the right. Despite instructions from the mobile forensic experts to the contrary, the prosecution withheld documents relating to the site of the offence and even the post-mortem report from their handpicked medical and ballistic experts.There can be only one explanation for this shady and shoddy behaviour by the CBI. The inference is inescapable that if investigated, and if these experts had been supplied documents like the post mortem report and the site documents, the CBI’s own expert witnesses would have arrived at conclusions that would have defeated the prosecution case.
The prosecution had a weak case
Finally, when the matter came to trial, the prosecution case rested only on a bunch of confessional statements made by the accused young men unsupported by any documentary or forensic evidence. All accused have been charged with the same conspiracy. In the course of the recovery from their homes in Ahmedabad, the Crime Branch found nothing. Interestingly according to the prosecution, Asghar is stated to have fled to Hyderabad after his arrest at Parimal gardens and is thereafter supposed to have been arrested on his return. It is after Asghar’s arrest and a search made by the CBI in their homes within Ahmedabad that the revolvers were supposed to have bene found. That is the case for the prosecution.
The defence argued that the prosecution in the Haren Pandya case was guilty of withholding of evidence in several ways: not leading evidence and withholding material evidence in their possession despite directions of the court (shoes of the slain man, his cell phone records were not brought before the court); not producing vital witnesses (the secretary of Haren Pandya who reached the spot first and his wife who could have stated what time he left home were not called) and defacing or destroying evidence (indicators of several missed calls received on Pandya's mobile were deleted while the mobile phone was in the custody of the investigating officer (IO) of the CBI, Dr Gupta).
Role of the CBI and the IO
After the CBI took over the investigation, their officers did not even record the statements of Pandya’s personal secretary Nilesh Bhatt and Kuntal Shanghvi who had reached the spot well before the police and the complainant.
They werealso not brought before the court. Their statements recorded by the Ellis Bridge police would and do throw light on the position of the body. However, they have been deliberately kept out of the court because their version would completely demolish the so-called eye-witness account.
There is one description in those statements which, read with the defence medical evidence (the defence brought in Dr Narayana Reddy Head of the Forensic department of Osmania University) as well as the evidence of the doctor who performed the post-mortem, might provide the clue as to the killing but the inference would be then that the deceased had stepped out of the car. Since the same would defeat the eye-witness and possibly rule out the role of the present accused the prosecution suppressed the cross examination by the defence.
It was CBI's IO Gupta (a doctor by profession) who categorically asserted that such a firing inside the car could have happened while Pandya was sitting inside the car but he had no explanation for the complete absence of blood marks or injury in the urinary tract. Through the trial, the prosecution dithered, changing its theories and averments to the extent that the CBI even wanted to alter the position of the window in co-relation to what could be seen or observed from the photograph. The defence argued that the photograph should be sent to a national physical laboratory for corroboration. The Court refused this request.
Confession accepted in toto, due process abused?
What has been most shocking of all has been the dishonesty of the Judge, Sonia Gokhani. She accepted the confessions in toto never mind volumes of case law on the subject. When an officer of an investigating or prosecuting agency (in this case the CBI) lies in court and gets away with it, the dignity of a Court requires that the court orders an investigation. In all these cases, she openly stated and genuinely believed that the defence was not to be believed and the prosecution is to be believed in toto. Due process was abused in the course of these trials. The judge did not question the prosecution’s failure to summon Pandya’s wife. This presumption of good faith in a prosecutorial agency shows predetermined bias on part of the judge.
Pandya's father, Vithalbhai Pandya also produced an article from the Asian Age by Sonal Kellog who had stated that she had spoken to three morning walkers who had seen Pandya but had not disclosed their names. Though the defence asked the judge to summon the journalist and ask her the identity of these walkers, the judge refused to probe the matter further.
All evidence punctured holes in the prosecution of the timing of the murder (all evidence including medical pointed to Pandya's having been killed between 8.30-9.30 am), the position of the body and the theory behind the bullet injuries. The prosecution did not produce Pandya's shoes, his cell phone records nor his phone.
Worst of all, this judgement of conviction on a falsified prosecution case set out by the CBI, delivered in 2007, must be seen in the context of other cases related to the Gujarat 2002 carnage. This talk of Muslim terror and large conspiracy was put into place by the agencies only after Pandya died. To show these killings as communal rather than an individual act is a sinister attempt by the prosecution to colour the case. The prosecution tried also to bring in Communalism Combat’s historic Genocide issue in a puerile and vicious effort to indicate that it carried anti-national and vitriolic material that had instigated mass murderous crimes.
The curious case of Mufti Sufiyan
The most sinister twist to this tale is the manner in which Mufti Sufiyan was escorted out of Ahmedabad via Mumbai to Kolkatta and then Bangladesh allegedly by then crime branch chief, favoured hit-man of the Modi administration, policeman DG Vanzara(later accused of extra judicial killings). By a judgement delivered on January 12, 2010, the CBI thereafter investigated Vanzara’s role in three such gruesome murders that of Sohranuddin, his wife Kauserbi and associate Tulsiram Prajapati.
Mufti Sufiyan, the CBI charge-sheet tells us is an alleged Muslim radical who had incited youth to vengeful violence following the genocide of 2002. How come then, he and his family were allowed to so easily and safely trot out of the state? Was the presence of the mastermind of the Haren Pandya assassination through trial prove inconvenient to the very masters whomay have used their services in the bloody plot? Would their continued presence and possible confessions later unravel the existence of a more sinister plot within a plot, wheels within wheels, when political vendetta uses the terror underworld nexus for its own slimy ends? The Times of India carried a story in mid 2007 stating that Mufti Sufiyan was under watch and there was a move to attach his properties because he suddenly absconded. So many aspects of the crime have been left un-probed. Under the political circumstances in Gujarat was it possible for accused no 13 mastermind Muftui Sufiyan, his family and associate to escape Gujarat to Dacca or Karachi without state connivance or support?
