18, Jun 2016 | Teesta Setalvad
In his oral observations pronouncing judgement on June 2, special judge P.B. Desai said in open court that he has not accepted the rigorous arguments made by advocates for the witness survivors, with evidence, on a wider conspiracy behind the Gulberg carnage.
Curiously, SIT prosecutor RC Kodekar (appointed after the first public prosecutors RK Shah and Nayana Shah resigned after writing a controversial letter to the SIT in February 2010) did not in his arguments make out a case of conspiracy at all. Yet in his reactions to the media on June 2, Raghavan, charperson, Special Investigation team (SIT) said that “the judge did not buy the prosecution’s conspiracy theory, but it was not because the evidence pointing to a conspiracy was weak. Possibly, in the eyes of the judge, it was not convincing enough to sustain a conviction.”
Was this evidence actually weak? Or was it consciously not pressed by the SIT in its arguments before the trial concluded? The reasoning in the judgement due on June 6, 2016 will provide full answers.
[It needs to be recalled here, that the SIT, has in the Zakia Jafri case pending before the Gujarat High Court, inexplicably refused to investigate the demands of the criminal complaint: a wider conspiracy into the 300 incidents that took place in Gujarat in 2002].
While we await the judgement, we place before our readers strong evidence of criminal conspiracy that were placed and argued by advocates SM vora and Salim Shaikh for the witnesses.
In June 2010, Communalism Combat had reported on the detailed analysis that the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had undertaken and provided to the Supreme Court of India during its application for the re-constitution of the Special Investigation Team (SIT). This application supported by a detailed affidavit dated December 1, 2009 can be read here.
All this evidence was thereafter placed before the Trial Court from 2010 onwards. Advocate Mihir Desai argued for the arraignment of four officers, Commissioner PC Pande, Joint Commissioner, MK Tandon, then DCB PB Gondia and …Chudasama as accused in the case under section 319 of the Code of Criminal procedure (CRPC).
Essentially, this affidavit backed by documentary evidence procured through repeated applications in the Gulberg society massacre trial (by then before the special judge, BU Joshi) revealed that the SIT has deliberately or consciously failed to investigate key aspects of documentary evidence from the documentary records procured after trial began (the SIT had not placed these on record with the charge sheet).
What were these documents? They were charts showing arms and ammunition available with policemen stationed on duty (including the rounds of bullets they did not fire), they were records of the Fire Brigade register in Ahmedabad, they were the Police Control Room Records (PCT) and they were the analysis of the CD of phone call records first presented before the Nanavati-Shah Commission by then DCB Crime Branch (March-July 2002) in 2004.
What did our (CJP’s) locational analysis of the mobile phone records reveal?
Six Persons from chief minister Modi’s office in Meghaninagar locality on February 27
► What were six persons from Modi’s office (CMO) doing in the Meghaninagar locality where the Gulberg society is located on February 27, 2002, the day of the Godhra mass arson and eve of the massacres?
► According to the call records, all the six persons from the CMO were in the area during 2.00-5.00 pm that day, while Modi was in Godhra.
► At the same time, then health minister Ashok Bhatt and Tanmay Mehta (PA to CM Modi) are shown as located at Narol- Naroda between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm.
► These very locations were the sites of the carnage the next day. How is the presence of key and influential persons here to be explained? What were they doing there, who all did they meet?
What is truly mysterious is why the high-profile SIT specially appointed by the apex court failed to carry out a professional investigation.
For example, eyewitnesses and victim-survivors have spoken of the anguished calls made by Ahsan Jafri (before he was finally killed in a bestial fashion) to people at the highest levels in government. Was this mere human lapse or a pre-planned conspiracy at the very highest levels to allow people to be hounded, trapped, raped, molested, burned and killed at the Gulberg Society in an orgy of violence that started around 10 am and went on until 5.30- 6.00 pm?
Most critical of all, is the lapse in the SIT’s Investigations related to the PCT and phone call records of then commissioner of police, PC Pande.
Call records of PC Pande
Pande was in his office till about 1.00 am on the night of February 27/28. Normally, he would leave office at around 7 pm every evening. This clearly suggests that he was aware of the gravity of the situation following the Godhra train fire that day. He was back at his office by around 8.00 am. His normal schedule shows that he used to arrive at his office at about 10.30 am. His early arrival again shows that he was aware of the gravity of the situation.
