People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 14

April 04, 2010

Hope Blossoms for Gujarat Carnage Victims

SC Focus on SIT Functioning - II

 

 

Teesta Setalvad

 

THE third area that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has shown itself up for being no better than the Gujarat police is its failure to apply for the cancellation of bail of powerful accused responsible for the post Godhra violence despite clear cut directions in the apex court order that it may do so. The discriminatory bail patterns related to Gujarat 2002 have been cause for some concern. Eighty six of those accused of the Godhra train burning incident are in jail without bail for the past eight years. During the six year history of this matter before the Supreme Court, the CJP and the amicus curiae Harish Salve have on several occasions pointed out, backed by documentary evidence, that even the Gujarat High Court had routinely granted bail to accused like Bajrangi and others accused of mass rape and murder – in some cases like Odh, the accused were even granted anticipatory bail with the special public prosecutors not raising any objection. SIT has fallen in line with this discriminatory practice and allowed those accused of mass rape, murder and conspiracy to roam free in areas while the trials are on.

This has meant that persons like Babu Bajrangi Patel, accused number one of the Naroda Patia massacre, who has proudly told Tehelka on camera that he was the one who slit open the womb of Kauserbano and pulled out a live male foetus that he proceeded to dismember with a sword, roams free in Ahmedabad. More than  half a dozen witnesses have named Bajrangi in their statements before the SIT. It also means that Suresh Richard Chara, who also proudly told Tehelka that he was responsible for multiple rapes of girls and women at Patia for which he was garlanded and congratulated by Narendra Modi on the evening of February 28, 2002, also roams free on the streets of Ahmedabad while the trial continues and witnesses depose against him within the court.  In the charge sheet filed by the SIT itself, 53 witnesses have named Suresh Langda Richard Chara of instigating the mob to rape, kill and burn Muslims and of being directly involved in murder and rape. As many as 15 witnesses have named Babu Bajrangi Patel as the leader of the mob that slaughtered 95 people and of having personally killed many, including cutting open the stomach/ womb of Kauserbanu and killing her foetus. Despite this the SIT has not moved for cancellation of his bail. He roams free today to continues to threaten and intimidate survivor victims and witnesses. He has even been allowed to go abroad.  Incidentally, Babu Bajrangi Patel has also stated on video tape to Tehelka that he was protected/housed by chief minister Modi in a state government guest house in Mount Abu, that his bail was managed and that judges were changed to get him bail. He has stated that Justice Dholakia had refused bail and that his case was later brought before Justice Akshay Mehta in order to get him bail. Apparently there has been no investigation/inquiry into these aspects by the SIT.  Justice Akshay Mehta now assists Justice Nanavaty in probing the cause of the 2002 violence!!!

Fourthly, SIT has failed to take adequate steps to prevent threats to and intimidation of witnesses. The most shocking aspect of this has been the actual involvement of SIT officials Noel Parmar and Mothaliya in the physical kidnapping and torturing of a prosecution witness, Ilyas Mulla in the Godhra train burning case.

In fact, in the ongoing trial into the Godhra train burning case, in which the SIT has fully endorsed the theory put forward through the earlier investigations by the Gujarat police and has not probed at all into the revelations made through Tehelka magazine’s Operation Kalank. In this sting operation, witnesses have stated on camera that they have been bribed by the Gujarat police to speak in favour of the “conspiracy” theory of the Gujarat police. Whatever the facts of the matter, given the sensitivities involved in the case, the SIT ought to have investigated these allegations thoroughly and not leave it unexplored.

 

EXCLUSION

OF WITNESSES

The fifth area in which the investigation by the SIT fails to measure up to any standards of independence or professionalism is in its deliberate exclusion of key witnesses who had given statements earlier or who should have been made witnesses in the nine cases. In the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam incidents cases, in which more than 110 persons were brutally murdered and many women and girls were raped, the SIT has not recorded the statements of 129 witnesses.

It is the utterly brazen manner in which the SIT has not made Rahul Sharma, former DCP Crime Branch Ahmedabad, as witness in the Gulberg massacre case despite an application by CJP on November 14, 2009 that makes its actions more and more suspicious. Sharma was brought in as DCP Crime Branch Ahmedabad in 2002 by the newly appointed police commissioner of Ahmedabad Kaushik. He had been brought in to be part of the investigations into the Gulberg, Naroda Patia and Naroda Gaam cases which were then being investigated by the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad. Sharma had collated all the five lakh mobile phone records of the relevant period from two companies at the time AT&T and Cellforce Phone Records, submitted this CD to his superiors and before the Nanavaty Shah Commission when he deposed. In our application dated November 14, 2009 made to SIT, CJP and witnesses have pointed out that the testimony of this officer and the evidence he had elicited and presented (that is available with SIT) would be critical for the Gulberg trial, too. Specifically this evidence would be critical in corroborating phone calls made by accused, influential politicians, victims etc and to evaluate the effectiveness of the response. Sharma had, on May 7, 2002, in a letter to then Commissioner Kaushik (a copy of which he produced before the Commission), detailed the questionable manner in which investigations into these three cases were being carried out.

The SIT has responded brazenly to these requests. Asked about the phone call records of Jaffri, SIT has responded stating that the landline phone call records of the brutally slain former Parliamentarian Ahsan Jafri, ‘have been destroyed.’ In this connection, since November 2, 2009 at least three crucial eyewitnesses have deposed stating that Jaffri made frantic calls, including one to the chief minister, he was roundly abused after which he decided to give himself up to the mob so that other innocent lives would be saved. SIT could have been systematic in its investigations and delved deep into how and why Jaffri’s records were destroyed, by whom and under whose instructions or orders. On May 9 and 28, 2008 when  Teesta Setalvad deposed before SIT, she had impressed upon the need for the agency to investigate the CD and especially Jaffri’s phone records.

This reluctance by SIT to get to the bottom of critical communications between those in power, those in responsible positions of law enforcement and administration and key accused guiding, leading attacks while actually ensuring that killings, rape and arson take place appears to stem from a calculated design to shield, not punish the guilty.

Concluded