People's Democracy

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


No. 32

August 11 , 2013

Fake Encounters and Fascist Politics in Gujarat

Archana Prasad

LAST year, the Supreme Court of India asked retired Justice H S Bedi to monitor the probe of the 22 police encounters that had occurred in Gujarat between 2003-2006 --- the phase immediately after the riots of 2002. The order came in response to a public interest litigation petition filed by veteran journalist B G Verghese and lyricist Javed Akhtar in 2007. This petition challenged the veracity of the state government�s claims that all the police encounters were genuine and occurred in action against �Pakistani terrorists.� The petition is important because the bogey of �Pakistani terrorist� has been raised time and again to consolidate and expand the social basis of Hindutva.
The recently filed chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case (in which four people were killed by the police) provides yet another concrete evidence of this phenomenon. It does this through a collection of voluminous evidence through a re-examination of 179 witnesses who exposed the pressures that they were subjected to in earlier investigations.


Probes into encounter killings have yielded sufficient evidence to prove that the police force of the state has been given political cover to prepare the ground for stage-managed police encounters. Such encounters have similarities and follow a predictable pattern. In the case of the Soharabuddin Sheikh and Kausar Bi, the chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) amply held that the victims were first abducted and then killed in cold blood. A similar conclusion has been reached in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. The CBI clearly states that the encounter was a �joint operation of the SIB (Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau) Ahmedabad and Gujarat Police Officials� (CBI First Chargesheet, p 28). The first step was the illegal abduction and detention of Jishan Johar in the Gota farmhouse at the instructions of Rajinder Kumar, the then joint director of SIB. Thereafter Amjad Ali too was illegal detained by a team of the DCB Ahmedabad city, comprising N K Amin, Tarun Bhanot and Rajiv Wankhade on May 26, 2004 and held in illegal custody in the Arham farmhouse from May 26, 2004 to the early morning of June 15, 2004.  On June 12, 2004 N K Amin and Tarun Bhanot abducted Ishrat Jahan and Javed Sheikh from Vasad Toll Booth in district Anand, in an Indica car, and took them to the Khodiyar farm and kept them in illegal custody (CBI First Chargesheet, pp 29-31).
The statements of several police inspectors and constables cited in the report state that the detention of Ishrat Jahan and Javed Sheikh was prompted on the orders of D G Vanzara who repeatedly stated that a �Pakistani terrorist� was going to cross the Maharashtra-Gujarat border in a blue Indica. But in order to hide this fact of illegal detention, the police FIR, filed after the encounter, showed that the encounter took place after the police chased down the Indica that had Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh and Amjad Ali in it. The fact was first refuted by the enquiry of the metropolitan magistrate S P Tamang who stated that, in his opinion, most of the facts mentioned in the police report were false and that no chase took place in the first place. The police in fact abducted Ishrat Jahan and Javed Sheikh on September 12-13, 2004 in Mumbai itself (Tamang Committee Report, 2009, p 45).
The CBI chargesheet only corroborates this conclusion. It also provides additional evidence where in the recorded statement of an on duty policeman, Ibrahim Kalababu Mohd Chauhan, states that the Indica was driven by police constable Shafi to the place of the encounter, thus confirming the fact of illegal abduction and detention (CBI First Chargesheet, p 202).
The second aspect of illegality in the entire encounter is the possession of illegal arms by the police in order to stage the fake encounter. The report of the Tamang committee was the first to point this out when it stated that the �police fired at the site of the crime on their vehicle and Indica car through illegal weapon AK 56 which had no license� and which has not been recovered from the site of the crime (Tamang Committee Report, p 43). This conclusion has once again been strengthened by the cross examination of the forensic expert by the CBI investigations four years later. The assistant director from the Forensic Science Laboratory in Junagadh clarified that no firing had taken place from the 9 mm pistol that was recovered from the Indica car. Further, the empty cartridges which were reportedly recovered from the site did not match any of the weapons recovered from the place of the encounter (CBI First Chargesheet, p 202). In the same manner the Tamang committee report concluded that these cartridges were in �illegal possession of the police.� It went a step ahead and claimed that it was the police that had planted the gun and the live cartridges in the car in order to show that the victims were terrorists (Tamang Committee Report, p 45). In fact the report of the Tamang committee (which was challenged by the Gujarat government in the court) goes a step ahead and also concludes that all four victims had been killed much before the reported time of the encounter and their bodies were placed inside the Indica and brought to the scene of the encounter.


