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Updated: July 8, 2013 14:22 IST

Khaki death squads

Darshan Desai
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Extraordinarily, more than a dozen senior police officers in Gujarat are in jail or facing prosecution, in connection with cold-blooded murders dressed up as encounter deaths. Darshan Desai traces the hand of politics in the extrajudicial killings.

At a recent function in the state capital, Gandhinagar, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi warned the Central Bureau of Investigation against becoming a tool in the hands of the Congress-led union government. He asserted: “Modi is not scared of the CBI which has become the Congress Bureau of Investigation. Nobody is going to rule Delhi forever.”

Mr. Modi obviously knew what was coming because a few days later, on July 3, 2013, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed its first charge sheet in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case that went into minute details of how select police officials of the Ahmedabad’s crime branch, led by the then Deputy Inspector General D.G Vanzara, plotted a sinister conspiracy to kidnap and hold in illegal confinement the 19-year-old Mumbai girl and three others before murdering them in cold blood.

Court ordered probe

An important point missed out by the BJP and those critical of the CBI is that the agency is investigating the case not at the instance of the central government but on orders from the Gujarat High Court. Secondly, this is not the only encounter case for which Mr. Modi’s police officials are in the dock. Two other cases have been equally sensational, the triple murder of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, his wife Kauserbi and accomplice Tulsiram Prajapati and the suspected fake encounter of Sadiq Jamal Mehtar.

Mr. Vanzara, who is already in jail for the Sohrabuddin encounter, is also an accused in the Sadiq Jamal case. Mr. Shah, who is an accused in the Sohrabuddin encounter, has been released on bail and has since taken charge as the BJP’s campaign manager in Uttar Pradesh. He is also under investigation in the Sadiq Jamal case.

What raises the suspicion of conspiracy in these cases is the recurrence of the same names in all of them. Mr. Vanzara, in particular, emerges as the lynchpin common to the Ishrat, Sohrabuddin and Sadiq Jamal encounters. Even more curiously, the suspected terrorists in all the cases were said to be on a mission to assassinate Chief Minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leaders.

Senior Intelligence Bureau official Rajinder Kumar’s name figures in the Ishrat Jahan and Sadiq Jamal cases. The CBI’s charge sheet in the Ishrat case suggests that Mr. Kumar was involved in planning and facilitating the conspiracy.

Senior lawyer Mukul Sinha, who has been fighting these as well as several 2002 pogrom cases, says the Gujarat Government used the encounters both to sustain the propaganda that Muslim terrorists were out to kill Mr. Modi to avenge the 2002 violence and to show that the State police would not tolerate this. Mr. Sinha attributes the official complicity in the encounters to the eagerness to please the Chief Minister. “Those officials who refused to toe the line during the 2002 violence were all sidelined.”

Gujarat saw 21 encounter killings between October 2002 and December 2006. As Mr. Sinha remarks, “It is strange that the threats to Mr. Modi stopped after this period.”

Then Director General of Gujarat Police RB Sreekumar said the State government rewarded loyal officers with the choicest placements, post-retirement assignments and other favours and punished those that did not toe the line with sinecure postings, supersession in promotion and disciplinary proceedings.” Mr. Sreekumar, who as a senior intelligence officer reported that Mr. Modi’s speeches in 2002 were incendiary, was himself sidelined.

Top officer victimised

The travails of Inspector-General of Police Satish Verma underscore this point. Mr. Verma, a 1986 batch official, was attached by the Gujarat High Court to the CBI to assist in the Ishrat Jahan investigations. Mr. Verma’s zeal placed him in opposition to the State government which tried its best to detach the officer from the investigations, only to find the court standing rock-like behind him. A Division Bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari gave a tongue-lashing to the Modi government for obstructing the investigation by insisting on Mr. Verma’s return to the state services.

The court told the State’s Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta, “not to get psychologically disturbed” when he asked, “Has the CBI become so insolvent that it cannot work without an officer (Verma)?”

Mr. Verma was shunted out to the Police Training School, Junagadh by the government last year. Yet when he was asked to assist the CBI, the same government pleaded that his services were very critical to its functioning. Mr. Verma challenged his transfer before the Central Administrative Tribunal, contending that it was to hamper the Ishrat Jahan investigations. The tribunal sought an explanation from the government.

Investigations in the Ishrat case have changed several hands. The case was handed over to a SIT comprising IPS officials Pramodkumar, J.K. Bhatt and Mohan Jha. Following their failure to complete the probe, the Gujarat High Court formed another SIT with Mr. Satish Verma and Mr. Jha as members and Karnail Singh of the Delhi Police as the head.

