Guest Post by WARISHA FARASAT
Amit Shah seems to be on a roll this election season. First, he escaped any punishment after delivering one of the most disturbing hate speeches made during the 2014 election campaign. After the Muzaffarnagar riots, attempts were made by political parties to capitalize on the suffering of the locals, and provoke certain communities to vote for them. And when Amit Shah was censured by the Election Commission for indulging in objectionable speeches during the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, BJP Primeminsterial candidate Narendra Modi came to the defence of his most loyal lieutenant. Clearly, Amit Shah’s statement was made with the intention of polarizing the voters in a politically surcharged environment in Uttar Pradesh and amounted to hate speech. However, the Election Commission soon did a u-turn, diluted its own stand, withdrew the ban against Shah and allowed him to go ahead with his campaign. The withdrawal of ban against Amit Shah ignoring the drastic implications of his hate speech during the campaign was alarming.
And now, the CBI has not named Shah as an accused in the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case stating that there is no ‘prosecutable evidence’ available against him. But Shah and his supporters should not think that this so-called ‘clean chit’ absolves him of all criminal responsibility for indulging in fake encounters in Gujarat. If we believe the CBI in the Ishrat Jehan case when they claim that there is no prosecutable evidence against Shah, consequently, we also need to trust their investigations in atleast two other fake encounters, namely the Sohrabuddin Shiekh and the Tulsiram Prajapati cases where the CBI have named Shah as an accused. Shah is presently being tried in these cases and is able to campaign during these elections only because he is out on bail.
Amit Shah has been accused of committing serious crimes such as fake encounters and stalking while holding important and high level positions in the Gujarat government. Shah’s alleged culpability in these crimes signals a far deeper criminality than breaking the electoral code of conduct but it also provides an essential context to Shah’s political conduct. His style of functioning typified by the abuse of state power by public functionaries represents a disturbing trend in our political culture. Not only has Shah been implicated for making hate speeches before but also in a series of fake encounters in Gujarat when he was the Home Minister. These include the Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Tulsiram Prajapati, Kauser Bi fake encounters. In November 2005, Sohrabuddin Shiekh and his wife Kauser Bi were killed in a fake encounter by the Gujarat police, which had falsely dubbed them as terrorists.
When we examine these two fake encounter cases, it is obvious that the charges against Shah are extremely serious. The investigations by the CBI into Sohrabuddin Shiekh, Kauser Bi fake encounter case in which Amit Shah is an accused revealed that he tried to interfere in the investigations. According to the CBI probe, Shah gave illegal instructions to investigating officer Shri RC Raiger, the then ADGP, Home Guards, Gujarat State, who was also holding the additional charge of CID (Crime), which when Raiger refused to follow, he was summarily transferred, without even extending him the opportunity to hand over charge properly. Shah replaced him by another investigating officer of his choice. In fact, in February 2007, the investigating officer, Raiger had received transfer order late in the evening, and was forced to hand over charge then and there at night in the police academy, despite his request if he could hand over charge the next morning. These facts that were initially revealed through the investigations of the CBI were bolstered by the affidavit filed by Raiger himself. Raiger has gone on record to state that Amit Shah was unhappy with him as he refused to follow his illegal orders.
In the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case there are serious allegations that Kausar Bi was raped in the farmhouse where her husband and she were illegally detained before being killed by the perpetrators. The facts unearthed by the CBI investigations reveal that Sohrabuddin and Kasuer Bi were kept separately in the farmhouse, and that Sohrabuddin was killed much before his wife who had no knowledge of what had happened to her husband. The allegations against Shah as also those officers of the Gujarat police and the ATS under his effective command are very serious, and cannot be summarily dismissed.
Even in the Tulisram Prajapati fake encounter case, Shah has been arraigned as an accused. Tulsiram Prajapati was killed in a fake encounter in Banaskantha, Gujarat when he was being taken from Ahmedabad to Udaipur in police custody after a court hearing on 26 December 2008 by members of the Gujarat police in connivance with Rajasthan police officials.
From 2007, Tulsiram Prajapati had made repeated requests and applications to the Gujarat courts and the National Human Rights Commission that his life was in danger. Even though a Gujarat CID enquiry into the Sohrabuddin killing had commenced in September 2006, most of the written and oral requests for protection made by Prajapati fearing for his life as the sole witness in that fake encounter were ignored by the Gujarat state authorities. In a shocking turn of events, Prajapati was subsequently killed in a fake encounter in the manner in which he had predicted his death.
In the investigations conducted by the CBI, it has clearly emerged that the killing of Parajapati was an integral part of the criminal conspiracy hatched to obstruct justice in the Sohrabuddin murder case by the accused, including Amit Shah.
Given that there are a string of serious fake encounters in which Shah remains an accused, we must remember that the Courts have not finally decided on Shah’s culpability. Obviously, his supporters will selectively highlight the CBI chargesheet recently filed in the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case. But equally we must not forget that he is currently being tried as an accused in several other fake encounter cases. If anything, Shah’s guilt in fake encounter cases remains to be determined in these fake encounter cases. The last word has not yet been said.
Warisha Farasat is a lawyer.