|Vanzara after being produced in the Ahmedabad court. (Above) Members of the Vanzara community wait outside the court for his arrival. (AP, PTI)
Gandhinagar/Ahmedabad, May 2: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s top cops today posted armed police at the gates to their headquarters and shut themselves out from the public they are meant to serve, but officers in a special cell were sifting through files, scrutinising more than one case in which D.G. Vanzara was involved.
Depending on the decision of the Supreme Court tomorrow, there could be more cases taken up for investigations against Vanzara, the former director of Gujarat police’s anti-terrorist cell.
Gates to Police Bhavan in Gandhinagar were shut and the media barred from entering after director-general P.C. Pande’s order posting a senior over the head of the chief investigator in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case leaked out.
Rajnish Rai, deputy inspector-general of police (CID, crime), who arrested his colleagues Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and Dineshkumar M.N., will now have his reports and actions vetted by .P. Mathur who has been posted as his boss.
But transfers of police officials has become so routine — Rai’s predecessor Geeta Johri was taken off the case after she prepared the first report — that many in the service do not know how long they would have to investigate a case thoroughly. Rai’s arrests of Vanzara and the two others took some guts for the officer in this background.
At the metropolitan magistrate’s court here yesterday, where Vanzara, Pandian and Dineshkumar were remanded in police custody till May 5, supporters for the policemen turned up, shouted slogans and tried to shower rose petals on the arrested officers. Another group of lawyers actually condemned the Gujarat policemen.
Rai’s team today took Vanzara and Pandian to the “scenes of crime” but no details were given.
Almost unfailingly, the investigators have noticed a pattern through many of the “encounter” killings in Gujarat since 2002. Vanzara was involved in most of them in some way. On four occasions at least — after each “encounter” — Vanzara held news conferences claiming that the victims were conspiring to kill Modi or senior members of his government.
October 22, 2002: Samir Khan Sarfraz Khan Pathan. In police records, he figured as a petty criminal, probably a chain-snatcher. On one occasion, after snatching jewellery, he was attempting to flee and stopped by a constable. He knifed the policeman.
Months after that incident Pathan was picked up by the Ahmedabad police crime branch, where Vanzara was then posted, alleged to be a Lashkar-e-Toiba militant. His body was found in Usmanpura Garden — incidentally, the same spot where Pathan had allegedly knifed the constable. A court had passed a stricture against the crime branch for its handling of the case.
June 23, 2003: Ganesh Khunte and Mahendra Jadhav. This case is often cited by supporters of the government to show that the police were not eliminating only Muslims. The two were criminals handed over by Mumbai police to their Gujarat counterpart. They were killed near Kalupur railway station in Ahmedabad. The police alleged they were fired at and shot in response. The police claimed the two were ISI agents sent to Ahmedabad to kill state cabinet ministers Bharat Barot and Ashok Bhatt.
January 13, 2003: Sadiq Jamal Mehtar’s is a tragic tale. The resident of Bhavnagar had lost everything in the 2002 riots when he was preparing for the marriage of one of his two sisters. Desperate to make some money, he found a casual job in Dubai where he worked for some months. Sadiq had one failing — alcohol.
According to one account, on his way back from Dubai and during a stopover in Mumbai, he walked into a bar. After a few drinks, he began speaking aloud against Modi, calling him a murderer, and is reported to have said that the chief minister should be done away with. Informants of Mumbai police in the bar overheard this. He was picked up and handed over to Gujarat police. According to Gujarat police, Jamal was a criminal and a conspirator in an underground network.
When his body was found near Galaxy Cinema in Ahmedabad’s Naroda locality, the chappals he was wearing were a lattice of patchwork. Cobblers had worked on them to ensure Sadiq could at least afford some footwear.
The police claimed they found a .32 bore revolver on him. The cartridges found on his person were of .38 calibre. The police said he was planning to kill Modi, the BJP’s L.K. Advani and VHP leader Praveen Togadia.
June 15, 2004: Mumbai’s Khalsa College student Ishrat Jahan, 19, is killed near the Kotarpur Waterworks in Naroda on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Also killed are Javed Sheikh, probably her husband, Zeeshan Johar and Amjad Ali Rana, the last two alleged to be Pakistani citizens.
The police said they opened fire from inside their Indica car when they were asked to stop. They showed two AK-56 rifles found with them. Ishrat’s family has alleged that Vanzara was behind the killings. The police said the four were in Ahmedabad to kill Modi.
December 28, 2006: Tulsiram Gangaram Prajapati, alleged to be a member of the Sharif Pathan Gang, is killed in Banaskantha. Banaskantha is one of the three districts under Vanzara, who was then (and at the time of his arrest), DIG, border range.
Prajapati died a month after the killing of Sohrabuddin on November 26. Prajapati and Kauser Bi, Sohrabuddin’s wife, were travelling with him and were picked up by the police at the same time. But shortly afterwards, there was no account of where Prajapati was.
Both Gujarat and Rajasthan police are said to have coordinated to arrest Prajapati. He was said to have tried to flee from a running train.
On November 26, 2005, when Vanzara was still heading the anti-terrorist squad, too, Rajasthan police had helped Gujarat police track down, apprehend and kill Sohrabuddin. Prajapati should have proved an invaluable witness and helped explain what happened to Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauser.