Officials of the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government alleged political pressure in connection with the 2002 riots and the various alleged fake encounters in the state. They made these claims in a sting operation by former Tehelka journalist Rana Ayyub who has self-published what she calls excerpts from these purported conversations in “Gujarat Files – Anatomy of a cover up”. The book was launched in New Delhi this evening.
Ayyub, who has said that she recorded Modi, too, at his Gandhinagar residence — wearing a camera in her watch — did not release the sting tapes saying she would give them to investigating agencies if they asked for it.
Ayyub said the common thread in all her sting operations was Amit Shah, the then home minister of Gujarat and now the BJP president. Shah, who was once jailed in the Sohrabuddin case, was discharged by a CBI court in December 2014.
Ayyub alleged that Tehelka, which had sent her on the assignment, refused to publish the story later citing “political pressure”. The then editor of Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury, was not available for comment. Asked about Ayyub’s allegations today, a BJP spokesman declined to comment.
Ayyub claimed she stung Ashok Narayan, G L Singhal, P C Pande, G C Raighar, Rajan Priyadarshi and Y A Shaikh over eight months during 2010-11, posing as an NRI filmmaker from the US who was making a film on “vibrant Gujarat”. She said she assumed the name of Maithili Tyagi.
Ayyub quoted IPS officer Rajan Priyadarshi as linked Modi and Shah to the communal violence in the state.
Priyadarshi joined the Congress after he retired, campaigned for the party and launched a fortnightly called ‘Rajan’. “I have nothing to hide, I said all this even in election campaigns,” he told The Indian Express on Friday.
Priyadarshi, who retired as Additional DGP (Prisons) in 2009, added that he had met someone by the name of “Maithili Tyagi” three years ago. “Though I have not seen or read the book, whatever I may have told her is 100 per cent the truth,” he said.
Singhal, an accused in the Ishrat case that was investigated by the CBI, is now posted as Deputy Inspector General of Police at the Police Training Academy in Gandhinagar. At the time of the encounter, he was serving as Superintendent of Police, ATS. Ayyub claimed when she asked him whether Ishrat was a Lashkar terrorist, he purportedly replied: “See, she was not but she was killed in the same incident. I mean she could have been or not have been. Or she could have been used as a cover.”
Singhal told The Indian Express on Friday that he had met “one Maithili Tyagi” but would not comment on the book as he had not read it.
Ayyub claims in the book that she asked Ashok Narayan, who was additional chief secretary (home) in 2002: “You must have gone red in the face when the CM asked you to go slow (while controlling the riots).” She claimed that Narayan purportedly replied: “He would never do that. He would also never write anything on paper. He had his people and through them the VHP and then through them (it would) trickle down through informal channels to the lower-rung police inspectors.” Narayan, who retired in 2004, was appointed Commissioner (Vigilance) till 2008.
Ayyub said that she asked G C Raighar, who was chief of CID (intelligence): “What’s with the encounters here? You were there.” She said he purportedly replied: “I was in just one. One criminal (Sohrabuddin) was killed in a false encounter. What was foolishly done was they killed his wife.”
The book has a chapter on the Haren Pandya murder case and also mentions first investigating officer Y A Shaikh’s allegations regarding official complicity. On Friday, Shaikh could not be reached for comment. A former colleague of Shaikh told The Indian Express that “he took voluntary retirement from police service some five-six years ago and is abroad”.
In the launch panel were journalists Hartosh Singh Bal and Rajdeep Sardesai, and lawyer Indira Jaisingh.
Jaisingh, who appeared in court for the CBI in the Ishrat case, said, “The book validates what CBI investigations had revealed.”
Sardesai said he wished he had a camera when he was speaking to a senior judge who, in the context of the Gujarat riots, said, “Yeh jo Mussalman hai, voh badlega nahi. Iske saath yahi hona tha. (These Muslims are never going to change. This was bound to happen to them).”
He claimed this judge from Gujarat had headed two commissions to investigate two of the biggest riots in the country and had been appointed once by the Congress and then by the BJP. Bal said this judge “spared the gallows for the butchers of the Trilokpuri riots on the grounds that they did not kill women”.