Human Rights

Sohrabuddin case and Modi’s rule: fair is foul and foul is fair

Children in a school of Mumbai once asked the Marathi dramatist Vijay Tendulkar what he would do if he had a gun. He told them that he would kill Narendra Modi. The chief minister of Gujarat was so brazen that he challenged Tendulkar to do it. But his time of reckoning has finally come. There is a ruthless despot in a play of the American dramatist Eugene O’Neill, Emperor Jones. His populace is so wretched, superstitious and poverty-ridden that they are afraid of Jones to the extent that they really believe his lie that he could be killed only if they have a silver bullet. Where could the people get a bullet let alone a silver one when they don’t have any food to eat? But then finally one of them did manage to make one silver bullet and went for Jones. In a democracy like ours the judicial process is coming around Modi like the silver bullet and the sooner it gets around him the better.

The lack of speed with which cases involving cruelty perpetrated on Muslims of Gujarat proceed shows that the tarnished image of India is even more tainted by those who wanted to sell off India shining as a business achievement and brush under carpet the sorry state of violations of human rights of the victims. The most depraved among them is the Chief Minister of a state, Narendra Modi. He has earned enough shame for India to last several generations of our citizens. His vitriolic outburst at the German parliamentarians and his party’s scorn at them only underscores that we cannot redeem the honour of the country as long as such people are at the helms of the affairs.

Five years passed since Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser and family friend Tulsiram Prajapati were murdered ghoulishly by the police in which the connivance of the chief minister can be deduced from the circumstances. Three years passed since DGP DG Vanzara was arrested in this connection. And now deputy commissioner Abhay Chaudasma is caught. In this case also the state machinery was dilly-dallying as it was doing in the case of inspector Narendra Amin who was absconding before arrest though he was very much around his own bungalow in a residential colony. He had also killed point blank a Muslim youth in the Hyderabad police station where the Muslims went to lodge their protest against unlawful detention of youths from their community. Hyderabad was not Ahemdabad. Even so no proper inquiry was made against Amin.

This pattern of absconding was set by the then home minister Gordhan Zadaphia who had told Babu Bajrangi to abscond. Narendra Modi harboured him at the Gujarat state guesthouse at Mount Abu. Four months passed and Lalu Prasad Yadav spoke vehemently against Bajrangi in the parliament. Then Modi told Bajrangi to surrender. PC Pande, the commissioner of police Ahemdabad, conducted the farce of arresting Bajrangi against whom he had issued a shoot-at-sight order. Even Maya Kodnani also followed the same pattern. The lack of integrity and motivation and the bias against Muslims combines such a heady mix that Gujarat will take years to come out of it thanks to the kind of leadership Modi has provided and the kind of internecine divisive politics his party is following.

A constable Ajaypal Yadav is still at large. He put a stolen two-wheeler, provided by Chaudasma, at the spot where Sohrabuddin was murdered. It was made out that Sohrabuddin was riding on it when the shootout took place while the truth was that Sohrabuddin was already killed and his body dumped there. Still untraced is the Rajasthan marble merchant who had given supari or contract to kill Sohrabuddin. Still untouched is the chief minister who was sworn to uphold law and protect the lives of all the citizens but deliberately shunned his duty and  had the audacity to own the murder and wanted the court to hang him! Why shouldn’t the court do it now that more and more details of state involvement are coming to light?

The heinous crimes of fake encounters in Gujarat were committed with the connivance of the Chief Minister Narendra Modi. It is vividly seen in the famous speech he made on December 4, 2007 in the election rally at Mangrol. He said “Sohrabuddin got what he deserved.” He asked the crowd what the people would do to the man who dealt in smuggling guns. They thundered: “kill him”. ‘Then IF I HAVE DONE ANYTHING WRONG, LET THE GOVERNMENT OF SONIA GANDHI HANG ME,” he said.