This evidence is conclusive in showing that the murders of Ishrat Jahan and three others were pre-planned. The CBI chargesheet has conclusive evidence to show that meetings between Vanzara, P P Pandey, Tarun Bharot and N K Amin took place well before the actual encounter was staged. Weapons were handed over from Vanzara�s office and materials were planted to prove that all four victims were terrorists. Kalubhai Santabhai Desai, PI posted at Arham Farm, one of the venues of illegal detention, recalled that Vanzara and Amin made repeated visits to the house for interrogation (CBI First Chargesheet, pp 217-222). Further plans were made to meet at the site of the encounter.
Many of the police constables and inspectors accompanying the officers were not even aware of the conspiracy. They only smelt the conspiracy once they reached on the spot. Thus Commando Menat (who was reported to have fired the shots as per the police FIR) testified in his statement to the CBI that at the time he accompanied his senior Mr Amin, he was unaware that �they were going to kill those people like this� (CBI First Chargesheet, pp 196-198). At the same time Ibrahim Kalababu Mohd Chauhan testified that he only became aware of the conspiracy once the Indica was brought to the scene of crime by a police man (CBI First Chargesheet, pp 202-203). Both constables admitted that they had lied to the special investigation team under the pressure of their seniors.
The CBI�s first chargesheet is scathing with respect to the role of the state government because it shows that officers and witnesses deposing before previous investigating officers and the special investigation team were pressurised into making false statements. In fact the fabrication of evidence started from the very scene of the so called encounter. For example, a tea-stall owner at the Gita Mandir Bus Station stated a policeman in civilian clothes took his signature on the Panchnama which was written in Gujarati language. He states: �I cannot read Gujarati language. I do not know why my signature was taken by the police on the panchnama. I was not told about the reason. Later on November 20, 2009 I was summoned by the SIT at the Dafnala office..� Now I was shown the previous recorded statement by the SIT and found that I had witnessed the happenings of hand washings of the dead bodies in the post mortem room. I do not know what I had told to Shri Toliya (on behalf of SIT). But I am sure I had not witnessed the washing of hands of the dead bodies� (CBI First Chargesheet, p 63).
Several other witnesses too have admitted to signing panchnamas without reading them or on plain white paper where the police wrote the contents later. When they were shown these panchnamas they did not recognise their contents. The panchnamas of weapons and empty cartridges, reportedly from the scene of the crime, were signed by witnesses who did not visit the crime scene or have any knowledge of the area. These affidavits recorded by the CBI confirm that all plans to investigate the killings as �encounters with terrorists� were made at the highest level of the intelligence and police force which has been granted political protection over the years.


The first chargesheet filed by the CBI has some references to the conversations between intelligence and police officers and the then home minister, Amit Shah. These connections will have to be explored much more in subsequent investigations. But the larger role of Amit Shah has been clear even before the CBI started its investigation. Shah has already been named in the reports filed on the Soharabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati cases.
Further, the presence of senior VHP functionaries by the side of P P Pandey on the day he was to appear in court. The organisation also stated that it aimed to declare �Gujarat as a Hindu state by 2015� and this it was a �Hindu vote bank.� Subsequently, the VHP�s support to Modi�s elevation within the BJP is based on the understanding that they need a �prime minister who speaks for 100 crore Hindus and not 120 crore Indians.�
The emerging facts of political encounters show that all policies of the incumbent Modi government, with its so-called Gujarat model of development, is inherently discriminatory and fascistic in its demeanour. Its version of democratic electoral politics is based on multiple strategies of consolidating the majoritarian �Hindu vote bank� and targeting the Muslims, whether through the process of discriminatory developmental practices or through elimination in stage-managed fake police encounters that fit into the plan of a larger political conspiracy. Within this framework Modi is an obvious candidate for the job and he has shown his intent by establishing a murderous regime that targets innocent Muslims.
It is therefore supremely important that the fake encounter cases are pursued to their logical conclusion. The evidence yielded by these investigations and cases provide important material for a nationwide political campaign to stop the Modi juggernaut that the BJP is unleashing.