Pande left his office at around 9.45 am and went towards Gota. This is likely to be his visit to the Sola Civil Hospital, where the dead bodies of the Godhra victims had been kept. He returned to his office around 10.50 am. He then remained confined to his office for the entire day and did not move out till about 7.10 pm, when he probably went to Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar.
The important point to be noted is that during the peak hours of the massacres, he did not move out of his office. It also appears that he did not issue clear and firm instructions to any of his officers and let things take their own course.
An analysis of the call records of Pande shows that on February 28 he made or received a total of 302 calls from his mobile phone. He had dialled 39 numbers from his mobile phone. Out of these 39 calls, he called the DGP, K Chakravarti, six times. He spoke to Jt CP Jha eight times and his DCPs eight times. Significantly, he called DCP, Zone IV, PB Gondia only twice: 15:16:12 hrs and 15:54:39 hrs. This despite the fact that the two worst-affected areas – Gulberg society, Meghaninagar and Naroda – were under Gondia’s jurisdiction.
Calls to/from CMO/Secretariat
There were as many as 15 calls received/and made to the bureaucrats who constantly shadowed the CM. Some secret numbers used by the chief minister himself have been revealed to us by members of Modi’s cabinet at the time that reveal calls made to a set of un-located and unknown numbers. At least about 40 per cent of the calls shown up in the phone records even today remain un-traced showing a willful refusal of both AT&T and Cellforce companies to cooperate with law enforcement agencies. If the Supreme Court were to directly order these companies to cooperate would they be able to get away with such deliberate non-compliance?
⇒There were five incoming calls received by Pande from the PA to the chief minister, Tanmay Mehta (PA to CM) on February 28, 2002: 11:14, 13:21, 15:38, 15:57 and 19:26 hours. This was the time of the peak violence when neither Pande, nor any political heavyweight in the state moved to the affected areas.
⇒ Pande received two calls from Sanjay Bhavsar, OSD to Modi: 13:07 and 14:22 hours.
What is truly mysterious is why the high-profile SIT specially appointed by the apex court failed to carry out a professional investigation. For example, eyewitnesses and victim-survivors have spoken of the anguished calls made by Ahsan Jafri to people at the highest levels in government
⇒ Pande received/made seven calls to/from Anil Mukhim, additional principal secretary to the chief minister on that day. His call records show that he received four calls from Mukhim: 13:09, 13:12, 15:43, 15:50 and 21:14 hours. At 20: 09 hours and again at 21:03 hours he made calls to Mukhim’s number.
⇒ Pande also received one call from the mobile number of AP Patel, PA to the CM at 17:17 hours on February 28, 2002.
⇒ Pande was in touch with Ashok Narayan (then additional chief secretary, home) eight times during the day. Each time it is he who made the calls: 13:52,14:17, 14:19, 15:02, 15:25, 20:11, 23:26 and 23:42 hours.
⇒ Pande got in touch with SK Nanda, secretary, health and family welfare board, once during the day (at 15:05 hours).Note: The three men close to the chief minister, Tanmay Mehta (PA to CM), Sanjay Bhavsar (OSD to CM) and OP Sinh (PA to the CM) did not file any affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah-Mehta Commission until 2010 when these facts were first filed in the Supreme Court of India through an affidavit by Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, CJP.
Mehta filed his two page affidavit dated January 22, 2010, Bhavsar on January 22, 2010 and Sinh on February 1, 2010. Until then, for eight long years after the carnage, they found no reason, nor were they asked to, file an affidavit.
In these two page affidavits they have explained away the calls made or received from Zadaphia (MoS, home) and Jaideep Patel saying they were probably official and due to passage of time they do not recall what was spoken. There are no averments/explanations in these affidavits about the CMO being in touch with the commissioner of police Ahmedabad while violence had raged: 15 times during the day, a period that also coincided with complete and utter inaction on the part of the Ahmedabad Police.
The question, still remains, what were they talking to each other about?
Calls to/from other ministers
⇒ Pande received six calls from MoS, home, Govardhan Zadaphia on February 28, 2002: 11:31, 14:20, 14:5, 16:20, 17:16 and 19:11 hours.
⇒ Pande spoke to Narottam Patel, minister for water supplies and resources at 13:56 hours form his office landline number.
