The Gujarat Fake Encounter Story is rapidly being scripted along the familiar lines of the ‘Corrupt Policeman-Corrupt Politician-Underworld Links’ nexus. While this may be true, (and I do not doubt that Narendra Modi, who holds the ‘Home’ portfolio in Gujarat, must not be entirely un-involved in this matter) it would be unfortunate if the Gujarat ‘fake encounter killings’ , like ‘fake encounter’ stories in Kashmir, Delhi or elsewhere are now spun into ‘systemic aberrations’. Rather, they should be seen as evidence of how the system actually works, and how efficient it is.
Rajdeep Sardesai, our friendly teflon television crusader, did his bit this afternoon in a CNN IBN bulletin where he repeatedly tried to push the point that the ‘encounters’ were part of the BJPs ‘communal’ agenda, neatly handing them a stick with which to now go to town with Modi and Vanzara as Hindu heroes, versus the tainted pseudo-secular English Media types.
In a story titled ‘Has SC Pressure Unmasked Vanzara‘ Datelined, May 05, 2007,
the CNN IBN report says :
“Which raises the question – was Vanzara acting on his own, or was he following a political agenda?For the last two weeks, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has chosen to stay silent.Also remained quiet was the minister of state for home Amit Shah, widely seen in Gujarat as someone whom Vanzara directly reported to. According to an Intelligence bureau report, it was alleged that at a meeting held on January 30, 2006 at the Circuit House in Gandhinagar, Amit Shah admitted in cavalier manner that Kauser Bi had been killed by Vanzara.”
In this version, a high state of panic, a ‘strategy of tension’ about terrorism in Gujarat has served the BJP and Modi well, and so, encounter killings have been arranged from time to time to ensure that the public believes that Narendra Modi is in constant danger. Vanzara himself is said to have been involved in 9 Encounters that killed a total of 15 people in recent years.
I am not disputing the broad picture that this story paints. What I am not quite convinced about is the way in which it located the entirety of the authorship of this episode as something that has somehow transpired solely between a ‘communalized political leadership’ and some rogue senior police officers. Even for this to work, there have to be more people involved. Not all of them Gujarati, maybe not all of them communal or even tied to the simple agenda of keeping Modi in power.
Elsewhere, CNN IBN has said that Vanzara was allegedly paid to kill Sohrabuddin by ‘Rajasthani Marble traders’ in order to relieve them of Sohrabuddin’s extortion.
[See – Marble lobby paid Guj cop to kill]
CNN-IBN, May 2, 2007
The question is not whether Mr. Modi sanctioned or did not sanction the killings (even presuming that he did), or whether Sohrabuddin was killed on the request of ‘Rajasthani Marble Traders’. The question is, how could the Gujarat police (even if we assume that it acted under orders solely emanating from Modi’s home ministry in Gujarat, or from the Rajasthani Marble Trade) successfully undertake an operation that needed to be fine tuned as far away as Hyderabad, just on its own resources. I have no doubt that Mr. Modi (or the deadly Rajasthani Marble Lobby) would have reason to be happy with the outcome, the question is, who else was happy?
If Rajdeep Sardesai and others of his kind want to make this an issue of Modi versus the good guys, they will be doing the greatest sevice to Modi (who delights in being taken on by the mainstream English media) and to those others, not necessarily in Gujarat, who co-scripted the parts that Vanzara, Pandyan, Sohrabuddin, Tulsiram and Kausar Bi played. The Mainstream Media channels like CNN IBN will have done their duty of playing the tough investigators and will have won themselves kudos from the secular conscience keepers of our republic, the BJP will be happy to stage yet another polarization, and the hidden scritpwriters of the episode will stay safe and sound, where they belong. Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi will become one party’s martyr, Vanzara and Pandyan will become another party’s martyr. Everyone who matters will gain.
Here is why I think the whole question of ‘fake encounters’ is a lot more complicated than simply a matter of some corrupt cops doing the bidding of some corrupt politicians with links to some underworld dons, or in pursuit of some ‘communal agneda’. While all this may be true, it does require more than the corrupt politician of one state to bring into being an operation that involves the police apparatus of three states – namely, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh (one of which, Andhra Pradesh was not ruled by the BJP). Add to this the strange mix of small town underworld operatives, informers, safe houses and much else besides that points to a picture far larger than the B Movie of Cops gone bad and Netas gone crazy.
What is missing, or not commented on, in much of the discussion around the fake encounters is the fact that this kind of multi-state co ordination of police forces can only be done by Central bodies. The one central body uniquely equipped to bring such co ordinated efforts to fruition is none other than the Intelligence Bureau.