Mr. Singh wriggled out of the SIT saying he had got a posting to Mizoram. Maharashtra official Satyal Singh was called in next but he declined the position saying he did not know Gujarati. Then came Andhra Pradesh’s R. R Rumudu who extricated himself citing health grounds. He was replaced by R.R Verma under whom the SIT described the case as a fake encounter.

However, Mr. R.R Verma also left followed by Mr. Mohan Jha. This left Mr. Satish Verma alone. In December 2011, the High Court asked the CBI to take over the investigations, with Mr. Verma assisting it. The result was a fresh offensive against Mr. Verma and the reopening of a 1993 case against him.

Mr. Vanzara and others, on the other hand, moved about with impunity. A September 2002 report by Mr. Sreekumar to the Police Commissioner accusing Mr. Vanzara of planting illicit firearms on members of the minority community went unheeded. Instead, Mr. Sreekumar found himself transferred out.

Says the now retired police officer, “Had the State government acted on this information and checked Mr. Vanzara, the right message would have gone to the police officers who would have desisted from the extra-judicial killings which have incalculably hurt the Gujarat government.”

*A photo sketch of an official has been deleted to avoid ambiguity in the above report.

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Mr Ravi Bhangaonkar

You make a crude attempt to justify these extra-judicial killings when you write:
No court in India examined the alleged crimes of these victims and determined
that they were terrorists. Nor were they sentenced to death. Yet, people like you
quickly conclude that they were terrorists - probably because they were Muslims -
and hence not worth being given a fair trial.

I fear for the future of Indian democracy when presumably well educated readers
like you justify, support and encourage cold-blooded murder committed by men in
uniform.

from:  V. Suresh
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 14:30 IST

This is a sheer act of cowardice. Police are meant to be the strongest
link in the society and they opt to indulge themselves in such henious
act is a question on ethnicity of our Police Department and Political
System.

from:  Jeet Sanghvi
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 14:11 IST

I just want to ask one simple question to all those pro-Modi brigade. Suppose if police had killed Sadhvi Pragnasingh, Purohit, Asimanand etc in the same way as Ishrat Jahan, would you apply the same logic then and defend the police officers..? Its heartening to see, how double speak has become a way of life for the so called 'educated people'.

from:  vijay
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 13:05 IST

It is really unfortunate that a time has come when some people even
desist to call spade a spade. They have a tainted vision and have
completely lost the humanitarian values. Any crime is always a crime
whether done by ordinary people or people in uniform. In fact, it is
more deplorable if done by latter who are the so called saviors and
protectors.
Therefore, it is time, all the sane people should unite against any
such barbaric and atrocious acts otherwise growing injustice will do
no good to the country but lead to chaos and anarchy.

from:  karan
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 12:56 IST

After every bomb blast,various agencies lament that no action was taken despite the
intelligence warnings.The latest Bodhgaya bombings are also no different.Here is a case
where the intelligence warnings have been acted upon and the people who did that,including
senior officers are behind bars!
The terrorist always has an advantage of striking at will.Detection and neutralizing them is
herculean in itself,but not impossible,as proved by the US.However,here,for a large section
of the mainstream media and politicians,partisan considerations are more important than the
lives of hundreds of victims.
It is most unfortunate that the Hindu does not display even an iota of the vigor targeted at
Modi to call for the disclosure of the anticedants of Ishrat and co.It is shameless on the part
of the central government that they have tried to cover up the reports on terrorists for the
sake of attacking a political opponent.This is a serious crime that amounts to complicity in
terror acts.

from:  Vivekananda Pai
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 09:05 IST

Its really unfortunate if this is true
Otherwise one time these anti-terrorist squads was the best way to handle terrorism.

A counter attack necessity was fullfilled by these squads ... But cases like this unfortunatly unequipped a effective way to control terrorism...

from:  Nikhil Gupta
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 07:56 IST

It is difficult to believe that the Gujarat police will hunt down a
young poor girl and her accomplices without a shred of evidence.Very
sniff of LET is sufficient for the cops to switch gear to battle-wary
ness and involve in action. We cannot forget how we lost our finest
officers in Mumbai once LET icon Ajmal Kasab held the city to
ransom.At times there are mistakes too during such charged atmosphere
due to misinformation.Even George Bush did it in Iraq in the name of
Weapons of Mass Destruction. Who is to try him? Courts must strike
down a position called "ENCOUNTER SPECIALIST" if it desires to
eliminate extra-judicial killings altogether.

