CBI shocker to intel officer who holds key to 4 fake encounters


Gujarat EDN

AM  30MAY2013

Summons to IB officer Rajinder Kumar not only gives a spin to state’s fake encounter cases but also the unsolved Haren Pandya murder case

Ahmedabad Mirror Bureau amfeedback@timesgroup.in

The summons issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to Intelligence Bureau chief Rajinder Kumar will not only give a spin to fake enounters in the state but may shed light on the controversial and unsolved Haren Pandya murder case. Kumar was the only person that time with the Central IB to give to Gujarat cops in-puts of possible terror attacks.
Kumar, who was posted in Gujarat in the past, is believed to have played a dubious role during Godhra riots and even in the assassination case of former minister Haren Pandya by providing misleading and, at times, fabricated intelligence inputs. Mirror reported last year that the CBI was keen to investigate if IB inputs were specially generated at the Centre for Gujarat and if they were fabricated to assist Gujarat cops in their fake encounter mission. Incidentally,
it was Kumar who passed the leads
from central IB to state police for
almost all the encounters that took place between 2002 and 2007 in the state. At least four of them have proved to be staged killings.
After a lull following prolonged legal battles, the CBI is back to rat-tle Narendra Modi government over the several fake encounters that were staged by the trigger-happy Gujarat police to please their political bosses. The state government was initially rattled with the CBI failing to file a charge sheet in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case against suspended IPS officer G L Singhal and others and now the agency has issued summons to Kumar who gave constant inputs from the central IB to Gujarat cops.
EX-DGP SREEKUMAR ON IB OFFICER
On March 26, 2003, Pandya was assassinated and his father Vithalbhai Pandya said that it was a “a political murder”. Incidentally, Modi had ordered tapping of Pandya’s telephone, sources said. Subsequent development showed that it was not the only time that the CM had ordered tapping of senior politicians’ phone, they added. At a meeting on April 16, 2002, Modi told retired DGP R B Sreekumar that Congress leaders, in particular Shankersinh Vaghela, were responsible for the continuing communal violence in the state. Sreekumar told Modi that he had no information on their involvement in the communal violence. At this, Modi asked him to tap Vaghela’s phone but Sreekumar refused, saying he had no information on the basis of which he could order surveillance.
Interestingly, two days later, Kumar, then posted in Ahmedabad as IB joint director, sold the same line to Sreekumar. When Sreekumar sought specific information, the IB man said he had none. The IB had been one of the few claiming the Godhra incident was a ‘pre-planned conspiracy’. It is still not clear how the IB was able to reach this conclusion within hours of the incident and questions have been raised on Kumar’s proximity to Modi.
Kumar also floated the theory that theGodhracarnagewasanISIconspiracy. This was done within hours of S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express catching fire near Godhra station killing 59 passengers on February 27, 2002. This has also been told to the Supreme Courtmandated SIT on may 9, 2008 by retired DGP R B Sreekumar.
Sources said as the chief of central IB in a state, he was expected to share his actionable intelligence with the DGPoratbestwiththecommissioners ofpolice.But,Kumarusedtofrequently visit Ahmedabad Crime Branch office at Gaekwad Haveli to meet D G Vanzara, who was its then chief.
MODI AND KUMAR
It is said that Kumar became close to Modi when the former was posted in Chandigarh. Modi at that time was BJP’s Punjab in-charge.
Sources said the modus operandi of Gujarat police was to first detain a person illegally and then get inputs from the central IB of a likely terror attack.
A selected coterie of Gujarat police officers close to those in power would bump off “dreaded terrorists on a mission to assassinate top BJP leaders, mainly Chief Minister Narendra Modi”. Investigations later proved that those eliminated were either petty criminals or innocent people labelled as terrorists by Gujarat police.
Interestingly, intelligence inputs givenbyKumartothestatepolicecontradicted the two previous IB inputs issued in the same case. Not just that, a charge sheet filed by Gujarat police in a lesser-known case of gambling against Sadiq Jamal also exposed the lie of Gujarat police and provided evidence that the encounter was staged. Forensic reports and the testimony of an IB officer substantiated the claim that Sadiq was killed in a fake encounter.
15 DAYS TO RETIRE
Reliable sources in Delhi said that Kumar was highly influential in IB and the summons have been issued as he could be a part of the conspiracy. Kumar has been asked to remain present on Friday at 11 am at CBI headquarters in New Delhi. CBI Director Ranjit Sinha and Special Director Salim Ali will interrogate him. The summons have been issued when only 15 days are left for his retirement.
NOT A TERRORIST ATTACK
Sources said if a terrorist attack happens or is about to happen, the Army personnel in that particular region investigateontheirown.InPandyacase, Army did not go ahead with the investigationwhenitrealisedthatitwasnot aterrorist attack but a political matter. Also, the Army, state IB and central IB work parallel and share information. However, in Pandya’s case, that did not happen.
A source said, “After the investigation of Pandya’s murder was transferredtoCBI,ateamwasconstitutedin the crime branch to assist in arresting the accused in cohesion with Kumar. ItwasthenrevealedthatIPSofficerAbhay Chudasama was specially inducted in the team. A series of happenings in Gujarat in the last few years has revealed the involvement of former minister Amit Shah, Vanzara and Chudasama in foisting false cases and propagatingatheoryconducivetothe powers-that-be. The Sohrabuddin case has shown the extent to which a minister in Modi government, with the help of two police officers, can go to eliminate innocent woman Kauserbi and liquidated prime witness Tulsi Prajapati. These happenings cannot be ignored.”
SADIQ JAMAL ENCOUNTER CASE
The killing of Sadiq Jamal is one of the caseswhichwillbrewtroubleforGujarat police. Jamal was killed in a police encounter on January 13 in 2003 near Galaxy Cinema in Naroda. As many as 17policeofficersarefacingallegations of hatching the conspiracy to eliminate Jamal.
Interestingly, Gujarat police cited a similar reason for eliminating Samir Khan Pathan, Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh and Sohrabuddin Sheikh. The CBI investigations have found serious lacunae in Gujarat CID (crime) probe in this case. Intelligence inputs given at that time by Kumar also bear discrepancies.
Incidentally, Kumar’s name is also mentioned in the FIR filed by Sadik’s brother Shabbir Jamal. Kumar’s name has also been referred to in the statement of Anupamsingh Gehlot, the then Bhavnagar district superintendent of police who said that Kumar had informed him about Jamal.
ISHRAT ENCOUNTER
Ishrat Jahan, a college student from Mumbra along with Javed alias Pranesh Pillai and two Pakistanis Amjad AliRanaandZeeshanJoharwerekilled in a fake encounter at Hansol on June 15, 2004. Over 21 police officers, including K R Kaushik, P P Pandey, D G Vanzara, G L Singhal, N K Amin, K M Vaghela, J G Parmar, V D Vanar, S B Agravat, D H Goswami, R I Patel, D A Chavda, Tarun Barot, K S Desai, Ibrahim Kalubhai Chauhan, Mohanbhai Lalubhai Kalasva, Mukesh Vyas, Nizamuddin Barhanmiya, Anaju Ziman ChaudharyanddriversBhalabhaiand Mohanbhai Nanjirao have been named in the case. But CBI investigations now may lead to some more names. Gujarat cops killed 19-yearold Ishrat saying she was an LeT terrorist on a mission to kill Modi along with other BJP and VHP leaders. They said they killed her on basis on intelligence received from the Centre. The CBI has not only found discrepancies in versionsofallstateofficersinvolvedbutit is even examining the role played by a senior central IB officer in this case.
FALSE ALERT?
JUNE 15, 2004
Ishrat Jahan fake encounter. Kumar gave an input that two Pakistanis along with Ishrat and Pranesh Pillai planned to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other politicians.
JANUARY 13, 2003
Sadiq Jamal encounter. Kumar gave an input that Sadiq travelling from Dubai had planned to kill Modi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia
JUNE 23, 2003
Ganesh Khute encounter. Kumar gave an input that two people coming to Mumbai plan to kill BJP minister Ashok Bhatt and others.
MARCH 17, 2006
Vatva Ganga row house. Kumar gave an input that a few people are into illegal activities and plan to kill top politician of Gujarat (four people were shot in encounter).

