Her plea for reinvestigation comes even as Sanjiv Bhatt says Prajapati could have been the murderer

Even as the suspended Gujarat cadre IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, raked up yet another controversy, making a sensational statement about the murder of the former Minister of State for Home, Haren Pandya, the slain leader's wife on Wednesday sought co-operation from Chief Minister Narendra Modi and veteran BJP leader L. K. Advani to “unearth the real culprits.”

Mr. Bhatt claimed that Mr. Pandya could have been murdered by Tulsiram Prajapati. This could be the main reason why he was eliminated in an encounter in December 2006. Mr. Bhatt claimed that when he was superintendent of the Sabarmati central jail in 2004, he was told by the main accused in the Pandya murder case, Asgar Ali, that it was Prajapati who had actually opened fire at the former Minister. . Mr. Bhatt said he had “passed on the information” to the then Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah.

A close associate of another fake encounter victim, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Prajapati was killed in police firing on the Gujarat–Rajasthan border, and the CBI, now investigating the case, also believed it to be a “fake encounter.” More than his being the witness to the Sohrabuddin fake encounter, Prajapati knew the truth behind Pandya's murder and that was why he was eliminated, Mr. Bhatt claimed.

Incidentally, a former close friend of Sohrabuddin, Azam Khan, who hails from Udaipur in Rajasthan, in a statement before the CBI last year, claimed that the fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin and Prajapati had links with Pandya murder. He, however, retracted his statement allegedly under duress from the State police.

Mr. Bhatt, who has been at loggerheads with the Modi government since he filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court attributing anti-minority statements to the Chief Minister during the 2002 communal riots, was suspended from service last month following his failure to report back to his present place of posting in Junagadh as principal of the Police Training College.

Cabinet spokesman and Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas, however, rejected Mr. Bhatt's claims and charged him with dereliction of duty. Had Bhatt known the “truth” behind Pandya's murder, he should have approached the CBI long ago and shared with it his knowledge of the case.

Meanwhile, talking to journalists two days after the Gujarat High Court acquitted all the 12 persons accused of murdering Pandya, his wife made an emotional appeal to Mr. Modi and Mr. Advani to take the initiative to ensure a fresh investigation to uphold her fight for justice.

Ms. Jagrutiben Pandya, however, avoided a direct answer to a question whether she considered that the killing of her husband was a “political murder,” as had been maintained by her late father-in-law, Vithhalbhai Pandya. She said she did not rule out any possibility but “unless the real culprits are arrested, how will one infer whether it was a political murder?”

“In light of the High Court judgment, it is clear that the real killers are still out. I have been struggling for justice for the past eight years, and I appeal [to] Mr. Modi and Mr. Advani to lead the quest for justice,” she said.

Asked about Mr. Bhatt's claim that Prajapati was the real killer, Ms. Pandya said she had no such information and declined to make any comment.

She said she considered the BJP her family, and bringing out the truth behind her husband's murder would be reassuring not only to her and her immediate family but also to the people of Gujarat about delivery of justice in the State.

Ms. Pandya said that even before the High Court judgment she had expressed doubts about the direction of the CBI probe and, in a letter to Mr. Modi last year, requested “re-investigation.” She, however, did not get any reply but now, after the verdict, hoped that “Mr. Modi will take the initiative for a re-investigation.”

In response to her appeal, Mr. Vyas claimed that the CBI investigation was in the right direction and that the real culprits were nailed, but due to some “technical reasons” they were acquitted. “The State government expected the CBI to approach the Supreme Court against the High Court's order and ensure maximum punishment to the culprits,” he reiterated.