Three days before Tulsiram Prajapati was killed in an alleged fake encounter in 2006, he told his co-inmate in jail that he was going for a court hearing and would not return. This was claimed by the co-inmate while deposing as a prosecution witness in the alleged fake encounters of Prajapati and Sohrabuddin Sheikh in court on Friday. The witness, who was lodged in Udaipur central jail from 2002, said that Prajapati spoke to him before leaving for a hearing in Ahmedabad on December 25, 2006.
“He told me ‘Uncle, main ab wapas nahi aaunga (I won’t return now)’. The next day, I read in the newspapers that Prajapati had fled from custody. All of us in jail knew he would be killed in an encounter. The next day, we were informed that he was killed in an encounter,” the witness said.
Months before his death, Prajapati had written to various authorities claiming he would be killed by policemen in a staged encounter, the witness said. The 64-year-old resident of Rajasthan said he had helped Prajapati draft applications to send to various authorities, including the NHRC. He claimed that Prajapati had told him the reason for the threat to his life, and that he had named Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria as well as Gujarat and Rajasthan policemen. Kataria, initially named an accused in the case, was discharged in 2015 due to lack of evidence.
The witness said on Friday that he was serving a life term in Udaipur jail till his release in 2011. He claimed that Prajapati had sought his help in drafting an application regarding threat to him. “Prajapati said he is an eyewitness to the abduction of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi and therefore, he was under threat from the police. Prajapati said policemen from Gujarat ATS had abducted and later killed Sohrabuddin and Kausarbi,” he told the court. He said that Prajapati had told him that Sohrabuddin had threatened the owner of R K Marbles for ransom of Rs 25 crore.
“The owner was ready to give Rs 5 crore but the deal was not settled and so the owner approached Rajasthan Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria,” the witness said. The owner was also named as an accused, and discharged in 2015 for lack of evidence.
According to the witness, Prajapati told him that the minister conspired with policemen from Rajasthan and Gujarat to eliminate Sohrabuddin. He said Prajapati told him that while the policemen were abducting Sohrabuddin, Kausarbi accompanied him despite the policemen not taking her along. “Prajapati told me that as he was a witness to this, there was an attempt by Gujarat and Rajasthan policemen to kill him,” he told the court.
During cross-examination, defence advocate Wahab Khan asked the witness whether he had alerted any authority regarding the threat to Prajapati’s life. The witness answered in the negative.