New Delhi, April 25: In what is possibly the first documentary evidence placed before the Supreme Court pertaining to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, activist Teesta Setalvad pointed out 15 calls between his office and Ahmedabad police commissioner P C Pande on the first and worst day of the post-Godhra killings.
Those 15 calls were among the 302 made from or received on Pande’s mobile phone on February 28, 2002, Setalvad disclosed in an affidavit before the apex court on the basis of an analysis of the phone records obtained from the Nanavati Commission.
The significance of those 15 calls involving Modi’s office is that they could, as Setalvad said, be responsible for the errors of omission and commission by the Ahmedabad police in the two largest massacres that took place that day at Gulbarg Society and Naroda Patiya, both within 5 km from Pande’s office.
For, Pande’s mobile phone records also showed that, despite the bandh called by VHP in Ahmedabad and the eruption of large-scale violence, he had not stepped out of his office the whole day.
The break-up of Pande’s 15 phone conversations with the CM’s office are as follows: five with Modi’s PA Tanmay Mehta, two with his OSD Sanjay Bhavsar, seven with his additional principal secretary Anil Mukhim and one with his PA A P Patel.
Similarly, phone records showed that Shivanand Jha, who was then Pande’s No 2 and is now a member of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), had also not stepped out of the Ahmedabad police headquarters on that fateful day.
Responding to an affidavit filed last week against her by the Gujarat government, Setalvad came up with such analysis of the available data to convey to the Supreme Court “the extent and depth of concealment” by the SIT while dealing with eight major post-Godhra riot cases, including Gulbarg and Naroda Patiya.
On behalf of the victims, Setalvad also opposed SIT chairman R K Raghavan’s letter earlier this month requesting the apex court to reconsider its decision to keep Jha and another member Geeta Johri out of these investigations.
The apex court had ordered the exclusion of Jha because he is one of the 63 persons named as accused in victim Zakia Jafri’s complaint, which is being probed by the SIT. In the case of Johri, her continuance in the SIT was found untenable because of the strictures passed on her in January by the Supreme Court in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case on the ground of concealment of evidence.
In another major disclosure, the phone record analysis indicated that Pande had spoken to joint commissioner of police M K Tandon six times during the critical period when the latter was present at Gulbarg Society and the mob was growing restive.
Though Tandon was accompanied by “striking force” equipped to disperse a riotous mob, he left Gulbarg Society without taking any corrective action and his departure led to the massacre in which 69 persons, including former Congress MP and Zakia’s husband Ahsan Jafri, were massacred.
As regards the allegation made by the Gujarat government that she had been “tutoring” witnesses, Setalvad pointed out the sheer improbability of it as 183 witnesses have deposed so far in the ongoing trial in the eight post-Godhra cases entrusted to the SIT spread across Gujarat. All those witnesses, barring two in the British national case and one in the Gulbarg case, have identified the accused and testified to the negligence of the police.
The trial in the Gulbarg case was stayed last month by the Supreme Court after the special public prosecutor R K Shah had resigned accusing the trial judge and the SIT of being soft on the accused. Having questioned Modi last month, the SIT is due to submit its report on Zakia Jafri’s complaint by April-end.