⇒ Pande spoke to Ashok Bhatt, state health minister twice: 15:09 and 18:31 hours (both were incoming calls).
alls to/from main accused
⇒Pande spoke to Jaideep Patel, VHP Gujarat general secretary and accused in the Naroda Patiya and Gaam massacres once during the day at 19:31 ours (incoming call). By then the massacre was over.
Analysis of calls made from his office landline phone to mobiles of officers show that he connected to mobiles operating in Ahmedabad city only 13 times (out of 302 calls).
Of these, 12 were incoming calls on his landline phone. He made just one phone call from his landline number and that too was probably not to an officer. In addition, this single call was made at 20:10:56 by when most of the massacre and mayhem was over. It can be concluded that he did not use the landline to pass orders or instructions to his field officers.
Pande has so far stuck to his ludicrous claim that he had no information of the happenings in Naroda Patiya or Gulberg Society. In the deposition before the Nanavati Commission he attributed this to memory loss concerning the events of February 28, 2002. Pande must be recalled by the commission and re-examined in the wake of these fresh disclosures. That he was fully informed about the developments at Gulberg Society and at Naroda are obvious from his call details. The police control room records confirm that KG Erda, PI Meghaninagar police station (Gulberg Society is under its jurisdiction) called the PCR 10 times. The SIT under RK Raghavan never did grill Pande on these incriminating calls.
In 2010, CC had asked: Has Erda been made the fall guy for the lapses of his superiors? Today seven years after he was arraigned as accused by the SIT, he has been acquitted by Judge PB Desai.
Pande Also Guilty of Not Declaring Curfew on Time
Pande is also guilty of not declaring curfew on time. Curfew was declared only at 12.54 pm on February 28, 2002 after PCR Shahibaug reported that a 5,000-strong mob had gathered there (12.38 pm) Piecemeal curfew was declared at 12.38 (in another area, not in Meghaninagar) and then at 12.54 pm in the Meghaninagar area instead of a single order being issued for the whole of Ahmedabad city where mobs were on the rampage in different areas simultaneously. Why?
Was this a part of the strategy to keep areas unprotected and to leave the mobs to roam free?
Investigations into the mobile phone records of over 200 individuals have revealed that bureaucrats heading Modi’s office (CMO), ministers, top police officers and several of the prime accused were constantly in touch with each other on the critical two days of mass murder, gang rapes and arson
The inaction on the part of Pande is apparent. The real question that arises is the root cause of this inaction: Did he omit to take necessary measures of his own volition, or was he coerced into doing so?
There is another aspect that requires detailed consideration and investigation. On the evening/night of February 27, a meeting was called by the CM. Pande was one of the officers who attended the meeting. What instructions were issued by the CM at the meeting? Were the officers instructed to take firm action? If that was so, then would any officer have dared to disobey the CM over a legal order?
No Serious Disciplinary Actions Against Officers to Date by Gujarat Government
The state government has till this day not taken any serious disciplinary action against any officer. Denying a handful of officers a few months’ salary is all that the government has to show by way of disciplinary action for gross dereliction of duty. It is evident from such farcical action that the Gujarat government was not agitated by the intentional lack of compliance of its legal orders, assuming it had issued any.
Role of Joint Commissioner of Police (Ahmedabad) MK Tandon
Tandon too was in his office late on the night of February 27/28, until about 1.15 am. He was back at his office at by about 8.30 am.
Tandon had visited Gulberg society at around 11.25 am on February 28. But as police witness testimonies before the trial court show, on reaching the spot accompanied by a strike force, he found there a restive mob in an ugly mood. Junior officers on duty pleaded with him to rush additional police personnel to the trouble spot. But he simply left the place with his well-armed strike force in tow. Was his decision to leave Gulberg society unprotected a professional decision or governed by political pressure?
Tandon’s call records show that he received many calls from political bigwigs and some of the prime accused:
⇒ In the early hours of February 28 (0.32 am) he received a call from Zadaphia; much later, around 5.00 pm a call from Kaushik Jamnadas Patel, state minister for power. Nimesh Patel, accused of killing eight people, got in touch at 22:28:34 on February 28.
⇒ At 12:06:57 pm (afternoon) Tandon received a call from his immediate boss Pande. Tandon was at Gulberg Society at that time. They talked for about 75 seconds. What they talked about is not known?