Narendra Modi – Caesar can do no wrong


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread


By Badri Raina

 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

 

 

After his triumph in Karnataka where he thundered in four electoral constituencies, losing all four to the Congress whom it seems his fulminations did not persuade the crowds to “hate” enough, Narendra Damodar Modi found more  accolades  awaiting him at home in Gandhinagar,  where he is used to being  Caesar,  for his customary good governance.  Good governance that began in early  2002 with the decisive quelling of the uppity Gujarati Muslims, yielding a decade of funereal  peace and quiet conducive to profit maximization.

A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court has had the gumption to accuse his government of “shielding, protecting, and siding with police officials” arraigned in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter killing.

At a time when stories of  executive interference in the investigative workings of the  Central Bureau of Investigation are the flavour of the electronic channels, justices Jayant Patel and Abhilasha Kumari observed  how the Special Investigation Team had earlier alleged interference on the part of the State, while the CBI report left no doubt that the State government was shielding the accused cops  (see The Hindu, May 11).  Just to remind ourselves that, apart from being Caesar, Modi is also the Home minister of the state, and has been so from day one.

Poor CBI has recently been driven to issuing  an arrest warrant against Additional Director General of Police, P.P. Pandey—no less—who seems to have gone missing with the benign connivance of the government in Gujarat, a circumstance rather reminiscent of the many months through which the convicted and sentenced Babu Bajrangi was shielded and hidden away  under the aegis of Caesar himself as per Bajrangi’s confessions  on the Tehelka  Sting tapes.  One has of course lost count of the number of similarly high-ranking police officers similarly accused in other fake encounter killings  who are cooling their heels in the slammer—all, no doubt,  testimony to the proverbial good governance of Narendra Modi.  Ask an Adani, or an Ambani, or a Tata, and they would tell you how all these underside happenings are of little account so long as good   governance keeps extending to unimpeded freebies and bonanzaz for them in the supreme  “national interest.”  Indeed the latest to join that chorus is the redoubtable  icon of entrepreneurial success and probity, Shri  Narayanmurthi. It seems the shining roads of Ahmedabad have done it for him.

Then there is the case of the senior IPS officer, Satish Verma, who was a member of the SIT in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter  case,  and the first to call the killing a cold blooded murder.  While the Court had instructed the CBI to continue to avail of the services of Satish Verma inorder to nab the other accused, the State government sought his services elsewhere in  habitual deflection of Court  orders.

In the meanwhile, news comes that the judicial magistrate who had been hearing Zakia Jaffri’s  Protest Petition on a day to day basis has been transferred after a week or so into the hearings. Just to recall that the Protest Petition challenges the conclusions drawn by the Raghavan-led  SIT whom the Supreme Court had appointed to enquire into the Gulberg massacre case.     The challenge, which is based on hitherto concealed evidence comprising call records and case diaries pertaining to the fateful days—Feb.,27 to March 1, 2002—demonstrates, for those who care to see, both the complicity of the Gujarat government at the highest level in the killings, and the failure or unwillingness of the SIT to admit such evidence and draw the inferences it should have drawn, although the amicus curiae in the case, also appointed by the Supreme Court,  was to independently hold that the evidence already recorded by the SIT was sufficient to warrant the filing of charges against Modi. Indeed the Supreme Court itself had been askance at the inexplicable divergence between the SIT’s  recorded evidence and its exoneratory  conclusions with respect to Modi.

It is not clear at the time of writing as to who might have been the authority that has  ordered the transfer of the magistrate in the case, the Hight Court or the Government.  If the former, it is regrettable that the honourable court should not have considered  the delay, perhaps an inordinate one, that will not but be caused in the disposal of the Petition, since a new incumbent cannot but take a great deal of time to master the details of the SIT report, and the more than a thousand pages of text and audio-visual evidence annexed thereof  challenging the exonerative conclusions by the SIT.  If, on the other hand, the transferring authority in the case has been the Gujarat government, what could be a greater giveaway of how, true to pattern,  it intends to thwart consideration  of the Protest Petition, since its admittance would lead directly to the filing of charges against  the accused listed by  the Petitioner, at the head of which list happens to be Narendra Modi.

