January 23, 2013
Why do we STILL not know about the killer of Narendra Modi’s Minister, Haren Pandya?
Each time Modi's name is raised, there are two voices that are heard. Both are very vociferous. One believes he is a criminal. The other that he is a saint.
I've unfortunately not spent too much time in the past thinking about Modi – but now that he is certain (in my view) to be BJP's nominee as PM, I think I should become clear about Modi's credentials.
In the coming day/s and week/s, time permitting, I'm going to read and find out more about Modi. I believe in no one. I must always seek the answer myself.
This is just like I did before forming my view on the climate change controversy.
As you might know, I do not see CO2 as a problem but as almost certainly beneficial for life on earth – a conclusion I arrived at after months of studying the matter very carefully including reading a large number of books and articles. As a result of this study I am now able to defend my view clearly can debate with anyone on this issue.
I need to undertake similar due diligence for Modi.
Modi's record as administrator is of interest to all of us, but that's not going to be the focus of my questions.
In the past I've generally raised issues about Modi, found no time to arrive at conclusive answers, and moved on. But this time I will need to find the answer.
My plan is to study bits and pieces of information, then ask questions. See what the weight of evidence points to.
So here goes, with first, a cut-paste study of Haren Pandya's murder from three key sources. Then a brief set of questions and answers.
First, wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haren_Pandya
“I met him at his chamber after the meeting. [Deputy home minister] Amit Shah was sitting there. Modi asked me, ‘Why are you asking these kinds of questions in public?’ I said, ‘What shall I do? It is not a private matter.’ Then he looked sternly into my eyes and said, ‘Khatam ho jaoge Govardhanbhai…’—You’re going to get finished.’”
Zadaphia moves around with a police escort and a dozen armed security men; as a former deputy home minister—and a controversial one at that—he was offered protection by the government after the riots. Pandya, however, did not have security guards. “Haren was bold,” Zadaphia said. “He thought nothing would happen to him. That was a mistake.”
A tall and handsome Brahmin with a fine RSS pedigree and excellent connections in the media, Pandya was a formidable political rival for Modi within the state BJP. The two clashed publicly for the first time in 2001, when Modi was in search of a safe assembly seat to contest after his appointment as CM. He wanted to run from Pandya’s constituency, Ellisbridge in Ahmedabad—a very safe seat for the BJP. But Pandya refused to yield to Modi’s wishes. As a state BJP functionary recalled, “Haren said, ‘Ask me to vacate my seat for a young man in the BJP—I’ll do it. But not for that fellow.’”
In May 2002, three months after the start of the riots, Pandya secretly gave a deposition to an independent fact-finding panel led by Justice VR Krishna Iyer. Modi could not have known what Pandya said, but written records show that Modi’s principal secretary, PK Mishra, instructed the director-general of state intelligence to track Pandya’s movements, and in particular those related to the fact-finding panel. The intelligence director took down the instructions in a register—the entry for 7 June 2002 reads as follows: “Dr PK Mishra added that Shri Harenbhai Pandya, minister for revenue is suspected to be the minister involved in the matter. Thereafter, he gave one mobile number 9824030629 and asked for getting call details.”
Five days later, on 12 June 2002, there is another entry in the register: “Informed Dr PK Mishra that the minister who is suspected to have met the private inquiry commission (Justice VR Krishna Iyer) is known to be Mr Haren Pandya. I also informed that the matter cannot be given in writing as this issue is quite sensitive and not connected with the charter of duties given to State intelligence Bureau vide Bombay Police Manual. It is learnt that the telephone number 9824030629 is the mobile phone of Shri Harenbhai Pandya.”
News reports soon revealed that an unnamed minister in Modi’s cabinet had deposed before the Iyer commission, and described for the first time the meeting at Modi’s residence on the night of the train burning, at which Modi allegedly told his top police and intelligence officers that there would be justice for Godhra the next day, and ordered the police not to stand in the way of the “Hindu backlash”.