Concealing Phone Records
There is no investigation on who had access to Haren Pandya’sphone on the day of his death till 3:15 PM, when the police finally seized it. The mobile telephone carried by Haren Pandya would have indicated when he had last accessed a call or SMS. This would have been invaluable in estimating the time and place of the assault on him. At 3:15 PM when the prosecution seized the phone the screen did not indicate any missed calls or messages as it should inevitably have shown. Prosecution witnesses have admitted these facts and the defence has inferred that since both Investigating Officers were aware of the significance of calls and were also informed by the complainant (Haren Pandya's secretary) that he had made several calls which were not picked up by Pandya between 10:30 and 11 on that fateful morning, the absence of any indication of missed calls on the screen clearly indicates that they were obviously deleted. This should have led anyone to suspect someone’s access to the phone before or after Pandya’s death. This means that apart from concealing evidence, the CBI as investigating and prosecuting agency has also been responsible for tampering with it. On this critical issue too, the evidence of IO of the CBI Dr Gupta his testimony shifts and changes.
He first says that he found no significant calls; then says that on April 6, 2003 when he checked the phone, he could notice nocalls or messages as the battery was discharged. (answers incross examination) The trial court called for the records from Hutch. Mysteriously,they show an outgoing call on the same day that the IO states on oath that he checked the phone, ie April 6, 2003 itself as well as a message received, which indicates that the battery was functioning and so was the phone; CBI's Gupta (who admits that the phone was in his custody) has in fact used the phone and thus there was no way he could not
have accessed messages and calls of the day of the murder that is March 26, 2003.
The defence argued that this witness had committed perjury before the Court and should be prosecuted for it. The court did not see fit to initiate any such proceedings. It later transpires that Gupta had obtained the mobile call records as early as on March 30, 2003, four days after the event but had concealed this fact from the trial court.
CBI’s IO, Dr Gupta would have had the complete information about missed calls as well as the SMSs and their towers. He could have had conclusive information about the time and place of the telephone on the fateful morning which could have thrown light on the movements of Pandya in that period. The telephone records were never filed in the Court and have now disappeared from the CBI records for which there is no convincing explanation. Worse, the court has left these gross discrepancies uninvestigated.
Besides as Sreekumar’s personal register tells us, Pandya had another phone that the state intelligence bureau on instructions from the chief minister had kept under surveillance. However the CBI completely concealed these records from the court.
The CBI claimed that one eyewitness is the source of the information of the crime to the police but the evidence led in the case does not corroborate this aspect of the prosecution case. It is the prosecution’s case that the eyewitness Yadram told his boss who in turn communicated the fact of killing (including site and time) to the police either directly or through others. If in fact Yadram was the first and only source of information about the crime, then whenever this information reached the police, the identity of the victim, time and place of killing as well as the fact of there being an eye witness would inevitably have been known and recorded by the police. However, the control room records and the records of the Ellis Bridge police station are silent on all these counts. On the contrary, these records, as well as the oral evidence reveal that the police reached the spot 3 ½ hours after the alleged time of occurrence on a vague notion that something had happened in either Parimal Gardens or Law Garden. It follows that there was no definite source of information about the crime and thus there was no eye witness. All pointers render improbable if not impossible the presence of the so-called eye witness at the time of the occurrence. The facts as appear are more suggestive of this witness finding the body after 9-30 am or so. Even the doctors conducting the post mortem fix the occurrence of the crime between 8-30 and 9-30 a.m.
Appointed by the union home ministry (under LK Advani) and unopposed by Modi on March 29, 2003, the CBI was quick to file its charge-sheet dated September 8, 2003 in the Haren Pandya murder case. Eight months later was to see a new regime in New Delhi but no efforts were made at all by those appearing for the CBI before or after May 2004, after a secular UPA government was in place in New Delhi, to get those lacunae apparent in the CBI’s charge-sheet clarified through attempts at re-investigation or further investigation before the trial court.
Not satisfied with masterminding the violence post Godhra 2002 and possibly perturbed with the resistance of some of our institutions to the carnage, Modi one of its main perpetrators had begun scheming weeks into the aftermath on ways and means to divert the attention of both the public and media and also agencies of law enforcement to other directions. The assassination of Haren Pandya and the series of extra judicial killings by Modi’s favoured officers were part of the calculated diversion and form an integral part of the wider workings of a high level cover up. Other states in the country too have witnesses these ‘fake encounters’ where increasingly the police-politician-underworld nexus have been targeting young Muslims.
But only Gujarat has justified these killings in court and politically. It is another bit of a brazen design, to erode the writ of the law, equality and justice and install in its place subversive and tainted governance. Unless reopened and ruthlessly reinvestigated and then retried the Haren Pandya murder case and the politician CBI cover-up will remain an indelible stain on our politics and polity.
(* This is an excerpt from a yet to be published book by CJP secretary TeestaSetalvad, who was a part of a Concerned Citizens Tribunal that conducted a series of hearings of witnesses and survivors in the aftermath of the Gujarat 2002 genocide. It is being published in wake of the Supreme Court upholding the conviction of 12 people in the murder of Haren Pandya, a former Gujarat minister who testified against his powerful bosses and exposed their complicity in fanning the communal flames that ravaged Gujarat.The article is in two parts, this is Part Two. It was written in 2010)