Modi is worse than Jones because he has taken his people for a ride all the time. His police and administration never kept record of his grossly insulting speeches and tirades against the Muslims. If the courts ask them to produce the speeches they refuse to oblige. Hence the speech at Mangrol has been recorded in versions by newspaper reporters. One of such reports records the chief minister asking: “What should have been done to a man from whom a large number of AK 47 rifles  were recovered,  who was on the search list of police from four states, who attacked the police, who had relations with Pakistan and was eyeing to enter Gujarat?” The crowd replied: “mari nacho, mari nacho” (“kill him, kill him”). Pat came Modi’s reply: “Does my Government need to take permission of Soniaben for this?”

The truth about Sohrabuddin is stranger than fiction. His family was very loyal to the BJP. That he might have been extortionist or smuggler need not surprise since the marble merchant of Rajasthan who gave supari for his life was also from the BJP.

Not all the police and administrative officers can be corrupt but Gujarat has proved that Modi subverted not only the police and administration but even the judiciary. Everybody seems to have jumped on the bandwagon of his anti-minority juggernaut. The operation kill Sohrabuddin started when the Gujarat police with the help of their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh began shadowing Sohrabuddin and his wife and a third person, who is believed to be Tulsiram Prajapati, as they left Hyderbad by bus and were passing through Maharashtra. The bus was stopped and the cops dragged Sohrabuddin down. His wife insisted to remain with her husband. They pulled her out too and took them away. They were brought to Ahemdabad and tortured in a private bungalow owned by a VHP and BJP member. Then Kauser was also killed after being raped. Vanzara arranged to cremate her body in his palatial mansion in his native village. When the dead body was being carried there was heavy rain and the car carrying it was stuck in the mud. The Gujarat police stopped traffic on the road to remove the stranded car out of the mud. The police bought wood from another town for burning the body of Kauser. Vanzara burnt the body and dumped the ashes into a well in his farm and covered the well with concrete structure so that no trace would be found.

The most tragic irony of all this is that the Muslims of Ilol village had contributed money to educate Vanzara so that the poor boy would serve the village well. This is how he paid back their help.

But then he did all this in the name of deshbhakti, patriotism. It is sardonic irony that Vanzara was swept by the ideology that the Muslims are disloyal to their country and hence they need to be finished. The Hindu marble merchant who gave supari was no less a criminal than Sohrabuddin. He still wallows in his wealth and show of patriotism as is the way of the world of the rich.

However, the driver of the police car intercepting the bus was a cop, Nathubha Jadega. For quite sometime the Gujarat police did not take Jadega’s evidence on record. Then the commission of inquiry under Geeta Johari found some more harsh truth of the kidnapping of the couple as well as of Prajapati. Not satisfied with Johari’s findings the Supreme Court handed over the case to CBI. Jadega’s witness finally caught Chaudasma into the dragnet of the CBI.  

CBI questioning Modi came far too late. It was self-evident that Vanzara was very close and loyal to Modi. The chief minister should have been interrogated there and then. Staggering and stalling the inquiry and criminal proceedings have left out the chief minister with ample space and time to behave in his hubris as if he were above law. And now with the SC judges feeling deviated by all kinds of inquiry and objections by NGOs and also Ram Jethmalani, counsel for the defendant in Gulbarg case, the case of Sohrabuddin may drag on.

A part of the frustration of the SC judges is that the enormity of the crimes in Gujarat is so humongous that the administrative systems of the state seem to have collapsed. The inquiry officers be they Geeta Johari or Shivanand Jha or VA Rathod are indistinguishable from the felons. Rathod was involved in disposing of the body of Kauser and was on the inquiry panel into her disappearance. The other thirteen accused appealed to the court to include him as an accused. The court agreed. Shivanand Jha is no different from Rathod in his role.

Jha was doing in SIT what Chaudasma was doing during the CBI inquiry. Chaudasma’s role was not simply ‘concertedly influencing important witnesses to conceal facts and give false statements to the CBI’ about the encounter death of Sohrabuddin. He was one of the conspirators who planned and executed the murder of Sohrabuddin and Kauserbi. If he could manage to evade detection and detention for so long, what about Modi himself!

An independent analyst, Prof. Mustafa Khan is based in Malegaon

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2010 on page no. 11

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