from:  Nabarun Dey
Posted on: Jul 8, 2013 at 06:49 IST

It is sickening to see the attitudes of some people who come out to justify murder. We are very voluble about "our" rights, but not so about "their" rights. The minimum right anyone has is the right of life. And once you give the people in uniform, who are supposed to be the upholders of law, the right to murder "them" at their convenience, there is no holding back when they come for "us". We worship murderers in khaki who bump off a couple of petty criminals considered expendable by their masters while giving protection to the real mafia. Does anyone here have the opinion that the majority of police officers in plum postings are honest? We have seen enough proof that be it corruption, murder, rape, collusion with (professional) criminals, manipulation of evidence to let criminals off,acting as goons for the real estate mafia and industrialists, these people are the best. All this vanishes when they strike at "them". I hope we still worship them when they "encounter" one of ours.

from:  Jayadevan
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 23:44 IST

The very fact that we are coolly discussing this matter of Khaki death squads with some even suggesting that such murders should be rewarded, speaks volumes for the degradation of culture or even lack of it after millennia of foreign rule, facilitated no doubt by the fossilization of class division into the execrable caste system. Even the outrage against such state sponsored violence is, one can be sure, circumscribed by knee-jerk fealty to the extended family and caste. Comments supporting Modi and the Gujarat government when evidence of malfeasance is so clear, is merely an extension of this fealty to the extended family and caste, to the Hindu community. Hindu consciousness at such times is solely dependent on "othering" the minority communities, especially the Muslims. Being Indian qua Indian is a figment of the imagination.

from:  Rufus Dsouza
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 22:25 IST

Khaki is the symbol of murder you mean? It is an ill thought way bracketing a whole
profession. What is the point you want to make. Be objective, not jump at verdicts like some
prejudiced activists.

from:  Saathi
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 22:17 IST

@Subhash:
How come you dont know that nearly 100+ 'suspects' of that train buring are in jail for the last 10 years without even getting any bail? what is that you are complaining about? Half knowledge is a boon for some.

from:  haneef
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 21:37 IST

DIG officer has represented a picture of monster in face of protecter...why there were so transfers...why SIT officers made so silly excuses?????

from:  Rahul
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 20:51 IST

This is disgusting. If these guys plant the weapons on their car, it shows their arrogance
which played with human life.

Does any one support to give authority to the policeman to shoot any one based on their
whims? If yes, we do not need justice system and just rely on police only and expect your
turn on the line will come sooner or later.

The one who has power on the hand should think that no matter how intelligent you are, the
justice will take it course if you cross the boundary.

"Arasan andra kolvan and Deivam nindru kollum".

Thanks

from:  Manzil
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 20:26 IST

Hindu should request the CBI, NIA to make separate enquiries as to who put the train at Godhra Station on fire? Give justice to the innocent persons who were burnt alive.

from:  Subhash
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 19:58 IST

@K M Rao:
You really dont know whos behind the samjhauta, malegoan, Mekkabasjid etc blasts? OR just acting deaf&blind. get well soon. jaundice is really dangerous, as it enables to see only one colour.

from:  james
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 16:58 IST

Are we going to act against terrorits proactively? Unfortunately we are living in an era where antisocial elements have a free hand, under the garb of 'rights'. Let us face the reality....its no use protecting terrorists...the rule of law will have any meaning if most of us are following law...Police may have erred, but they are also human...why are we targetting only selectively....The people who have lost their lives, in terrorist attacks, do have rights..and that is criminal violation of those rights. let us keep that in mind....

from:  ravi bhangaonkar
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 16:49 IST

From what is appearing in the media, more than thousand encounters
have taken place all over the country. Is the men in uniform being
used as a bully by the politicians at different levels - centre,
state, district, taluk etc., etc., We are still in doubt about how
Netaji Subash Chandra Bose died, how Mr. Lal Bahadur Sasthri died, to
how thousands of others have died at different levels at different
points of time. Is it time to build a Social Security Force and
replace the British police over the next ten years or so. police is
supposed to be an umpire to see right and wrong. The judiciary is
supposed to be the third umpire. Role clarity is lacking. Corruption
has vitiated the atmosphere further.

from:  Rajan
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 16:14 IST

Do Modi have a word to say ??
Or he is in nook of his secret,z class protected home ??

from:  Hemang
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 13:52 IST

Who is enemy of India ? Terrorist ? Politician ? Police? Govt ? IB ?
CBI? No. The indifferent and silent citizen.