⇒ At around 12:10 pm, there was a wireless message from a vehicle of the Meghaninagar police station to the police control room informing that police had resorted to firing at Gulberg Society. Anyone familiar with police operations would agree that it is not routine practice that the police rush to inform the police control room as soon as they resort to firing. Police would normally inform the control room only after the situation eases a bit. This can only mean that when Tandon got a call from Pande, police had either already resorted to firing or the mob surrounding the Gulberg Society had become so restive that police firing was imminent. In such a situation, Tandon would certainly have mentioned to Pande the grave situation prevailing at the Gulberg Society.
⇒ At 11:34 am he made a call to his DCP PB Gondia while he was somewhere near the Shayona Plaza Tower area, which is within 1.5 mtrs. of the Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar. Eye-witnesses and police witnesses have testified to Tandon’s visit and this fact has not been denied by Tandon either.
⇒ Again at 11.43 am he made a call to Pande on the latter’s mobile number. He made a call thereafter to the police control room at 11.47 am. He then received a call at 11.48 am from an undisclosed landline number. Ten minutes later, he made another call and yet again at 11.58 a.m. He took another call from an undisclosed number to the Control room landline. At 12.06 pm, he received a call from Pande (mobile). Thereafter, he made a call to RJ Savani, DCP Zone V (a neighbouring zone) at 12.09 p.m. He was still in this area when he called Pande at 12:.37 pm. In between at 12.11 pm he made a call to DCP Jabelia of Zone VI while his location shows him at Kailash Complex, Naroda. When he received a call from Savani at 12.13 pm, he was at the same location but a minute later at 12.14 when he called Pande his location showed up as Kubernagar.
⇒ There are other calls including two calls made to Pande at 12.18 pm when he was at the Kubernagar location. Between 12.11 pm and 12.33 pm, when he received and made calls his location is shown as Kailash Complex Naroda. Thereafter at 12.41 pm. and 12.42 pm he is shown at Vishal Diamond Factory near New India Colony at Bapunagar. This is a factory owned by MOS home, Zadaphia. Then he is out of the affected area and is shown to be in the vicinity of or at the Bora marriage Hall, Rakhial, Char Rasta (12.44 pm).The phone call records of both Pande and Tandon show that at the critical time when the latter visits Gulberg Society (between 11.43 am and 12.42 pm) when the mob build up was at its height, the two spoke to each other six times. Tandon’s justification of his departure without leaving behind the strike force (evidence before the Trial Court).
Tandon at Gulberg Society
While just outside Gulberg Society, Tandon received a call from Pande and it may be assumed that the two would have spoken about the violence and restiveness of the mob at Gulberg society at the time. PCR records also reveal that by the time Tandon got a call from Pande when he was at Gulberg society, the police had either already resorted to firing or the mob surrounding the Gulberg Society had become so restive that police firing was imminent. In such a situation, Tandon, ought to have informed Pande about the grave threat to the Gulberg Society. Yet Pande states on oath that he had no knowledge of the happenings there until much later?
Inexplicably, after talking to Pande, Tandon heads for Naroda Patiya. Details related to his failures as a senior policeman at Naroda Patiya can be read here.
On leaving Naroda Patiya, Tandon went to Dariapur and Revdi Bazaar areas where all was quiet. Thus, Tandon was neither at Gulberg Society nor at Naroda Patiya despite having full knowledge of the prevailing situation at the two places. He was not present at the places where the crime was taking place despite having sufficient police force at his disposal. He, thus, clearly abdicated his responsibility and abetted the commission of the crime by the riotous mob.
Was this omission on the part of Tandon a mere act of cowardice or was it an intentional omission to leave the mob free to kill, rape and loot? Was it that he was expected to fall in line and allow the pre-planned pogrom to be executed without any obstruction or resistance?
Witness Testimonies in Gulberg Indict Tandon on his Refusal to Claim Dead Bodies of Loved Ones
Witnesses deposing before the trial court in the Gulberg society case have testified to Tandon’s refusal to allow them to take the slain bodies of their near and dear ones when they (survivors) were rescued around 5.30 pm. Evidence also points to the fact that until then the bodies were in a recognisable state. Three days later, when survivors were called for the mass burial of their near and dear ones at the Kalandari Masjid Kabrastan, the bodies were charred lumps of flesh. Is not the joint commissioner of police Ahmedabad guilty of destruction of the bodies and therefore also tampering with evidence?
