The special fast track court, which tried the Naroda-Patiya massacre of the Gujarat 2002 riots case, has rejected the theory that the former State Bajrang Dal president, Babu Bajrangi, removed a foetus from a victim and killed it after “swirling it on the tip of his sword” during the riots.
Special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik, who delivered her voluminous judgment last week, said neither the sole witness who talked about the foetus being taken out — the then 14-year-old brother of the victim, Javed Sheikh — nor a “bragging” to the effect by Babu Bajrangi himself during a sting operation could be relied upon.
Ms. Yagnik said the evidences available before the court proved that Babu Bajrangi did kill the nine-months-pregnant woman Kausarbanu with a sword but that he could not have taken out the foetus. “She was slashed in the stomach with the sword and she died with the foetus in her womb,” the judge said in her verdict. She said neither the witness nor Babu Bajrangi were gynaecologists and would not have been able to remove a foetus, which only experienced persons could do. She said the stomach flesh of the victim may have been mistaken for the foetus.
Babu Bajrangi was known to have been bragging about such an incident during a sting operation conducted by a journalist posing as a researcher. Bajrangi had also named several other co-accused persons as participating in the gruesome massacre, on February 28, 2002 — a day after the Godhra train carnage — in which 97 Muslims were killed.
The court also disagreed with another common myth about the massacre — that the killers had dumped the bodies of the victims in an unused well in the vicinity of Naroda-Patiya. Ms. Yagnik said that though some stray witnesses had referred to the bodies being dumped into a well, nothing had been found on record to prove it.
She pointed out that on a specific complaint, the well was dug up but nothing was found. The police had earlier recovered the bodies of 94 victims from the gutted houses in the Naroda-Patiya locality while no trace was found of three persons who were initially declared “missing” and later declared dead after seven years as per the rules, “but no remains were found from the well.”
The judge was critical about the policing of the area on the fateful day and blamed the “inept and inefficient handling” of the situation by the then Naroda police inspector K.K. Mysorewala for the massacre. Admitting that it was an “elephantine task”, she said the Naroda police seemed to have been “totally inactive” on that day but refused to regard police inefficiency as “criminality.” The court did not feel that the evidences provided by the two compact discs containing the mobile call numbers of some important political leaders and police officers and bureaucrats prepared by a suspended police officer Rahul Sharma were adequate to nail the accused, but set great store by the material provided by the sting operation.
“The extra-judicial confessions have been held to be truthful, voluntary and genuine. It is held to be admissible and relevant, free from every doubt and is safe to act upon,” Ms. Yagnik said.
She said there were “ample corroborations” available from the records of the case to accept the contentions made in the “extra-judicial confessions.”
The court also examined the journalist who had conducted the sting operation..