from:  Daeswar
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 13:40 IST

The khaki death squads of the Gujarat police were part of the larger agenda to attract the majority vote through the politics of hate. This pattern was visible during the period 2002 to 2004 and was in danger of engulfing the whole country but sanity was restored when Dr.Singh took over as Prime Minister in 2004.
The upper caste middle class which hail Modi as their saviour secretly admire this politics of hate but mask it by talking of "development" model of Gujarat which is anything but inclusive.
Mr. Modi's "hum panch hamara pachees" style of politics and his friendship with the corporates endear him to this group which will stop at nothing to make this man the Prime Minister, as he represents their "aspirations" to trample the oppressed and minorities and fatten their bank balances.
Viewed against this backdrop, the khaki death squads are just a cog in the wheel of the larger saffron agenda.

from:  C Balachander
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 13:13 IST

Not one or two but three editorials against modi. The Hindu is fast
turning into a venom spewing machine against modi. No longer acting as a
neutral reporting platform it once used to be. Disappointed.

from:  Jiten
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 13:12 IST

Series of Blasts in Hyderabad year after year in which scores of innocent people were killed and maimed and today's blast at Bhodh Gaya provide realistic answer to the questions raised by the author. Safety of innocent general public or rights of suspects who otherwise would have indulged in such heinous crimes - which is more important?

from:  K M Rao
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 12:34 IST

The whole episode is just a replica of a hindi cinema with Modi as villain. Or is it that a cinema-producer gets a ready-made plot for their film? However, in India, the real culprit is rarely punished if he is a VIP like Laloo or Modi or Sibu Soren. Now that the apex court is taking initiative, let us hope the truth come out and the guilty get punished without discrimination.

from:  dipen dutta
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 12:32 IST

Yet another anti-modi article.I'm sorry but unless the paper presents a balanced view and lets both sides speak it starts lacking credibility and erodes its hard-earned reputation.

from:  MJ
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 11:57 IST

What you see here is people arrested but not why. They have been
arrested because of: a) Vendetta from congress. or b) State ensuring
that errant officers are punished.
Moreover, why is this comprised only to Muslim victims? Why is there
no list of HINDUS or SIKHS who have been killed in fake encounters?
What about Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs killed in 1984? Why are those
cases not being reopened? What about the massacre in Assam only a few
months ago?
CBI is also amenable to political pressure. The simple question to CBI
and the COP who is testifying against Modi now: Were you in a slumber
for the last 11 years?
If CBI is honest, then it would put on record the statement given by
David Headley when he stated that Ishrat was an LeT operative. Even if
she was not, she was with other dreaded terrorists at 2:00 and we
don't even know if she shot at the officers. There's always a
collateral damage. Rajiv Gandhi himself said this on his mother's
death "When a big tree falls, earth shakes".

from:  V D Bhattacharya
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 10:28 IST

As per the HRC about 3000 encounters have taken place all over in India
of which about 450 are fake of which only 5 have occurred in Gujarat. So
how about an article on the various fake encounter deaths all over the
Country?

from:  Mohan Menon
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 10:18 IST

Yes,its time truth came and let the country know whom we are to choose and why not
others.The justice delayed is justice denied.A decade plus is too late.

from:  es em eh
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 09:58 IST

The writer is selective and biased. He says Modi obviously knew what
was coming. I ask only Modi knew what was coming? The whole country
knew what was coming with selective leaks in the media on for several
days in advance.In fact what is still to come and would come has also
been leaked to the media. You hype the 2002 Gujarat riots as pogrom
2002 when in fact less than 2000 were killed in Gujarat 2002 as
against more than 5000 in Gujarat riot 1969.Why should the writer
depend on a disgruntled officer like Mr Sreekumar he should go
through the original recordings of Mr Modi's speeches with the
Doordarshan and then conclude independently on the matter.Mr Satish
Verma may have been directed by the Hon'ble court to assist CBI but
at whose request? Was there a request?

from:  Mohan Menon
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 09:48 IST

Police institution still has the colonial characteristic of playing a role of a lackey to the dynasties and fundamentalist groups in India. I do not think that in any state, such “cold-blooded murders” could have been done by the policemen on their own without any consultation of the top political leaders such as Chief Minister and state Home Ministry under which the police department functions. Fake encounters are not unique to the Modi-ruled-Gujarat State alone, but at the same time other states such as Andhra Pradesh are also leading in it. Will the true plotters be ever punished? Will our democratic institutions be free from anti-secular and anti-people elements? Or this Ishrta Jahan Fake encounter case will be used only for gaining political mileage till 2014? Leaders are emboldened by the fact that when there is a government change, they can do many things regarding development of this case. Do they want to contest even after such expose of conspiracy?

from:  A.Kannan
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 08:21 IST

It is political vendetta by the Congress and criminal misuse of CBI. Otherwise why Congress politicians who massacred hundreds of Sikhs openly in day light go scot-free, even after 30years of investigation and a LeT terrorist accomplice's encounter is harped on by the same agency? How the agency withdrawn all cases in BOFORS? CBI is being utterly misused by Congress particularly before elections.