A further piece of news concerns Shri Gulab Chand Kataria, an erstwhile minister and bigwig in the Rajasthan BJP, who has been now charge -sheeted for complicity in the Sohrabuddin  fake encounter murder.  The  BJP top brass sees this to be a sinister conspiracy on behalf of the Congress party which it accuses of using the CBI in the matter with the ulterior purpose of going after Modi.  Poor CBI, it can do nothing right, except when it aids and abets the BJP in its difficult times.  Sterling example:  the murder of Modi’s  cabinet colleague, the late Haren Pandya was generally recognized for what it was—a supari killing to eliminate the prospect of Pandya  testifying openly  to what had transpired at the meeting Modi held with his sartraps on the late evening of February, 27, 2002.  Recall that he had actually confided to the Citizens’s Enquiry Panel that Modi had issued instructions to his police not to thwart the vendetta on behalf of Hindus that was sure to happen the next day during the VHP  bandh call which was supported by the BJP. The investigation in the matter was passed on to the CBI by the then Home Minister of India, L.K. Advani, and, lo and behold, the CBI quickly concluded the murder to have been the work of “jehadi elements”.  Interestingly, all the accused were  freed as innocent victims by the Court, and the real killers were never investigated or caught.  The BJP and the then NDA government at the centre tom -tommed this finding of the CBI as exemplary proof of the disinformation against Modi.  And yet, the same CBI’s  case against Gulab Chand Kataria is a priori being propagandized by the BJP top brass as a case of proven vendetta.  Just to note: from all available independent sources that have thus far gone into the Sohrabuddin killing, as well as the subsequent murders of his wife, Kausar Bi, and the only witness to the events, Tulsi Ram Prajapati, the CBI may indeed have an open and shut case against both Kataria and Amit Shah, the latter  erstwhile Minister of State for Home affairs under Modi at the time, and already charged.

However you look at it,  there continues to be an exonerative Teflon all over Narendra Modi; no matter what sorts of facts keep emerging about his reign in Gujarat, no screaming, holier-than-everybody  television anchor, not to speak of his own party people who never fail to point fingers every second of every day, and may I add with dismay, some noted mainline Dailies, may persuade  themselves   to think one bad thought about Modi.

The fact may be that, notwithstanding their  routine imprecations on behalf of democracy and the rule of law, most corporates who own these channels, and who fund the print media,  and the elites who cotton to them with gusto are all at bottom looking for the great dictator to arrive in  the blazing purity of saffron, willing to set the country right through  edicts in the  superman style.

When the American Constitutional regime was being considered, one of the central contentions was whether the new world should opt for a government of men or  laws.  As is well known, the chips fell in favour of laws, since the good book taught, and teaches, that all  humankind is depraved because of the “original” transgression of Adam and Eve.

It seems that here in India where in Hindu thought depravity is never a serious matter, and never  unmanageable at any rate, our forward-looking generation now pines for the  rule by one man who may, if he so wishes, be a law unto himself.

Currently, no Indian demogauge fits that requirement more than Modi.  Thus the Teflon and the immunity in elite perception.

___________________________________________________________________

Badri Raina,

 

Narendra Modi Attacks His Henchmen-Chanakya and Machiavelli Rolled into One



By Badri Raina

Friday, April 19, 2013
Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page
MODI1
Epigraph                               I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself

And falls on th’other—

(Macbeth, I,vii)
“Intent” you will see is the horse that Macbeth wishes to ride to the glory of the Scottish throne.  And the only spur he has to race that horse is his “ambition. “ Wretchedly, he recognizes this to be a “vaulting” ambition, and as in gymnastics, the momentum of intent in the athelete carries the gymnast past the vault to fall on the other side.  Such Macbeth acknowledges to himself to be the force of his wanting, one inherently slated to “overleap” into disaster.

I have from very early on sought  in the career of Macbeth a prescient type of the modern day fascist imagination, and sought to draw lessons from  Shakespeare’s exploration  for our understanding of our own Narendra Modi phenomenon.

In one word, these are demonstrations of unmitigated self-regard that assumes to itself the right to trample the world to the pulpit of absolutism, sustained by a Dionysian/Nietzschean drive to the high morality of denying the powerless the right to exist at all.  And getting to that goal  without being hostage to any loyalty, if such loyalty thwarts the attainment. Thus, if Dionysus and Nietzsche define the goal—be thou the superman, and let women, the chosen ones, be the begetters of supermen, and eliminate all the rest—Chanakya and Machiavelli, bringing the East and West together, show the ways to the goal.

How else may one explain the stunning news now coming out of Gandhinagar, capital of Gujarat, to wit that he government there (read Modi) means to approach the courts for enhancement of the life sentences of Maya Ben Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi—two of  Modi’s most blindly devoted action hands (recalling the murderers who are shown in such intimacy with Macbeth?)—to death sentences.

You have to do nothing more than resurrect the Tehelka Sting Operation Report (see Tehelka online for august 29, 2012 and September, 08, 2012 for all the self-confessed details by Babu Bajrangi of his intimacy with Modi through the days of the Gujarat carnage—“Narendra Bhai nahi hote  na to hum log bahar hi nahi nikaltee” (had narendra modi not been behind us we could not ventured out to the  killings at all, referring here to the Naroda Patiya massacre of some ninety or more muslims where Bajrangi and Kodnani were found to be the chief butchers).”

Further, in translation, “it was only because of him (Modi)…otherwise who would have dared…it is all his handiwork…for if he gave instructions to police, they would have screwed our happiness.”  Again “but for Modi, neither Patia nor Gulberg  (where one of the victims sent to brutal wrack was a congress party member of parliament, Ehsan Jaffri, incidentally a fine scholar of Sanskrit literature, among other things, and whose devastated widow, Zakia Jaffri has now filed a Protest Petition in the local court contesting the conclusions drawn by the Supreme Court– appointed Special Investigation Team—SIT—headed by an erstwhile head of the country’s premier investigating agency, the CBI  on the basis of new evidence of wireless messages and call details of frantic efforts by policemen on the ground on feb.,27 and 28 to persuade their superiors of the carnage that was already underway but denied by Modi’s chief law enforcement officers, barring some outstanding ones who later were to pay for their loyalty to their oath of duty.

