Gujarat's encounter cases: Who's who and what they allegedly did
Everything you need to know about the killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati and the policemen accused of conducting these extra-judicial killings.
DG Vanzara's letter bomb has once again opened a can of worms pertaining to extra-judicial killings and political complicity. Here's a ready reckoner of everybody involved in a string of encounter killings in post-Godhra Gujarat.
Who are Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati?
Long accused of participation in multiple organised crime operations, mainly extortion, Sohrabuddin Sheikh was among Gujarat's key gangworld figures. Gujarat Police investigators linked him to Sharifkhan Pathan, Abdul Latif and Rasool Khan 'Party', the latter two in turn linked to funding. He is also alleged to have been involved in terrorism; police records show 40 Kalashnikovs were found stashed in his family home.
Sheikh was shot dead by police on November 23, 2005, allegedly after he was kidnapped. His wife, Kausar Bi, is alleged by investigators to have been executed shortly afterwards, since she was a witness to the murder.
The story broke in November, 2006, after Dainik Bhaskar journalist Prashant Dayal overheard drunken officers bragging about the operation, saying the woman had been cremated at a farmhouse in Illol.
Tulsiram Prajapati, another mid-level gangworld figure, is alleged to have helped the police kidnap and kill Sheikh. He ended up dead too, killed by police on December 26, 2006, in what is alleged to have been an effort to prevent him from blowing the whistle on the murder.
KTS Tulsi, the state government's lawyer, later admitted before the Supreme Court that the "gun battle" in which Sheikh had died had been staged by the Gujarat police.
Who is DG Vanzara?
Deputy-Inspector General of Police Vanzara led Ahmedabad's crime branch at a time when several controversial encounters took place --from the killing of Ishrat Jehan Raza to Sadiq Jamal Mehtar. A Gujarat state police recruit, he rose from the ranks to be inducted into the Indian Police Service. He has been in prison for seven years, along with fellow IPS officers MN Dinesh and Rajkumar Pandian and eight others, awaiting trial in multiple cases.
The Central Bureau of Investigations has also charged two Andhra Pradesh police officers with involvement in Sohrabuddin Sheikh's killing. They are not, however, in prison. Lawyers for the accused have said they are innocent of any crime.
In his recent letter resigning from the police -- which, it bears mention, has no legal effect, since suspended officers cannot resign -- Vanzara voices frustration that Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who he once considered "god", has failed to protect the police officers who served him. He claims credit for having prevented an Islamist insurgency from having sprung up in Gujarat, but does not state the encounters he carried out were fake.
Vanzara is alleged, in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case, to have acted on the instructions of Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah who, unlike the police officers, is out on bail. In other cases, including the Central Bureau of Investigations alleges the killings were carried out with involvement of the Intelligence Bureau.
Do new revelations about BJP leader Prakash Javdekar impact the case?
In a legal sense, no.
Push Sharma's documentary shows Javdekar discussed means to get Amit Shah off the hook, which, though it might prove politically embarrassing, isn't a crime. There's no evidence, at least as yet, that Javdekar sought to tamper with evidence or interfere with witnesses. The documentary also suggests Javdekar obtained unsigned vakalatnamas -- orders authorising the appointment of a lawyer -- from Tulsiram Prajapati's mother, Narmada Prajapati. There's no word on how these vakalanatmas were used, though, which again means there's no evidence right now of criminal intent. Notably, the victim's families are not ordinarily parties to a criminal proceedings.
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