It is high time CBI disbanded and the officers are sent for Anti-Naxal operations in Chattisgarh

from:  Sankar
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 06:50 IST

Fake encounters by Congress CMs like YSR Reddi in AP against Maoists and other states
never caught the attention of media including The Hindu which today alone published 3
'opinions'. This clearly shows what some of the media suffering from Namonitis can do and is
doing to indirectly offer support to ruling party instead of writing unbiased articles. Of course
freedom of expression exists for media but it appears that media is trying to manufacture
public opinion against one party and one individual. Is it that kind of vox populi good for our
democratic India???

from:  MvjRao
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 06:04 IST

Best chance CBI has is in case of Heren Pandya. He was the home minister
of Gujarat and an adversary of Modi. When he was killed, it was
attributed to Muslim Terrorists. Now all those terrorists are fake, CBI
should find if Gujarat police killed Heren Pandya and for what purpose?
at whose behest?

from:  Naveed
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 06:03 IST

It's interesting to see that The Hindu is completely ignoring the fact that Headely told the FBI and NIA that Ishrat was a suicide bomber for LeT.

from:  Sudhanshu Vyas
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 05:03 IST

It is unfortunate that some authors are buying everything at face value what CBI is propagating taking it as the only and conclusive truth. It is an open secret how CBI is like a parrot in a cage of ruling party and how dismal is its record in getting convictions from court of law. But our army of pseudo intellectuals and so called secularists do not want to question CBI.
It is high time we understand that our laws, for that matter any secular democracy's laws, are not designed to deal with the religion or ideology driven terrorism. Terrorism can only be defeated through physical elimination of terrorists. Had India dealt with the Maoists and the Kashmiri separatists with the same ruthlessness as it did in Punjab, people would have been living in peace as they are in today's Punjab. Shun this hollow idealism & get real. India is a sitting duck today and all its enemies are getting emboldened as their proxies are getting indirect support.

from:  Shekhar
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 04:24 IST

It is sickening to see the media's obsession with Modi. In collusion
with the Congress and Left Parties the main stream media has been
trying its level best to vilify and malign one man for the last ten
years.

Ishrat Jahan and co., and Shorabuddin were all terrorists. It does not
bother me that they were killed. In fact it offers some comfort that
the Intelligence agencies and Police are proactive in combating terror
despite the vote bank politics that is being played out at the Center.

KPS Gill was given a Bharat Ratna for his work in Punjab where they
systematically encountered hundreds of Kalisthanis. But here, the
police officers and IB officials are being vilified in this instance
because of their proximity to Gujarat and Modi. No other reason. Where
is the outrage that The Hindu feels in Andhra and UP where there have
been hundreds of so called "fake encounters"? This outrage of The Hindu
is nothing but mis-guided anger/resentment for Modi.

from:  Sri
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 04:00 IST

DIG Vanzara could not have done this on his own, he had the approval and
blessings of Shah and Modi. Modi and Shah are complicit in this murder,
as soon as DGP Pandey is located and interrogated, the freedom of Shah
and Modi will cut short.

from:  Naveed Khan
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 03:21 IST

Day after day tirelessly you are bringing anti-Modi in one way or other so much so that I am getting tired of it. Pls bring some balanced view. I grew up reading this paper and eagerly put this app on my phone as soon as I got it. But you are beginning to disappoint me with same story being put in different angles.

from:  Kiran
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 03:09 IST

The girl was a terrorist and no one is denying that but no one is
telling that also. If their killing were illegal then what about the
killings of Osama bin Laden?
CBI is truly a caged parrot. Let's see how long will it last in the
court.

from:  shekhar
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 01:50 IST

I hope this article reaches out to far out modi fanboys. He's dangerous. That's all there's to it. Investigation will take its due course, politics will play its role but Modi as PM will not just be a disaster for BJP but also very dangerous for the Nation. The man has scary ways to get his way through things. He's not your usual khadi clad neta he's smarter than that but also very narcissist and self involved. He doesn't seek fame or money.. He seeks attention and PR. He'll sign some shady deals for a cover photo on Times magazine.

from:  parth_p
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 01:30 IST

Modi, who was elevated to lead BJP in the next general election, is
strategically beginning his campaign from Bihar where he has a running
battle with erstwhile ally Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
"This is just a drama. Use of high technology makes an effect in urban
areas where there is high literacy ... What difference will it make in
rural areas where majority of population does not have access to TV or
other IT means,"

from:  Varnit Singh
Posted on: Jul 7, 2013 at 01:10 IST
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