The leak provided sufficient evidence for Modi to press a case of indiscipline against Pandya within the BJP, and two months later Pandya was forced to resign from the cabinet. But Modi was not finished. The state elections were due in December 2002, and Modi saw an opportunity to deny Pandya the Ellisbridge seat that he had refused to vacate a year earlier. “Modi never forgets, and never forgives,” the BJP insider close to the chief minister told me. “It doesn’t help a politician to have such longterm vengeance.”
And so Modi denied Pandya the constituency he had represented for 15 years. The leadership of both the RSS and the BJP objected and asked Modi to relent, but he refused. Near the end of November, RSS leader Madan Das Devi went to meet Modi at his residence, carrying a message from the RSS supremo KS Sudarshan, his deputy Mohan Bhagawat, LK Advani and AB Vajpayee: Stop arguing, don’t create division before the elections, and give Pandya his seat. Devi stayed late into the night, but Modi held his ground, the state party functionary said: “He knew he would start getting phone calls from [RSS headquarters] Nagpur and Delhi, since he did not listen to Devi. So that night, by 3 am, he got himself admitted into the Gandhinagar Civil Hospital for exhaustion and fatigue.”
Pandya, according to the party functionary, charged to the hospital to confront Modi. “Haren told him, ‘Don’t sleep like a coward. Have the guts to say no to me.’” Modi refused to budge, and the RSS and BJP leaders finally gave in. Modi left the hospital after two days, and handed Pandya’s seat to a newcomer. And in December, he came back to power riding the post-Godhra wave of communal polarisation.
Pandya, for his part, started to meet with every top leader in the BJP and RSS—in Delhi and in Nagpur—telling them that Modi would destroy the party and the Sangh for his own personal gain. Senior BJP figures, who still regarded Pandya as a valuable asset to the party, decided to transfer him to headquarters in Delhi as a member of the national executive or a party spokesman. “Modi even tried to scuttle that,” Zadaphia told me. “Pandya going to Delhi was going to be harmful for Modi in the long run.”
Three months later, in March 2003, on the day after Pandya received a fax from the party president ordering his shift to Delhi, he was murdered in Ahmedabad. The Gujarat police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) announced that Pandya had been assassinated in a joint operation between Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Dubai-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. Twelve men were arrested and charged with Pandya’s murder, but eight years later, in September 2011, the Gujarat High Court acquitted every single one and rubbished the entire case. “The investigation has all throughout been botched up and blinkered,” the judge said. “The investigating officers concerned ought to be held accountable for their ineptitude resulting into injustice, huge harassment of many persons concerned and enormous waste of public resources and public time of the courts.”
Pandya’s father, Vithalbhai, has publicly accused Modi of ordering his son’s killing, and moved a petition in the Supreme Court calling for the chief minister to be investigated, though the court dismissed it, citing a lack of evidence.
RB Sreekumar, who headed the state intelligence for a year soon after the riot, told me that he had been asked by the chief minister’s office to regularly give details about the movements and activities of Haren Pandya.
“I’m not saying Modi got Haren Pandya killed. I have no evidence. But the fact remains—anyone who speaks against Modi from inside the BJP gets finished either physically or politically,” Zadaphia told me.
For the first few months after Pandya’s murder, the investigation was handled by the Gujarat police crime branch. The officer in charge was DG Vanzara, who is now in jail for the “fake encounter” of a gangster, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, and his wife; Vanzara is also under investigation for his role in another half-dozen extra-judicial assassinations. When the Pandya case was transferred to the CBI, one of Vanzara’s colleagues, Abhay Chudasama—now also jailed in the Sohrabuddin killing—was sent on deputation to the bureau to help manage the investigation. Both of the corrupt officers who ran the Pandya investigation were also part of the extortion racket allegedly run by Amit Shah, Modi’s deputy home minister. Shah, one of Modi’s favourites, was arrested on charges of extortion and conspiracy in the fake encounter killings and is now out on bail, though the Supreme Court has denied him permission to set foot in Gujarat; he currently lives in room number two at Gujarat Bhavan in Delhi.
