The CBI is set to submit before a court next week a testimony that claims Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was in the know of a conspiracy by policemen to kill four people, including a woman, in 2004 and falsely pass them off as terrorists. The testimony is from a police officer who claims to have overheard a conversation between two other officers, one from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the other from the police, who were both said to be close to Modi at that time.
The CBI would submit this testimony with its chargesheet in the case on 4 July. The testifying officer is an accused in the pre-dawn killing of the four people, including Ishrat Jahan, 19. The killings were carried out on 15 June 2004 by men of the Crime Branch of Ahmedabad, Gujarat‚Äôs largest city that adjoins state capital Gandhinagar. Police said the alleged terrorists were headed to assassinate Modi.
To be sure, the alleged conversation ‚ÄĒ between Rajendra Kumar of the IB, a Central agency, and Crime Branch officer DG Vanzara ‚ÄĒ did not mention Modi by name. The testifying officer, who belongs to the IPS and whose identity TEHELKA has decided to withhold to protect him from intimidation, claims Vanzara told Kumar in his presence that the conspiracy to kill the four people had been approved by both the ‚Äúsafed daadhi (grey beard)‚ÄĚ and the ‚Äúkali daadhi (black beard)‚ÄĚ.
The CBI believes that the former is a reference to Modi and the latter to Amit Shah, Modi‚Äôs longtime confidant who was then the state‚Äôs junior home minster in charge of the state police. Modi, as chief minister, had kept the home portfolio with him then, as he still does. The CBI plans to tell the court that in view of this officer‚Äôs testimony, it wants to probe Modi‚Äôs role in the killing. The testimony was sworn before a magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code and is admissible as evidence. A CBI officer confirmed that Kumar would be named as an accused in the chargesheet. (The CBI has 21 sworn testimonies in the case, 14 of which are from IPS officers.)
The CBI chargesheet will also claim that the alleged leader of the four people killed, Javed Ahmed Shaikh, had, in fact, worked as an informer for Kumar, who at that time had headed the Gujarat unit of the IB. The CBI says evidence suggests Kumar had asked Shaikh to come to Ahmedabad on the pretext of carrying out an assignment for him and then organised Shaikh‚Äôs killing along with that of the three others, including Jahan. On 18 June, the CBI had questioned Kumar, currently a Special Director with the IB, at Gandhinagar. It is learnt that the CBI might arrest him in a few days. TEHELKA had last week reported that more than one police officer has in sworn testimonies made before a magistrate claimed that Kumar had masterminded the extrajudicial murders.
Also, TEHELKA reported that GL Singhal, one of the accused police officers, has given the CBI an audiotape he says he secretly recorded in November 2011. It reportedly contains a conversation between Singhal and several top guns of the Modi government. The CBI says the group discussed ways to sabotage the investigation into the killings to save the officers involved from prosecution. The tape is also part of the chargesheet.
TEHELKA has now learnt the identity of two others in that conversation who it had not named last week. They are Pradeep Singh Jadeja, the minister for legislative affairs, and Bhupinder Chudasama, the education minister. Others in that conversation are Praful Patel, the then junior home minister who left the government after losing in last December‚Äôs Assembly election; GC Murmu, an IAS officer who is a confidant of Modi‚Äôs; and the government‚Äôs topmost lawyer who appears in this case, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi.
The meeting was reportedly held the night before a Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up on the orders of the Gujarat High Court was to submit its findings. In the tape, Trivedi is heard telling the others: ‚ÄúIf the SIT tomorrow declares the Ishrat Jahan encounter fake, all of us will have to collectively stand up and shout that the SIT is fake.‚ÄĚ Murmu allegedly says no harm should come to the state or its officers. The SIT report submitted the next day said the police kidnapped the four people and killed them in cold blood.
Modi‚Äôs government maintains that Shaikh, Jahan, who was a college student from near Mumbai, and the other two men, both allegedly Pakistanis, were terrorists. It claims that the police challenged them outside Ahmedabad and killed them in an exchange of gunfire. The IB had provided the intelligence input that a Pakistani terrorist outfit, Lashkar -e- Toiba, had sent the four to avenge a massacre of about 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 by Hindu zealots linked to Modi‚Äôs Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The CBI chargesheet will now accuse Kumar of fabricating that intelligence input. TEHELKA had reported last week that the CBI also has testimonies from officers alleging that Kumar visited Jahan while she was in illegal police custody before she was killed, and that an AK-47 gun found on those killed had been sourced from Kumar‚Äôs IB office and planted there.
The CBI chargesheet will also suggest that the other two men killed that night ‚ÄĒ Zeeshan Jauhar and Amjad Ali Rana ‚ÄĒ were not Pakistanis but possibly secessionist militants from Jammu & Kashmir with some connection with terror groups. It says Kumar had earlier introduced the duo to Shaikh, the informer, and ‚Äúencouraged‚ÄĚ him to stay in touch with them. Before the killings, it was Kumar who had asked Shaikh to get the duo to travel to Ahmedabad, which Shaikh had then organised, say CBI sources. The CBI will be seeking an extension from the trial court for further probe on precisely how the four were introduced to Kumar.