It will be recalled that one of Modi’s ministerial colleagues, late Haren Pandya, had testified secretly to a civil society instituted panel of enquiry comprising three outstanding judges of the higher courts to the effect that Modi had, allegedly, at a meeting on the 27th with his core team of loyalists decreed a no action and hindrance course to be  followed the next day when the VHP -called and BJP- supported  Bandh call was to be implemented.  Pandya was found out and killed shortly after.  More recently, Sanjiv Bhat, an IPS officer, at one time close to Modi, has testified that he was actually present at that crucial meeting, corroborating what the late Pandya had said.  He was suspended, then subjected to multiple legal harassments, like some of the other upright officers, like Rahul Sharma, who had stood up for the right and proper.

Meanwhile, Bajrangi, in that Tehelka Sting confession was to go on to laud his mentor Modi for stage-managing his arrest after he had been absconding for four months, and to say how “Modi manipulated the Gujarat judiciary to get him bailed out.”  (The SIT took no cognizance of these confessions.  Also to underline that the Supreme Court in its remarks on the SIT closure report which thought there was no prosecutable evidence againt Modi  had averred trenchantly that the SIT’s  findings and conclusions seemed at complete loggerheads, which is the reason that the Supreme Court  ordered the separate report filed by the Court’s Amicus, a highly reputed senior advocate who opined that Modi infact could be prosecuted on the SIT’s findings such as they were  to be made part of the record and passed on to the complainant.

Maya Ben Kodnani  was only a member of the state assembly when the Narodia Patia massacre happened under her gleeful watch and direction.  And ah, so dear to Modi that she was subsequently inducted into his cabinet of ministers!

Babu Bajrangi was sentenced to full life in prison, and Kodnani to 28years in the slammer, where they cool their heels as we speak.

Think of the background above, and imagine that the same Modi should now be seeking enhancement of their sentences to death.  “O brave new world that hath such creatures in it.” (Tempest)

A flurry of speculation is now underway, and much of it germane.  That on the seeming threshold of a call to leap to the centre of India’s political control come the next hustings in 2014, this is Macbeth-Modi’s way of saying what  a secularist he is after all, with justice for the minority Muslims dearest to his heart.  Catch: why now? And why in relation to two of his most devoted hatchet loyalists?

Here is what seems most likely to be the motivation:  the Protest Petition filed by Zakaia Jaffri ,  replete with damning evidence that the Gujarat government had hitherto claimed to have been destroyed, and much of which the SIT had concealed, refusing to hand over all its papers to the complaining widow until directed by the Supreme Court to do so with rectitude and promptness, is due to come up in the local Gujarat court on April 24.  News of the Gujarat government’s intent to seek enhancement of sentence on Bajrangi and Kodnani came a day after the filing of the Protest Petition, long after time lawfully allowed for such revisions of sentence  to  be sought.

This may well be the onset of the last act of Macbeth:  should the court in Gujarat, in view of the new evidence of damining complicity adduced in the Petition, take cognizance of the materials now before it, the only recourse for it may be to order the framing of charges against the 59 accused named by the complainant, Zakia Jaffri.  And the first accused in that list is Narendra Modi.

Time therefore to argue before the court that a chief minister who is seeking enhancement of sentence on two  convicted colleagues who had been as close to him as all the background etched above suggests, regardless of being staunch Hindutva votaries and cuthroats, could hardly have been guilty of complicity in the massacre of Muslims in the first place, could he?

Desperate times, desperate remedies, decreed both Chanakya and Machiavelli as courses to undertake by the one who would be Prince.

It is a sort of throw of the dice that we see increasingly happen towards the denoument in Macbeth.  Already a chorus of disapproval of Modi’s  “vaulting ambition” to be prime minister, at least prime ministerial candidate of his party which he thinks little of anyway and has decimated in his own state, grows louder not only among some of BJP’s chief and oldest allies, but within the BJP itself.

The engineered hype around Modi—engineered chiefly by India’s corporate electronic  channels on the chamber music swell of India’s new urban elites, all of whom see this now as the moment to dismantle the Weimar republic; enough of democracy, bring in the war-mongering superman—thus is now at woeful loggerheads with Modi’s  increasingly rougher truck and likely upcommance with the law, and  with the factually limited expanse of his acceptability among the polity at large, about eighty percent of which exists outside the worlds of the social media, and is devoted to imperatives that have little to gain from fascist consolidation.

Simmering, and not so simmering, speculation is also under way since this news has come of how this seeking of enhancement of sentence on Bajrangi and Kodnani may play among the hard core cadre Hindutva support for Modi, within and outside Gujarat.

It may not be anymore such a well-kept secret that Modi’s  consecutive successes at the husting s n Gujarat have had little to do with claims of “development’, real or propagated—the stuffing of these claims has lately been taken out with calculated invocation of facts country wide, and Gujarat has been found to be  lagging in the ranks, be it in GDP growth, per capita income, or FDI inflows, not to speak of its abysmal  record on malnutrition, gender ratio, anaemia among lactating women, and now a fatal lack of water accessibility to vast stretches of the state  from whence tales of horrendous suffering arrive everyday—but with the silent fact that he is credited with having achieved that which even the RSS and other strident sartraps of the Hindutva tradition  never did achieve, namely, subjugating, then relegating, Gujarat’s  Muslims with ruthless intent, and without fear, regret, or rethink, refusing for example to wear the Muslim skull cap offered him at  his  socalled  “sadhbhavna” (harmony/reconciliation meet), and generally having sought with firm resolve to turn Gujarat into the sort of Hindutva land that the RSS chief, Golwalker, had envisioned in his 1938 book, Bunch of Thoughts, in which a whole chapter is titled  “Enemy number one” namely, the Muslims.

Given that context, it is more than likely that Modi’s  move to have Bajrangi  and Kodnani sent to the gallows may cause the deepest  shock of recognition and heartburn among his Hindutva cadres.  To think now that this man could, for his “vaulting ambition” think nothing of dispatching  his dear old loyalists as so often so  eloquently is done by the successful  individualists of the Shakespearean Renaissance.  This will be galling indeed, and cannot but have decisive electoral fallouts.

There may also be some truth to the speculation that Modi may have inkling that Bajrangi and Kodnani may spill some further beans on their own behalf.  What better course than to project them now as unbecoming of earthly existence altogether.

Among these dark happenings, though, is the sterling light that shines from the corner opposed to Modi in these legal wrangles.  They, all human rights activists at heart, have said they oppose the death penalty and, oppose it even if it be a Bajrangi or a Kodnani.  Halelujah!  You show the way.

