NATIONAL

CBI records testimonies in Gopalgarh case

Spurred by demands for a “course correction” in the probe into last year’s police firing at the Gopalgarh mosque which claimed 10 lives, a team of the Central Bureau of Investigation has arrived here and recorded the testimony of three Meo Muslim witnesses. The evidence pertained to indiscriminate firing and provocative acts of some Gujjar leaders.

After the Rajasthan Government handed over the probe to the CBI following a public outcry, the investigating agency has arrested 13 persons from both communities without looking into the role of the police. Activists met senior CBI officers in New Delhi on August 22 with the demand for changing the investigating officer, arrest of the guilty police officers and speeding up the probe.

The CBI team, led by Deputy Inspector-General Amit Kumar, summoned the witnesses to the agency’s Jaipur headquarters and recorded their evidence to get information on the sequence of events. The testimony was earlier recorded by the previous investigating officer in Bharatpur.

The witnesses were Imam of Gopalgarh mosque Abdul Rashid, Mandar Khan whose nephew was among the deceased, and Mobeen Khan of Arduka village who was present at the site. The CBI has speeded up investigation after the recent directions of the Rajasthan High Court to complete the probe within three months and submit its report.

Rajasthan Muslim Forum activists accompanied the witnesses to the CBI office in view of unpleasant experience of some Meos who were called to Bharatpur and arrested as accused in the matter. Five Meos are still in judicial custody in connection with the case.

Mr. Abdul Rashid provided details of his assault by some Gujjar youths a day before the firing, while the two other described the firing from ‘Vajra Vaahan’, the armed vehicle of police, and the policemen joining the Gujjar mob which stormed into the mosque and lynched several persons. The policemen later allegedly cemented bullet holes in the mosque during the curfew hours.

Mr. Mandar Khan complained of uneasiness after getting his testimony recorded and was rushed to the Sawai Man Singh Hospital here.

Muslim Forum member Mohammed Hasan, who accompanied the witnesses, said the Meos were scared after their experience with the CBI investigators in Bharatpur district.

A group of Meos led by Parliamentary Secretary and Kaman MLA Zahida Khan met Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot here to raise the issue of CBI investigation which they said was not proceeding in the right direction. The State Government has started distributing financial help of Rs.50,000 each to owners of damaged houses. Prohibitory orders are in force in four tehsil areas of Bharatpur.