It may be recalled that the IB has from time to time made it known that there were plans afoot to assasinate Modi and other BJP, VHP leaders in Gujarat.
Once a prediction is made, it can be seen as effective only if the facts follow suit, so, if no specific plot to arrange for Modi or Togadia’s assasination can be found, then a few dead bodies (some unidentified, some of small time extortionists like Sohrabuddin can be conveniently placed for a photo opportunity). Some other dead bodies like that of Kausar Bi, can be made to disappear.
We need to remind ourselves that Rajkumar Pandyan, IPS, one of the people arrested with IG (Border Range) Vanzara, is a superintendent of police with the Intelligence Bureau.
[ See – Three IPS officials arrested for fake encounter
PTI Report in Hindustan Times, April 24, 2007]
Vanzara was chief of the Anti Terror Squad of the Gujarat Police, while Pandyan was his deputy during the time when Sohrabuddin was killed and Kausar Bi disappeared.
Anti Terror Squads of sensitive states like Gujarat are always directly handled by the IB from the centre. Which means that though Modi may have been involved, the question of who co-authored the orders to arrange so many ‘encounters’ to protect Modi may have come from sources quite far away from Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
Remember that the CNN IBN report I quoted mentions ‘IB Reports’ saying that “at a meeting held on January 30, 2006 at the Circuit House in Gandhinagar, Amit Shah (Gujarat’s minuister of state for home affairs and key Nody point man, admitted in cavalier manner that Kauser Bi had been killed by Vanzara.”
How exactly does CNN IBN lay its hands on IB reports, and to what extent should we treat the entire contents of an IB report as news. Especially, when one of the people indicted in the episode happens to be an IB operative (Pandyan). A fair amount of reading between the lines is necessary here. A news channel quotes an IB report (without giving a source) about an episode where an IB functionary is directly involved in a murder. Why then is the IB willing to countenance a leak about something that compromises one of its own. Perhaps the answer could be found in a strategy of ‘selective information delivery’. You say a few things that are so shocking that they temporarily inhibit us from asking a harder question. So, in the 13 December case, when the heat was high, CNN IBN delivered a piece of ‘selective information’ – of Davinder SIngh of the STF having tortured Afzal (which had been known all along) mainly to distract attention from the question of how Afzal got to be where he is today. So, here too, an IB report, mentions people who are quite close to the IB, in a shocking episode, probably in order to shield other less dispensable functionaries and more important processes.
It is time to revisit the story of Ishrat Jahan and Javed Sheikh (the Malyali Hindu convert to Islam from Pune who was presented as an earlier would be assasin). It is time to ask just how many people the IB was cultivating, and is cultivating today, in different places, in order to make sure that the right kind of dead bodies turn up with routine regularity.
Incidentally, now that Vanzara and Pandyan have been arrested, the IB has once again made it known that theire lives are in danger in Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad and that they should be taken elsewhere.
[See – Sabarmati jail inmates could pose threat to Vanzara: IB
Times of India, 5 May, 2007]
Two possibilities emerge from this prediction – one, that the IB is only trying to look after its own, and two, that once again, this prediction might disturbingly come true, that someone might actually ‘take out’ Vanzara and Pandyan in Sabarmati Prison. Either way, the IB stands not to lose. If Vanzara and Pandyan are safe, they will be safe because the IB has made sure that they are safe, and they will then be vulnerable to pressure of the kind that they do not spill the beans over much. If they are ‘taken out’ then once again, the truth departs with them.
All of this goes to show, that the game is far more complex than even a Narendra Modi can play. We should ask, not who Narendra Modi controls, but rather, who controls Narendra Modi.
We should begin considering the fact that the IB, RAW and other agencies of stealth are as vital to the political scenario in India today as the underworld and policemen are, and their job is not just that of offering convenient pre-election predictions to the powers that be. There is a state within the state in India, what is called a ‘deep state’ in Turkey, and every encounter killing shows just how far and wide the writ of that state within the state runs.
Perhaps a concerted effort to make the decisions of the Intelligence apparatus in this country acquire a degree of transparency and accountability is in order. Unless that is done, many more Sohrabuddin’s, Kausar Bis, Tulsirams, Ishrat Jahans (and countless others in Kashmir and elsewhere) will meet their encounter with a Bullet that may or may not be accounted for in the ordinance and ammunition registers of many different police, counter-insurgency, intelligence and anti terrorism deparments.
(Also posted on Sarai Reader List and Commons Law List)