Clearly  the days ahead will be full of interest.  The local court in Gujarat due to begin hearing the Protest Petition on April 24 means to carry on a day to day basis.  Thus its determination of the new evidence and its decision should not take long in coming.

Whichever way that goes, there will no doubt be fresh appeals all the way again to  the apex court.  But should the lower court seek to frame charges, a sea change cannot but happen  both in the Modi saga and in the larger politics of Hindutva that  has been so strident since 2002, and hand-in-glove, one might note with market fundamentalism and India’s  affluenet diaspora in the West.

Fingers crossed.  May justice not only prevail but be seen to prevail.

 

LIFE and death of Ghulam Yazdani


In this opaque netherland of terrorism-counter terrorism, it is not just loyalties that change sides, but entire sides overturn and mirror each other in grotesque ways. The good guys battling the evil ones is a fantasy manufactured by think-tanks and the ‘experts’ industry 

Manisha Sethi Delhi 

There are two ways to recreate the short life of Ghulam Yazdani, or Naveed, as he was called at home. The first relies on Intelligence Bureau (IB) dossiers, interrogation reports and news reports in the media based on the first two. In this narrative, Yazdani appears as an engineering student who turned to a life of terrorism and met his ‘well-deserved’ end at the hands of the police in 2006. A native of Nalgonda, Yazdani was said to have been among the 14 men from Andhra Pradesh (AP) who were recruited to be trained by the Lashkar in Pakistan after the Gujarat killings in 2002. The alleged mastermind of Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar Saibaba temple blast in 2002, the Haren Pandya murder in Ahmedabad in 2003, the suicide attack on the STF headquarters in Hyderabad in 2005, and the bombing of the Delhi-Patna Shramjeevi Express at Jaunpur in 2005, Yazdani quickly rose to head the Lashkar’s South India operations and was among the most wanted men on the AP police list. He had also allegedly hatched a plan to blow up a Ganesh temple near Secunderabad railway station.(1)

And then, there is a more complex plot.

Leave, for the moment, these secret documents and look at the court records. In late 1999, Manik Prabhu Medical Stores, Hyderabad, owned by an RSS worker, witnessed a shootout, leaving the owner’s brother, Devender, dead. An FIR was lodged in the Saidabad police station.(2) The New Year brought the Task Force to Yazdani’s house. He was taken away but not produced before a magistrate. Precisely a month after Yazdani had disappeared, he was formally arrested by the Saidabad police.

The investigation was transferred to the CID in the month of May. The new agency booked a completely different set of accused; among them was Syed Maqbool, recently in the limelight for apparently revealing that Dilsukhnagar was on the hit-list of terrorists.

In the period when Yazdani was in the custody of the Task Force, two more cases were slapped against him. In the first, which was also transferred to the CID, Yazdani was charged with conspiracy and waging war against the nation; in the second, lodged just a day before he was produced in court, the police showed recovery of detonators and pistols, and booked him under the Arms Act and Explosive Substances Act.(3)

Released on bail, Yazdani was ultimately discharged from the Devender murder case and acquitted in the other two cases.

It is not clear how Yazdani came to be called the architect of the Pandya murder, but in circles whose denizens go by the label of ‘security experts’, this has become an article of faith. Yazdani, in fact, is not named an accused in the Pandya murder case.

 We do not know what he did in those intervening years. How he lived, where he lived. We will never know perhaps 

In the years closely following the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the cult of the Hinduhridaysamrat was being crafted. The numerous conspiracies directed against Narendra Modi were crucial in fashioning the principal Hindutva icon and cementing the loyalties of his followers.

This was the period when the police and investigating agencies in Gujarat claimed to have foiled a series of potential assassination attempts on Modi by liquidating ‘terrorists’.(4) Most of them are turning out to be fake encounters, with several of Modi’s top cops currently in jail, or under scrutiny. Registration of POTA cases also surged: all those booked under POTA were Muslims accused of either plotting to kill BJP leaders or conspiring to terrorize Hindus of Gujarat.(5)

The most gargantuan of these was the Gujarat ISI Conspiracy Case, more popularly known as the ‘DCB 6’ case, registered in April 2003, a month after Pandya was killed. It had a mammoth list of over 80 accused — a list which kept swelling well after the chargesheets had been filed, and POTA had been repealed.(6)

Yazdani was at home when the news of ‘Hyderabad boys’ being herded to Gujarat in the DCB 6 case started appearing. Similar conspiracy cases were filed in Andhra against all those implicated in the DCB 6 case. Two cases in Nalgonda district were registered against Yazdani where he was declared ‘absconding accused’.(7) One evening, Yazdani did not return home. About 15 days later, his father, old Ghulam Mustafa, received a call from him. Yazdani said he had fled to escape being ensnared in another case again. He refused to divulge his location for fear that he would be arrested.

“I never saw my brother after that,” Ghulam Rabbani tells me over the phone. “We only saw his dead body.”

We do not know what he did in those intervening years. How he lived, where he lived. We will never know perhaps.

Intelligence reports say he rose to prominence in the Lashkar ranks, planning, for example, the suicide attack on the Special Task Force (STF) headquarters in Hyderabad. Did he?

A man with backpack walked into the deserted STF headquarters — Dussehra eve had kept most STF personnel away from office — and blew himself up. His severed head and torso were recovered from outside the office. How he was identified as Mohtasin Bilal, a Bangladeshi national, carrying out the HUJI-B’s first such operation,(8) is itself interesting.From the charred debris of this human bomb, investigators recovered a suicide note(9), and a rubber slipper with a tell-all price tag that read ‘Taka 100’.(10) These clues, salvaged extraordinarily from the burnt body, disclosed to the investigators his identity!

“Two and half month’s later, on December 27, 2005,” we learn that “three HuJI-B militants involved in the Hyderabad attack were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police.”(11)Less than two weeks later, Deputy National Security Adviser (NSA) Vijay Nambiar and National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) Additional Secretary SD Pradhan met US Deputy Chief of Mission in Delhi Robert Blake to “pledge to seek the NSA’s approval for greater intelligence sharing on terrorism threats within India”. The discussion fixated on terror threats in the South.

