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The politics of a fake encounter

CNN-IBN
Jun 19, 2007 at 01:38pm IST

Three IPS officers are under arrest for the murders of for the murders of Soharabbudin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi.

Sheikh was gunned down in a fake encounter in November 2005 near Ahmedabad and Kauser Bi was killed later. The murders have embarrassed the Narendra Modi government and raised question whether the police was acting alone or following orders of their political bosses.

Union Textile Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who has been the state’s chief minister, has demanded that Modi and his Home Minister Amit Shah be booked for the two murders. Vaghela alleges Modi and Shah are the real culprits.

While an Ahmedabad court extended the police remand of three IPS officers, including DG Vanzara’s, till May 8, the prosecution claimed that their case against the three officers is now stronger then ever. They presented some more evidentiary details of Kauser Bi's murder, adding to the grizzly secrets that have tumbled out of the Vanzara's house of horrors.

The question is was Vanzara acting on his own, or was he following a political agenda?

Social activist Teesta Setalvad and Prafull Goradia, Former BJP MP from Gujarat answered that on CNN-IBN The Big News.

Political fallout

The fake encounter case that has put the Gujarat government on the back foot has apparently affected the relationship between Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of State for Home Amit Shah.

Sources said Shah was asked not to attend a Cabinet meeting on Thursday that examined the implications of the Supreme Court order directing the state to submit a final status report on the fake encounter in two weeks.

The opposition party has also accused the Shah of creating hurdles in the way of investigations into the case. The Congress has demanded Shah's resignation and wants him to undergo narco-analysis and brain mapping tests.

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The question is would someone like Vanzara have taken the initiative on his own to falsely implicate and kill an extortionist in a fake encounter case? Do these encounters happen without any direction from the political bosses?

Prafull Goradia, former BJP MP from Gujarat, vehemently denied the claim that the political machinery has anything to do with the encounter cases. “As far as I understand the police, even a head constable who carries a revolver can shoot someone. I do not see any political intervention into this,” he said.

A series of encounters have taken place before this. Gujarat Police’s 14 encounters that took place during Modi’s tenure have also come under scrutiny now. But interestingly Gujarat CM Narendra Modi who knows how to use the media rather well, in this instance has kept completely silent. Why has he been so silent?

“What is the case here for Mr Modi to present?” asked Boradia. “It’s at the police level and let that be dealt by them. The former BJP MP said that the politicians have no role to play in the encounters.

“Encounters and police killings happen across India but that does not mean that all the political ministers and politicians have been involved in all the fake encounters,” he said.

Muslims issue ahead of Gujarat elections

It is argued that the BJP is making an agenda out of Muslims in Gujarat. That’s also the subtle propaganda for the Assembly elections in the state that are due in November. Responding to the statement Teesta Setalvad said “Let’s not jump to the conclusion that Muslims are terrorists. Out of the list of 21 persons killed by in police encounters in Gujarat, 2 are Maharashtrian Hindus and six are non-Muslim unknown persons."

After the terror attacks in Gujarat, an atmosphere was created that Modi, Togadia and Advani are facing a life threat, said Setalvad. "Sohrabuddin was killed on charges that he was plotting to kill Modi. Now DGP Vanzara says he was an extortionist. Without any proofs or trial, the police and the political parties are battling to justify his killing,” she added.

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BJP MP Goradia although did not agree with the view, said, “No fake encounter can be morally justified. Perhaps it’s an indication that we must tone up our police system and judiciary so that the judgments are delivered fairly and quickly,” he added.

Setalvad said that Kauser Bi and Tulsi Ram Prajapati were innocent people that were slaughtered by the police to eliminate evidence. “In January 2006 SC wrote to the Gujarat government asking them to enquire into Sohrabuddin’s case. But the Director General of police did not order an enquiry till five and half months later. All the unanswered question will have to be answered now by the police,” she added.

Who should take responsibility

Kauser Bi was killed and her body burnt and disposed off, allegedly to eliminate evidence. Goradia said it is the police officials who must be held and not the state government or the parties. He raised the question as to why the state leadership is blamed for a crime that’s been planned and executed by the police.

“Those who killed her and burnt her should take the responsibility. Why bring the state every time into the picture?” he said.

However, Setalvad said that the “political leadership and the police are in close nexus with each other” and the encounter could not have taken place without the knowledge of the political parties. “When it comes to dealing with terrorism whether it is in UP, Maharashtra or Gujarat—the political leadership cannot escape scrutiny,” she added.

Setalvad said that some of the documents cited in the petition of Rubabuddin (Sohrabuddin’s brother) in the SC suggest that the Home Minister of Gujarat, Amit Shah tried to unduly influence the investigation. He also took the investigation away from IG Geetha Johri for vested interests, she added.

However Goradia took strong exception to the allegations. Striking back at Teesta Setalvad’s Goradia said she had earlier taken up the cause of “the lady from Baroda” (Zaheera Sheikh) who first accused the Gujarat government and eventually turned out to be a fake.

Goradia concluded the argument saying, “You prove Narendra Modi guilty and then do whatever you want to do against him.”

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