Role of PB Gondia (DCP, Zone IV (Meghaninagar and Naroda areas):
⇒ Gondia’s phone call records show that from 12:35 hours to 22:01 hours on February 28, 2002 he was in the Meghaninagar and Narol (Naroda) areas and yet did nothing to dispel the mob, call the fire brigade or stem the violence. At 18:55:59 and then again at 21:43:23 Gondia received a call from Nimesh Patel (9824255788). It appears as if this officer was regularly reporting to Nimish Patel and Jaideep Patel: at 22:10:52 Gondia called Nimesh Patel and at 11:40:02 he received a call from Jaideep Patel. Details on the role of PB Gondia then DCP, Crime Branch can be read here.
Role of KG Erda (Police officer, Meghaninagar police station)
KG Erda, investigating officer, Meghaninagar who was accused by SIT in its charge-sheet dated May 16, 2009 before the trial court is the lowest officer in the chain of command vis-à-vis Gulberg Society carnage:
Erda’s phone call records show that he had been in constant touch with the police control room throughout February 27 and 28. Even on the day of the Godhra tragedy, Erda had been in touch with the Control room from 1.21 pm right up to 11.10 pm, and even kept regular contact with his immediate superior Gondia.
⇒ On February 28, of the 28 logged calls made and received by him, 13 were made by him to the police; 10 calls logged on his mobile show that he called the control room 10 times speaking for a total of about 12 minutes; three calls were made by him to the local Meghaninagar police station during which he spoke a total of 65 seconds; two calls were made to DCP Gondia and two calls to Jt CP Tandon.
⇒ The fact that this police officer, the man on the spot, was in touch with the control room except between 15.33 pm and 17.52 p.m. (that is for a period of two hours and 20 minutes) when he preferred to call his immediate bosses Gondia and Tandon could be significant. This is because this was a critical period of the killing and carnage at the Gulberg Society when frantic messages to the control room could have yielded more immediate help.
⇒ In police and law enforcement language, a call to the control room effectively means a call to the commissioner of police, CP Ahmedabad in this case. Various officers in charge of the control room are expected to report to the CP area-wise every 15 minutes. A close scrutiny of the phone call log records of the various police stations connected with these trials, the police control room, Shahibaug Ahmedabad, and state police control room, Gandhinagar would reveal which officers performed their duties and kept their superiors constantly briefed. If these records then show that after having received such critical information a close coterie of senior officers who were in touch with the CMO did not act, allegations of conspiracy get substantiated.
Was JtCP Tandon’s decision to stay away from the massacre spots a mere act of cowardice or was it intentional to leave the mob free to kill, rape and loot? Was he expected to fall in line and allow the pre-planned pogrom to be executed without any obstruction or resistance?
⇒To top it all, the phone call records of Erda also reveal that on February 28 he was in touch with influential and key accused at various times of the day. At 15:20:35 Erda received a call from the then MLA Maya Kodnani’s office. (It may be recalled that Kodnani was Gujarat’s minister, women and child development, in 2009 when she was served notice of arrest by SIT. She then absconded for several days before surrendering. Kodnani thereafter resigned her position and was refused bail by the Gujarat high court. At 18:20:31 Erda again called Kodnani on her mobile and spoke for 93 seconds from the Meghaninagar area. Mysteriously, at 17:59:24 the same evening, Erda also called the accused Nimesh Patel that lasted 24 seconds. In what could be the strangest co-incidence or have the ingredients of a sinister conspiracy, Nimesh Patel spoke to Kodnani from his mobile four times – at 12:40 for 29 seconds, at 10:03 for 32 seconds, at 20:58 for 22 seconds and at 12:21 for 154 seconds.
(The investigation and scrutiny on which this report is based was directed and supervised by Teesta Setalvad for CJP in which many of our team participated wholeheartedly and with dedication. Many individuals from Ahmedabad who were witness to the 2002 massacre but who wished to remain anonymous made invaluable contributions to the investigation. Excerpted from the cover story, first carried in Communalism Combat, June 2010 Year 16 No.152, Cover Story 1)