It is not clear how Yazdani was branded the architect of Haren Pandya’s murder, but in circles of ‘security experts’, this has become an article of faith. Yazdani, in fact, is not named an accused in the Pandya murder case

Blake, in his confidential cable dispatch that day, wrote: “Pradhan also noted that the terrorists themselves are different and more adaptable. For example, ‘Arshad,’ who was arrested on December 18 in connection with the October 12 suicide attack on the Hyderabad Police Special Task Force office, ‘was a police informer who benefited from a police security escort’.”(12)

Interrogation reports made their way into expert commentary and created ‘mounting evidence’ of Yazdani’s guilt:

“Previously in August 2005, police had arrested Mohammad Ibrahim, a resident of Hyderabad, who revealed details of his travels in Bangladesh in 2004, his meetings with Ghulam Yazdani, the person involved in the Pandya murder in Gujarat on March 23, 2003, and his encounters with several HuJI terrorists from India and Pakistan. Four months before his arrest, in April 2005, Ibrahim had been sent to Karachi on a Bangladeshi passport, from where he was taken to an ISI camp in Balochistan.”(13)

Ibrahim had been arrested on charges of conspiracy and sedition.(14) In November 2005, Yazdani’s brother, then a first-year student of MCA at Osmania University PG College at Saidabad, was arrested in the case and charged with financially supporting Ibrahim in his terrorist activities.

He learnt later that he had been declared ‘absconder’ even as he was attending classes at his college.
In 2009, the First Additional Metropolitan Magistrate acquitted both Ibrahim and Yazdani’s brother of all charges
, as the prosecution could bring forth no evidence to substantiate the charges.(15) Meanwhile, however, Ghulam Rabbani’s arrest — added to the legend of the ‘dreaded absconder’ Yazdani.(16)

Yazdani’s father’s impassioned plea to his son to return home in January 2006, at the office of the then ACP, Rajiv Trivedi, was widely reported in the press. The following month, Ghulam Mustafa received a call from Trivedi. He enquired about Yazdani’s physical features and identification marks, and very specifically, if he spoke haltingly. When Mustafa confirmed this, he was advised to forget about Yazdani and focus on the other sons. Trivedi’s words, says the family, appeared ominous to them even then.

Yazdani’s brother learnt later that he had been declared ‘absconder’ even as he was attending classes at his college

On the evening of March 7, three bombs exploded in Varanasi. The next morning, news agencies flashed the encounter killing of Yazdani and another man at the hands of the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. Lashkar terrorists had been gunned down in the early hours of the morning in Bawana, the last outpost of Delhi.(17)

This is how a Delhi Police press release announcing gallantry awards for the architect of the encounter — and the hero of the current Liyaqat Ali Shah arrest(18) — described the encounter:

“Information was received that 2 Let militants namely Ghulam Yezdani and Kajol would be arriving at Alipur Narela Road, Holambi Kalan T Point on 8.3.06. Police team headed by ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav along with Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma reached Alipur Narela Road and took positions at the strategic points. When terrorists reached the spot, ACP Sanjeev Yadav and Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma disclosed the identity of the police team and asked the militants to surrender. Both the militants were later on identified as Ghulam Yazdani @ Naved … Ahsan Ullah Hasan @ Kabab Mohd @ Shahbaz Mohd @ SajidMehmood @ Shumon @ Jamil @ Ahmed @ Kajol r/o Chorangi Mor, Jheel chuli, Faridpur, Bangladesh. The militants did not pay to the heed and started firing at the approaching police party. ACP Sanjeev Yadav without caring for their life, faced hail of bullets fired by terrorist Ahsan Ullah Hasan @ Kajol and gave chase to him. The militant was constantly and indiscriminately firing towards him. Unfazed and undeterred Sh. Sanjeev Kumar Yadav in self defence and in order to apprehend the militants returned fire and shot dead Kajol. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma on the other hand was facing indiscriminate firing from other militant Yezdani who had taken position behind a wall in the field. Inspector Sharma crawled on the road without caring for bodily injuries and took position so that the militant could not take the benefit of boundary wall.  During exchange of fire the militant was shot dead… …Recognizing the gallant act, ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav has been conferred President Police Medal for Gallantry while (Late) Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma has been awarded 1st Bar to President’s Police Medal for Gallantry.”(19)

This sparse prose is the template for almost all encounter killings in Delhi. Only the names of the victims change. 

The family says that the body bore marks of torture, there were deep holes as though he had been drilled into and the head was misshapen. In the absence of a post-mortem report, and the reluctance of the Delhi Police to hand over Yazdani’s body to the family, despite a High Court order directing them to do so, is there any reason to disbelieve them? (20)

Let’s return briefly to Syed Maqbool. A small news item, which has not rivalled the popularity of his interrogation report leaked by Delhi Police, quotes ‘sources’ to say that Maqbool had become a police informant after his acquittal in the Devender murder case, and that his arrest was a consequence of rivalry between the Delhi Police and the Maharashtra ATS.(21) Recall also Pradhan’s frank admission to the US Deputy Chief of Mission that the accused in the STF attack was a police informer.

The family says that the body bore marks of torture, there were deep holes as though he had been drilled into and the head was misshappen

Did persistent implication in terror cases push Yazdani to seek refuge with groups he was accused of being associated with? Did the police force him to turn informer for them? Was Yazdani used cynically by agencies and then disposed of when it suited them? Was he already in the custody of one agency or another when the telephone call was made to his father?

These are not answers likely to emerge from the dossiers of the IB, reproduced endlessly till they acquire the sanctity of truth.

In this opaque netherland of terrorism-counter terrorism, it is not just loyalties that change sides but entire sides overturn and mirror each other in grotesque ways. The good guys battling the evil ones is a fantasy manufactured by think-tanks and the ‘experts’ industry.

In the confidential dispatch that Blake, sent home, he quoted Nambiar’s assurance to him that the author of Behind Bangalore: The Origins of the Long Jihad(22), “obviously has been briefed, most likely by the Intelligence Bureau (IB)”.

 

References:

(1)For typical stories, see ‘Yazdani belonged to Nalagonda’ by S Ramu, March 9, 2006, The Hindu; ‘The story of LeT’s south India chief’ by SyedAminJafri in Hyderabad, March 16, 2006, Rediffnews, http://www.rediff.co.in/news/2006/mar/16let.htm and Praveen Swami (2008): The Well-Tempered Jihad: the Politics and Practice of post-2002 Islamist terrorism in India, Contemporary South Asia, 16:3, 303-322.

(2)Crime number 195/1999, Saidabad PS.

(3) Crime No. 1/2000, Saidabad PS and Crime No. 33/2000, Saidabad PS.

(4)For an exhaustive list, see Amnesty Document, India: A Pattern of Unlawful Killings by the Gujarat Police, Urgent Need for Effective Investigations, AI Index: ASA 20/011/2007 (Public).

(5) See ‘Production of Terrorists Act’ by MukulSinha for a full list of POTA cases in Gujarat. http://nsm.org.in/2008/09/29/pota-production-of-terrorist-act/

(6) ISI conspiracy case keeps draconian law alive in Gujarat, TNN, November 24, 2004.http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2004-1124/ahmedabad/27156186_1_conspiracy-case-pandya-murder-hn-jhalaTOI.

(7) One Town Police Station and NarkepalliPoilce Station. These were also cases of sedition, including sections 120 B, 121, 121 A, 124 A, 153 A, 153 B etc.

(8)Swami, ‘Well-Tempered Jihad’, p. 309.

(9) ‘Human Bomb in Andhra’, The Telegraph, Friday, October 14, 2005.http://www.telegraphindia.com/1051014/asp/nation/story_5352734.asp

(10) ‘Terror’s southern gateway’ By NeenaGopal, Gulf News, February 9, 2006. http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/terror-s-southern-gateway-1.224519

(11) HUJI: Lengthening Shadow of Terror’ by Bibhu Prasad Routray, SAIR 31/7/06

Aug 1, 2006. http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/sair/Archives/5_3.htm

(12) ‘D/nsa Supports Intel Sharing On Terrorism; Says Terror In South Not New But Tactics And Targets Are’; Jan 9, 2006, Confidential Section 01 OF 06 New Delhi 000161. Accessed at: http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/01/06NEWDELHI161.html

(13) ‘HUJI: Lengthening Shadow of Terror’ by Bibhu Prasad Routray, SAIR 31/7/06

Aug 1, 2006.

(14) Crime no. 234/ 2005, Gopalapuram PS, Secunderabad.

(15) Sessions Case no. 192 of 2006, Judgement pronounced by ShriSreeram Murthy, First Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, November 12, 2007.  See also, ‘Court lets off 3 in conspiracy case’, TNN, November 13, 2007,http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2007-11-13/hyderabad/27976059_1_conspiracy-case-delhi-police-office-bomb-blast-case. Rabbani’s experience in the interrogation room left him a
changed man.  Upon receiving bail, he quit his MCA and enrolled in a law college, and
is today a practising lawyer.
Personal conversation.

(16) See for example, ‘Yazdani belonged to Nalagonda’, The Hindu, op. cit. Also, “Nalgonda supplies ‘terrorists’ in hordes” by Koride Mahesh, TNN, March 10, 2006. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2006-03-10/hyderabad/27824815_1_nalgonda-isi-activities-terrorist-activities.

(17) ‘Two LeT Ultras shot dead in Delhi Encounter’, March 8, 2006, PTI. Accessed at:http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=368758.

(18) “‘Delhi Cops’ ‘fidayeen’ Liaqat Shah is ex militant travelling with family”, Mir Ehsan, Vijaita Singh, March 26, 2013. http://m.indianexpress.com/news/delhi-cops-fidayeen-is-exmilitant-travel…

(19) Gallantry Awards to Delhi Police Personnel (Delhi Police Press Release; 25.01.2009) accessed at: delhipolice.nic.in/home/backup/25-01-2009.doc.

(20) ‘Encounter victim’s kin stage dharna, seek CBI probe’ by Omer Farooq, The Pioneer, 08/05/2007. Reproduced at:http://www.indiarightsonline.com/Sabrang/relipolcom16.nsf/5e7647d942f529c9e5256c3100376e2e/d9fa52a5d7ec4c03652572f00044105f?OpenDocument. Also personal conversation with family.

(21) See ‘Murder accused spilled the beans on Indian Mujahideenrecce’, TNN, 23
February 2013, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-02-23/hyderabad/3725665….

(22) Praveen Swami, 9 January 2006,http://www.hindu.com/2006/01/09/stories/2006010904441000.htm

 

From the print issue of Hardnews :

APRIL 2013

 

Gujarat and the Politics of Vendetta – Haren Pandya and Narendra Modi


Haren Pandya was killed on March 26, 2003. But his political career started to die
slowly after Narendra Modi took charge as Gujarat chief minister on October 7, 2001.

Ajay Umat , TOI, takes you through the last few months of Pandya’s political life