When I read the other day that the Gujarat high court had dismissed the prosecution case in the matter of Haren Pandya's murder and expressed severe doubts about how the CBI had conducted its investigations, I could not agree more. My mind went back to 2003 when in the aftermath of the murder a CBI officer came to my office to investigate the 'role' of The Times Of India (TOI) in the affair! Don't laugh, that's what had happened.
A CBI deputy superintendent of police (DSP) – some Gupta, first name I forget- landed up in my office in Ahmedabad where I was posted then as the resident editor of the TOI and wanted to talk to me. "We have been told that the assailants figured out where they would find Pandya after reading your paper. Can you throw some light on this matter?" I should have been stunned on hearing that but wasn't. That was because a few days earlier one of our correspondents told me that the crime branch of Ahmedabad police had been speculating on this matter. On asking which great man in the crime branch was having these fanciful ideas, the correspondent said it was the SP, DG Vanzara (this gentleman is now in Sabarmati jail for bumping off Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bee). And what was the reason for Vanzara's line of thought? The correspondent said because we had published how Pandya was spending his days now that he was neither a minister nor MLA. For those who came in late, Pandya had been denied a seat in the 2002 assembly elections, so the 41-year-old leader had nothing much to do in February 2003. He was busy going for long morning walks in Law Gardens of Ahmedabad in the morning and playing golf in the evening. TOI had written in a feature story about what politicians who had lost or kept away for elections were doing.
The CBI DSP (in newspapers we often describe CBI men as 'sleuths' but I refuse to use that term for Gupta or even his bosses who must have sent him to our office) denied that he had been tipped off by Vanzara and company to follow this line of investigation. He said: "We have talked to the house owner where the assailant had rented a room. And he has told us that the suspect only used to read TOI. In fact he used to pore through TOI the whole day." By this time I was maha miffed. Earlier that day some stationery retailer had gifted me two fancy note books and two perfumed rubbers. This was lying on my table. I took this stuff and told him: "Mr Gupta you must be having children at home. Take these as gifts for them." Nonplussed, the CBI man took the stuff and I saw him off. Even as he left it was clear to me that the CBI was upto some shoddy investigation and this opinion got only strengthened when I read about the recent high court order.
I would imagine that Haren Pandya's wife Jagrutiben also feels the same about the investigations of CBI. In fact when the sessions court had sentenced the accused in 2007, instead of feeling happy she had gone public seeking a reinvestigation in the matter. Before his death earlier this year Haren's father, Vithal Pandya, had waged a long battle in this matter quite vociferous in stating that his son's murder was political. Now two sisters of Haren, along with Jagruti, have sought to reopen the case and have said that they would be representing to the Prime Minister.
Actually it is not too difficult to figure out that the prosecution case was faulty. According to the prosecution version, Haren Pandya was shot dead just as he arrived at Law Garden in his Maruti 800 for his morning walk around 7.20 am. The assailant pulled the trigger before he rolled up the window of his car and got out. But a forensic expert – who had deposed in the court – told me the injuries that Haren had showed that he could not have been shot from a gun pointing down at him (as would be if the assailant put the gun from outside). In fact the injuries had been down up. Add to this, the fact that no blood was found on the seat of the car and it is easy to see that Haren was probably murdered somewhere else and his body brought to the site from somewhere else in his car and dumped there.
It is also strange that the body of Haren Pandya lay there outside the busy Law Garden for three hours till his friends heard and rushed to the spot three hours later. Haren Pandya, earlier having been the home minister of the state, was quite well known and it looks unlikely that nobody discovered his body for so long. In fact many voices were heard in undertones in the aftermath of Pandya's murder that a large crowd had collected around the body at 8.30 am but they had melted perceiving it as a political murder. In fact due to this reason the area around Law Garden became unusually quiet. I also know that some top cops had also learnt of the murder before 9 am but they too kept silent -again perceiving it to be a political murder.
