'Rambo to Mogambo' by Javed Anand
Rambo to Mogambo
The Bharatiya Janata Party is desperate and under pressure its slip is showing. In response to the chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Ishrat Jahan case — which contains shocking quotes and details, including the fact that five cops of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch fired 70 rounds from automatic and semi-automatic weapons at 19-year-old Ishrat and three others — the BJP has chosen to show scant regard for judicial procedure.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is desperate and under pressure its slip is showing. In response to the chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Ishrat Jahan case — which contains shocking quotes and details, including the fact that five cops of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch fired 70 rounds from automatic and semi-automatic weapons at 19-year-old Ishrat and three others — the BJP has chosen to show scant regard for judicial procedure. This is apparent from the way its spin doctors flew off the handle, postured as the sole custodians of national security and shrieked and screeched that the chargesheet is targeted at their leader, Narendra Modi.
Thankfully, our judiciary is not swayed by high drama before TV cameras but by evidence on record.
The party’s spokespersons are outraged that the CBI is silent on the alleged terror links of Ishrat Jahan, Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar who were gunned down by Gujarat police in June 2004. They conveniently forget the Gujarat high court’s tongue-lashing to the CBI in this very context on June 14, barely a fortnight before the chargesheet was filed. According to news reports, “The Gujarat high court rapped the CBI for delay in filing its chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case... A division bench of Justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari asked the CBI to ascertain the genuineness of the encounter instead of focusing on Intelligence Bureau (IB) inputs and trying to figure out whether those killed were terrorists or not... The court is not concerned whether they were terrorists or normal human beings. In any case they should not have been liquidated. You (CBI) have been assigned responsibility to ascertain whether they were killed in a genuine encounter or a fake one and whether they were in prior custody of Gujarat police or not.”
The court had equally sharp words for the government counsel, additional advocate general Tushar Mehta: “Nobody has the licence to kill people in fake encounters even if they are terrorists. Why the state continues to oppose the CBI probe in the case?”
The CBI’s chargesheet complying with this unambiguous, no-nonsense court directive is essentially in consonance with the conclusions of an Ahmedabad magistrate, S.P. Tamang (2009), and the high court-appointed special investigation team (SIT, 2011): Ishrat, Pranesh, Amjad and Zeeshan were indeed in illegal police custody for weeks before being murdered in cold blood; it was a pre-meditated criminal conspiracy.
Who are the conspirators and the murderers? The chargesheet indicts eight cops, including three IPS officers: the absconding additional director general of police, Gujarat, P.P. Pandey, “encounter specialist” DIG D.G. Vanzara (indicted for several encounters) and G.L. Singhal. The CBI has sought more time for further investigations into the role of many others, including the Gujarat-based special director, Intelligence Bureau, Rajinder Kumar, and IB personnel working under him.
While a supplementary chargesheet is on its way, the current one carries testimonies by 10 junior police officers who saw and heard everything before a judicial magistrate. Among them is the testimony of DCP D.H. Goswami claiming he was present when DIG Vanzara told his junior, Singhal, that he had sought and received permission from “safed dadhi” (Gujarat’s chief/home minister, Narendra Modi) and “kali dadhi” (minister of state for home, Amit Shah), to bump off Ishrat Jahan.
In the past few years, under separate directives and monitoring from the Supreme Court and the Gujarat high court, the CBI has investigated four “encounter” cases from Gujarat: Sadiq Jamal (January 2003), Ishrat Jahan and three others (2004), Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser Bi (2005) and Tulsiram Prajapati (2006).
Why would the highest courts order CBI probes in case after case? As “part of the larger conspiracy against Mr Modi?” Of course not. After each of these encounters, the state crime branch had claimed that those killed were Pakistan-trained terrorists out to assassinate Mr Modi. In each case, the CBI was brought into the picture when the shameful cover-ups became apparent to the courts.
Following the court monitored investigations, already a former DGP of Gujarat (P.C. Pande), three additional DGPs (P.P. Pandey, Geeta Johri, O.P. Mathur), a DIG (D.G. Vanzara), several senior IPS officers from Gujarat, including Mr Singhal, Abhay Chudasama, Rajkumar Pandian, Vipul Aggarwal, Rajinder Kumar (IB), and over two dozen junior policemen have been chargesheeted or named for their role in the four fake encounters cases. Also chargesheeted in the Sohrabuddin, Kauser Bi and Prajapati cases are Gujarat’s former minister of state for home, Mr Shah, and Rajasthan’s former home minister (during BJP rule) and currently the Leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, Gulab Chand Kataria.
The story is far from over. Following a January 2012 order of the Supreme Court, a retired judge of the apex court, Justice H.S. Bedi, is monitoring investigations into 17 other “encounter” cases from Gujarat between 2002 and 2006.
The BJP doesn’t have faith in the CBI? Fine. What about faith in the Gujarat high court or the Supreme Court?
What kind of “good governance” is this? Is Gujarat a model or a rogue state? How could the chief/home minister of Gujarat remain so clueless — before, during and after 2002 — about the criminal misdeeds, not only of so many top police officers under his charge but even his own Cabinet colleagues: Mr Shah now and the convicted Mayaben Kodnani serving a 28-year jail term after a trial court ruled she was the “kingpin” of the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre?
If I were a supporter of the BJP, especially its chief prime ministerial aspirant, I’d start panicking now. For in the eyes of many Indians, the man who only recently sought to make political capital out of a terrible human tragedy in the Himalayas, projecting himself as Rambo, is increasingly looking like Mogambo.
The writer is co-editor, Communalism Combat and general secretary Muslims for Secular Democracy
Peace Is Doable