DROPPED FROM TEAM MODI
Modi did not include Pandya, who was earlier the minister of state for home, when he formed his first cabinet. Later, when he expanded the cabinet, Haren was given the revenue portfolio largely due to pressure from the Sangh Parivar and Sanjay Joshi, the BJP general secretary at the time.
ELLISBRIDGE BURNT BRIDGES COMPLETELY
Modi wanted to contest election from Pandya’s Ellisbridge constituency. But Pandya refused to oblige Modi. The CM was so upset that when he saw Pandya in a meeting organized by the then party president in Gujarat, Rajendrasinh Rana, at the Circuit House, he left announcing that he cannot attend a meeting or a function where Pandya was present. Pandya had to leave the venue and both did not see eye to eye from that day.
GODHRA FANNED HATRED 
After the Godhra carnage, it was reported that Pandya, during a cabinet meeting, opposed the idea of bringing dead bodies of victims to Ahmedabad. He reportedly reasoned that it could lead to more tension but was asked to shut up by some ministers.
FAMILY CONTINUED TO FIGHT
Pandya’s father Vitthalbhai contested parliamentary polls as an independent against L K Advani in 2004. He lost but the old man sent out a message: the fight for justice would continue. Similarly, Pandya’s wife Jagruti contested assembly elections from Ellisbridge on Keshubhai Patel’s GPP ticket. She too lost.
BJP LEADERSHIP CRITICIZED
Controversy followed the murder. The Modi government faced severe criticism from within the Sangh Parivar and Pandya’s supporters for sidelining the leader. Questions were also raised about not providing him proper security despite threats to his life. Pandya’s death procession was one of the biggest in the history of Gujarat. Some BJP leaders say that upset by the popularity of the slain leader, Modi decided to hold a meeting of BJP legislature party on the day when Pandya’s family organized his ‘besna’. “There was a feeling that Modi did this to prevent leaders from going for the condolence meeting,” says a BJP leader.
STATUE POLITICS
Pandya’s wife Jagruti had to run from pillar to post for getting permission for a statue of her slain husband installed. After the BJP-run state government refused to help, finally the Congress, which was in power in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation passed a resolution and allowed a statue in the Ellisbridge area. Eventually, Advani and Modi unveiled the statue.
TRIBUNAL
TROUBLES
On June 7, 2002, the then state IB chief R B Sreekumar was asked by Modi’s principal secretary P K Mishra to find out which minister had met an independent citizen’s tribunal that included former Supreme Court Chief Justice V R Krishna Iyer. Mishra told Sreekumar that Haren Pandya, the then revenue minister, was suspected to be the one involved. Sreekumar was asked to obtain call data records of Pandya’s cellphone. Pandya reportedly told the tribunal that the post-Godhra massacres were orchestrated by Modi. Eventually Pandya resigned from the cabinet.
ELIMINATED, POLITICALLY SPEAKING
In December 2002, Modi did not give a ticket to Pandya despite tremendous pressure from all quarters, including the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi got himself admitted to Civil Hospital in Gandhinagar, complaining of chest pain. Pandya could not contest the election.
SIDELINED IN THE PARTY
Having prevented Pandya from contesting assembly polls, the party leadership ensured that he was not given any important assignment in the party or the government. Senior leaders like L K Advani and Arun Jaitley tried to intervene but in vain. Finally, the Sangh Parivar prevailed and it was decided that in the first week of April Pandya would be given responsibility as party’s national secretary in New Delhi. However, as luck would have it, a week before the likely announcement, Pandya was murdered after a morning walk in the Law Garden area in Ahmedabad.

 

The tale of two women who have taken on Gujarat’s “Iron Man” #NarendraModi


Smita Gupta, Ahemdabad, Dec 10,2012

  • Jagruti Pandya
    PTI Jagruti Pandya
  • Shweta Bhatt
    PTI Shweta Bhatt

It is 8.30 a.m. on Saturday in the middle class area of Chandra Nagar. Jagruti Pandya, widow of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya, who was murdered in 2003, is doing a walkabout. She is the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) candidate from the posh Ellisbridge constituency, which her late husband represented, and her decision to use this election to focus on the fact that all those charged with her husband’s brutal killing were let off last year, has created a ripple of interest. Her workers are a mix of friends and former BJP workers who have shifted allegiance to the GPP, led by the former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, who too walked out of the BJP.

In Maninagar — Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency — his challenger, the Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, the wife of IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, who has allegedly been victimised for making revelations about the role of Mr. Modi and his administration in the anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002, draws attention to injustice in the State: “If I win, it will be a victory for Gujarat; if I lose, Gujarat will lose,” she says with a theatrical turn of phrase.

As both women campaign — Ms. Bhatt in an SUV, Ms. Pandya on foot — door-to-door, people come out on to their balconies, some onto the streets. For these self-declared homemakers who have thus far had nothing to do with politics — even Ms. Pandya stresses she has never accompanied her late husband on the election trail — both answer questions with ease, their storylines smooth. They are also picture perfect — Ms. Pandya, serene, scrubbed face, subdued in a grey silk sari with the yellow GPP scarf draped over her shoulders; Ms. Bhatt effervescent in a bright red maheshwari sari, a big bindi on her forehead.

Neither Ms. Pandya, nor Ms. Bhatt is likely to win, say locals. But in an election in which the communal carnage of 2002 is not an issue, with the Congress tiptoeing around it lest it awaken old ghosts, the fact that these women have left the sanctuary of their homes to enter politics is the only reminder of the terrible happenings of a decade ago, and of Mr. Modi’s role in them.

The two women could not differ more in their ideological persuasions — Ms. Pandya considers the BJP-RSS combine as her family, while Ms. Bhatt says she accepted the Congress ticket as the party’s ideology matched her own. They refuse to say very much about the other, only stressing that the other is doing what she thinks is right. “All these years, I sought justice from the legal system. I failed,” Ms. Pandya stresses that “the BJP was Haren’s family, but he was let down. So I am contesting this election to seek justice in the court of the people.”

As she walks through the compounds of local cooperative housing societies, microphone in hand, she looks up at the balconies, introduces herself as Haren Pandya’s widow, reminds them of his work in the area and asks for their votes as shradhanjali [homage].

Mr. Pandya’s killing was always regarded as a political murder. While the prosecution’s case was that he had been killed by assailants from Hyderabad to avenge the anti-Muslim riots of 2002, it is well-known that he was the Minister who had secretly deposed before the Citizen’s Tribunal on the riots, making revelations that were not yet in the public domain. At a cabinet meeting, he had reportedly advocated against bringing bodies of the victims of the Godhra carnage to Ahmedabad, as he thought that would trigger off a violent response. But he was apparently shouted down at the meeting. Whatever the reason, Mr. Modi sacked him in July 2002, and ensured that he did not get the ticket from his Ellisbridge constituency in the Assembly elections later that year. After being forced out of electoral politics, Mr. Pandya was trying to figure out his next move when he was killed in Ahmedabad’s Law Gardens. His body was found in his car.

In Ms. Bhatt’s case, her husband is known for his role in filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court against Mr. Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. She says she is fighting to protest against the harassment of her husband and family, and to make it possible once again for the people of Gujarat to speak their minds: “There is no freedom of speech in Gujarat, I am fighting for that,” she says, adding that she is also focusing on the lack of development in Mr. Modi’s constituency.

In Congress circles, there has been much debate about fielding Ms. Bhatt, as it might be seen as the party “owning” Mr. Bhatt and undermining his credibility and his fight against Mr. Modi. But others felt that this was the closest the party could risk in making a statement about Mr. Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 riots.

The common thread that binds the battles being waged by these two women, whose world views differ so greatly, is that they have both dared to put the spotlight on a man most people in Gujarat regard as invincible and all-powerful. No small achievement, regardless of whether they win or lose their elections.

 

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