The prosecution's case was that Haren had been killed by assailants from Hyderabad to avenge the Gujarat riots of 2002. But the fact of the matter is that Haren was the minister in the Gujarat government who had secretly deposed before the Citizen's Tribunal about the riots and let it know many facts then not public. He had also in a cabinet meeting advocated that the bodies of the victims of Godhra carnage not be brought to Ahmedabad because that would arouse passion. But he was shouted down at the meeting by some ministers.
Whatever be the reason, Narendra Modi had thrown Haren Pandya out of his ministry in July 2002. Modi also ensured that Pandya was denied a ticket from his Ellisbridge constituency in the December 2002 assembly elections. This was even when pressure was put on Modi by Advani and Arun Jaitely to relent. In fact Jaitely found Modi's behaviour churlish and Advani happened to be the political guru of Pandya. After being forced out of electoral politics, Pandya was out in the cold contemplating what to do next when somebody decided to bump him off. The million dollar question is: who was that person?
Source 3: Who killed Haren Pandya? by Hartosh Singh Bal & Mahesh Langa, Tehelka March 12, 2005
The tapes of his conversation with the home secretary prior to his deposition before the Nanavati-Shah commission is not the only damaging evidence against the Gujarat government that Sreekumar has in his possession. Through his tenure as intelligence chief in Gujarat, a term that began on April 9, 2002, a month after the Godhra incident, Sreekumar maintained a diary of instructions given to him by senior officials in the state as well as Narendra Modi.
Perhaps, the most damaging of this information relates to instructions issued by the state government regarding Haren Pandya, Modi’s foe within the Sangh Parivar ranks who was murdered a few months later.
On June 7, 2002, Sreekumar was asked by PK Mishra, Modi’s principal secretary, to find out which minister in the Modi Cabinet had met an independent citizen’s tribunal that included former Supreme Court Chief Justice VR Krishna Iyer. Mishra told Sreekumar that Haren Pandya, the then revenue minister, was suspected to be the one involved in the matter. Sreekumar was given the mobile number 9824030629 and told to obtain its call details. Pandya reportedly told the tribunal that the post-Godhra massacres were orchestrated by Modi, his officials and members of the Sangh Parivar.
On June 12, 2002, Mishra was told by Sreekumar that the minister suspected to have met the commission was none other than Haren Pandya. Sreekumar, however, refused to submit this information in writing. He said it was a sensitive matter and not connected with the charter of duties. Further call details of the number were handed over by OP Mathur, IGP (Administration and Security). It was learnt that Haren Pandya used this mobile.
On March 26, 2003, Haren Pandya was assassinated and his father Vithalbhai Pandya said that his son’s assassination was “a political murder”. Speaking to Tehelka, he blamed Modi for Pandya’s murder. So embittered was Vithalbhai that he contested the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha against LK Advani, but lost.
This, incidentally, was not the only time the Modi government had issued instructions for tapping a senior politician’s phone. At a meeting on April 16, 2002, Modi told Sreekumar that Congress leaders, in particular Shankersinh Vaghela, were responsible for the continuing communal violence in the state. The meeting (apart from Modi and Sreekumar) was attended by then DGP K. Chakravarti and the CM’s PS PK Mishra and Modi’s OSD. Sreekumar told Modi that he had no information regarding the involvement of the Congress leaders in 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, controversial IB Joint Director Rajinder Kumar, posted in Ahmedabad, 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 about Kumar’s proximity to Modi.
Sreekumar also documented the incident that was one of the main reasons for the Modi government to hound him. On August 9, 2002 at the Ahmedabad circuit house annexe, senior officials, who had been asked to attend the meeting convened by then Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh, assembled in a room next to the conference hall. Chief Secretary Subba Rao, Additional Chief Secretary Ashok Narayan, DGP K. Chakravarthi, Police Commissioner KR Kaushik, Principal Secretary (Revenue) CK Koshy, Relief Commissioner Shah and Joint Secretary (Home) K. Nityanandan were present.
