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Encounter as State Policy in Modi’s Gujarat

Encounter as State Policy in Modi’s Gujarat

The Supreme Court orders the Gujarat Government to respond to TEHELKA’s revelations on fake encounter killings, reports NEHA DIXIT
ACTING ON a PIL filed following TEHELKA’s expose in 2007 of fake encounter killings by former top cop DG Vanzara in connivance with the Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office, the Supreme Court on September 3 issued notices to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah seeking their responses.
A Bench comprising Justices Tarun Chatterjee and Aftab Alam also issued notices to the Director-General of Police and other officials, including Vanzara, now in jail.
In its May 19, 2007 issue, TEHELKA had reported how the CMO orchestrated the killing of Sameer Khan, a small-time criminal arrested on September 27, 2002. Khan’s was the first in a series of encounter killings of “terrorists” in Gujarat. Eleven more “terrorists” including businessman Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi, were eliminated by Vanzara over the next four years.
According to the Gujarat police, Sameer was a Pakistan-trained Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist and had been arrested for conspiring to kill Modi, the then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, and VHP leader Praveen Togadia. However, TEHELKA found that Khan was instead only a small-time criminal wanted for a police constable’s murder in 1996. He was arrested by the Crime Branch, headed by Vanzara, on September 27, 2002, not under the FIR for the constable’s murder, but under a new FIR for a conspiracy to assassinate the BJP and VHP leaders.
The police also claimed to have recovered e-mails received by Sameer from Pakistan, instructing him to assassinate BJP leaders. Tellingly, the Gujarat High Court had dismissed these saying, “There is ample evidence to say that the alleged e-mails are false…”
The police also asserted that there were seven old cases against Sameer — but never gave details.
At 1.30 am on the night of October 21-22, 2002, Crime Branch sleuths took Sameer to Usmanpura Garden in Ahmedabad to reconstructed the constable’s murder. They said Sameer snatched Inspector KM Vaghela’s revolver and shot at him. Sammer was killed in retaliatory firing.
The then acting Police Commisioner, Chittaranjan Singh, wrote to the then Joint Commisioner of Police (Crime), PP Pandey, asking him to conduct an inquiry. However, the then principal secretary to the CM, PK Mishra, along with the then DGP, K Chakravarthy, and PP Pandey fabricated documents and bulldozed officers into submission.
Tirth Raj, IG (Human Rights) told on Spycam how the entire cover-up was done. He revealed, “There was one Mishra, secretary to the CM, who called up Chittaranjananjan Singh and pressured him to burn the papers he had written to Pandey and replace them with fake ones… Everybody was involved in the cover-up, from the DGP’s office to the CMO.” The IG also said that he had made a 15-20 page report indicting everybody from the DGP to people in the CMO.
The inquiry into the encounter case was handed over to the CID. Dy SP IK Yadav was the inquiry officer. The result of the forensic tests ordered by him revealed that the trajectory of the bullet that hit Sameer on his temple was vertical. If Sameer had snatched Vaghela’s revolver, fired him and tried to run away, how could he have been shot in the head from above? Yadav revealed, “such a shot can only be fired from close range. That means the deceased didn’t have a revolver”.
Following TEHELKA’s expose’ a PIL was jointly filed by lyricist Javed Akhtar, social activist Shabnam Hashmi and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who alleged that there were scores of fake-encounter killings in Gujarat, all of which should be probed by the CBI.
Says Hashmi: “It is welcome, but it took over a year for the response to come. It’s been almost six years since the killings.” Adds Bhushan, “We still have to see how the Gujarat Government responds. If it is official policy to carry out fake encounters, then there is nothing worse than that. Particularly if they were sponsored by the chief minister under the sanction of the government.” •


From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 37, Dated Sept 20, 2008
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