At the meeting, Subba Rao told officials that they must maintain that complete normalcy has been restored in the state. When Lyngdoh arrived, officials said the situation was under control and total normalcy has been restored. The chief secretary also requested Lyngdoh to see the presentation prepared by Nityanandan. Interrupting Rao, Lyngdoh said that he was not interested in the presentations. He said that he was aware of the ground realities in the state. Lyngdoh refused to believe the officials’ claim that normalcy was restored in the riot-hit areas. Lyngdoh said he had seen Sreekumar’s reports about the situation and that these matched his own assessment.
==SOME PRELIMINARY FINDINGS==
It is almost certain that the investigation to find Pandya's killer was DELIBERATELY botched up.
Why would a former senior Minister's death be treated so shabbily that even fundamentals of the investigation were incorrect? Nearly eight years of investigation and all the accused get scot free? And the wife of Pandya was clear a long time ago that this was a botched up investigation?
Something doesn't sound right.In any murder trial, there is mens rea, an intention to kill – someone must benefit.
Pandya was only deposed. He could have come back and proved inconvenient politically and in many other ways. He had also provided evidence, and was against the public display of burnt dead bodies. That was clearly one of the most DIRECT causes of the backlash and rioting.
In all my years of learning how to deal with such sensitive situations, in my training received at the National Academy from great experts like NC Saxena, in the training I imparted to fresh IAS recruits as Professor at the National Academy, I've never come across a more CRASS and directly inflammatory action by an administration.
"in complete disregard of the sensitivities of the relatives of the victims, and cannons of humanitarian, ethics and morality, these bodies were taken to Ahmedabad and paraded not only before the members of public but also for the media to report. . I have often thought as to how I would have felt if a relative of mine had been killed similarly and instead of quickly completing the legal formalities and handing over the body, it is taken 200 kilometers away, not because it is required so, but because a decision which was taken by the Head of the Government for the reason that are obvious to all except the blind. You may like to pause for a moment and think as to how you would have felt if a self seeking politician sitting in the state capital had directed the authorities of taking the body of any relative of yours to a distant place instead of handing it over to you as prescribed by the law. You also know that many of these dead bodies were of people not belonging to Ahmedabad city." [Source]
I would also like to bring to your notice the deposition of Shri P C Pande, the then Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad City, before Justice Nanavati Commission on 18th August 2004. For your perusal the relevant portions are reproduced below:
“….. had not taken the decision of bringing the dead bodies to Ahmedabad. As I believe that the decision might have taken at the top level in the Government and it has not necessary for me to interfere in that decision……”
“….. When I know that about 58 bodies were being brought to Ahmedabad or that they have already brought, at that time, I had a feeling that looking to the communal situation of Ahmedabad, it is … sensitive and like a Tinder Box and therefore, in the prevailing circumstances, if these dead bodies are brought to Ahmedabad, then possibly it will create serious impacts…”
ACS Home Shri Ashok Narayan, in his cross examination before the Nanavati Commission had also confirmed that decision to bring dead bodies to Ahmedabad city was taken at higher level. In this higher level above him are the Chief Secretary, MOS Home and CM. [Source]
In brief, the situation is VERY SUSPICIOUS.
There are only a very few people who would have benefited from Hiren Pandya's death. His father believed it was directly Modi. It is very hard to find other names of potential beneficiaries of Pandya's murder.
Did Tulsiram Prajapati kill Pandya?
- a possible accused. Sure, but why? Why such a person who was a major threat only to one person: Modi?
Now, that's enough for one day.
I'm not Sherlock Holmes, but one can at least try to be Dr. Watson.
The murder mystery only deepens. More later when I get time to read more.
If you found this post useful, then consider subscribing to my blog by email: