Ultimately the Gujarat Police official who pulled the trigger to kill Tulsi Prajapati is in CID custody. Inspector Ashish Pandya was arrested on May 13, from Rajkot. The wanted policeman had not been traceable since the arrest of SP Dahod Vipul Aggarwal on May 3.
Though Pandya is reportedly tight-lipped, he is reported to have told CID sleuths during preliminary interrogation that on December 28, 2006 he was on leave at his home in Kutch when Vipul Aggarwal, then SP of Banaskantha, called him on his landline and asked him to report on duty immediately. Aggarwal had also asked him to speak to DIG D.G. Vanzara. He left his home immediately to follow the orders. But he claims he doesn’t know why he was called so urgently. This statement confirms the involvement of two IPS officers namely Aggarwal and Vanzara.
Pandya has been brought to Gandhinagar for further interrogation. However reports suggest that CID team under Deputy Superintendent of Police R.K. Patel, has a complete picture of the gruesome incident.
Three arrested head constables – Karansinh Sisodiya, Kiransinh Rajput and Kanji Kacchips – have given shocking details as to how Prajapati’s murder was meticulously planned by the SOG of Banaskantha police. These three were part of SOG petrol team involved in the cold blooded killing of Tulsi Prajapati. The team was headed by Ashsish Pandya.
The three head constables arrested from Siddhpur in Patan district told the investigating officer Patel that Ashish Pandya (then Sub Inspector with SOG, Banaskantha) asked them to accompany him for a patrolling near Ambaji. When the police jeep reached a predestined deserted place near Ambaji, Pandya told them to stand near the road and look for a white Maruti 800 car.
After some time the car reached there. Prajapati, with his hands tied with a rope, was taken out of the car. Pandya ordered them to stand near the police jeep. The Inspector took out a country-made revolver and shot a round on the police jeep. He shot another round in his left hand.
Pandya then fired at Prajapati from his service revolver. Prajapati’s hands were untied after he was dead. A few minutes before the act he had received instructions on his mobile phone from Mr. Aggarwal.
According to investigating officer Dy SP R.K. Patel: “This fact is totally different from the orchestrated story of the police. Prajapati did not run away from the train as claimed by police but was in the possession of police who killed him in a planned manner.” These revelations may bring more trouble for Vipul Aggarwal and other arrested IPS officers like DG Vanzara.
According to CID sources, Pandya is mum on the fact that Prajapati was taken away from the Kalupur Railway Station in a car by a policeman and a fake complaint was registered with the GRP at Kalupur Railway Station stating that Prajapati had escaped from police custody. Instead he was taken from the railway station along with a Rajasthan police constable to Ambaji in a car where he was to be handed over to Pandya and his team. Pandya gunned him down from his service revolver. Pandya claims that “he does not know anything about this,” Patel said. Mr. Patel added, ‘‘Pandya was not ready to reveal the names of the two men who accompanied Prajapati from Kalupur Station to Ambaji in a car.”
It is believed that Pandya committed the crime of killing Prajapati on the orders of Vipul Aggarwal. CID (Crime) has been maintaining that the motive for Prajapati’s killing will be clear only after Pandya’s interrogation. Prajapati was killed on December 28, 2006, the day he was supposed to be interrogated by the then IG, CID (Crime) Geetha Johri in connection with Sohrabuddin’s fake encounter. Johri had arrested several police officers in the case.
Prajapati was the lone eyewitness of the abduction of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife from a bus. He was also travelling in the same bus and was held with the duo by Gujarat police in plainclothes. He was kept with them in illegal detention before Sohrabuddin and then his wife Kausar Bi were killed in his presence by Vanzara and his team.
The state criminal investigation department has intensified its investigations into the case after CBI arrested several police officers in Sohrabuddin case and sought papers related to Prajapati case from Gujarat CID. The CBI had asked for these documents following instructions from the Supreme Court to probe into the “larger conspiracy” behind the Sohrabuddin’s killing. So far, the state government has been refusing to hand over the papers related to the Prajapati ‘encounter’ case to the CBI. CBI sources have categorically said they will take “appropriate steps” to get the papers.
Till now five policemen have been arrested in the Prajapati case by CID and 15 for November 2005 killing of Sohrabuddin and Kausar Bi. Police claims Sohrabuddin was killed in a shootout near Ahmedabad on Nov 28, 2005. Police investigators could not find trace of his wife Kausar Bi. She was abducted with Sohrabuddin and is also believed to have been killed by the cops after Sohrabuddin. Search for her remains could not yield results.
Rajasthan police personnel accompanying Prajapati on the fateful day from Udaipur jail to Banaskantha to produce in a court there are also absconding. The four cops have been identified as Naransingh Chauhan, assistant superintendent of police, Kartarsingh Jat, Yudhveersingh Jat and Dalpatsingh Rathod, all constables in Udaipur. However Rajasthan police has promised to co-operate with investigators in arresting the missing cops. The superintendent of police, Udaipur, Sanjib Narjari has said that some of the missing cops were on leave while others were under training when they went missing.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat CID (Crime) has asked the BSNL to provide mobile phone records of the cops. The request was sent after CID realised that the CD in its possession containing mobile phone records of the missing cops has been tampered with.
Prajapati had written a letter from Udaipur (Rajasthan) jail to his brother stating he was the lone witness to the “cold-blooded murder” of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi. He also said in the letter that the Gujarat Police was planning to kill him. The deceased had asked his kin to file a writ petition in the Rajasthan High Court to prevent the transfer of his custody back to the Gujarat Police.
It was alleged by policemen escorting Prajapati that he had escaped from the police escort. Police in an FIR has maintained that that three people threw chilly powder on the police party escorting Prajapati back to Rajasthan by train and got him released. However, Railway Police had reported that no chilly powder was thrown on the policemen escorting Prajapati. Forensic laboratory report also questioned the claim of firing on police party.
The weapon shown used for firing on police and latter recovered from the deceased was declared by the Forensic Scientific Laboratory as “jammed” and unable to fire. The bullet injuries on the Pandya were believed by the experts as self-inflicted.
The Police story says that Prajapati has escaped from police custody while being taken by train from Rajasthan, but was spotted on the outskirts of Amblipar village on the Ambaji-Mount Abu Road by a police team comprising three personnel from Rajasthan Police and six from the Banaskantha Special Operations group (SOG) led by Ashish Pandya.
According to the FIR lodged in the Ambaji police station, Prajapati had fired on the police team in which Pandya sustained bullet injuries on his hands and Prajapati was killed in the retaliatory gunfire.
Prajapati’s family members did not buy the police story and moved the court. CID (crime) then began a probe into the case on court orders and has so far recorded statements of about 300 witnesses in the case.
According to the investigating officer Dy SP R.K. Patel of CID there are 12 accused in the case, out of which 5 (SP Dahod Vipul Aggarwal, Inspector Ashish Pandya and three constables) have been arrested while seven are absconding. Among them four are Rajasthan Police persons who had accompanied Prajapati from Udaipur to Ahmedabad. He was liquidated while being taking back to Udaipur Jail.
A team from the Gujarat CID (Crime) branch is camping in Udaipur on the trail of four absconding police personnel, an assistant sub-inspector of police, a head constable and two constables.
Senior Rajasthan police officers maintained that they were assisting the Gujarat police and the CBI as best as they could. A senior Rajasthan police officer stated that while all the IPS officers had met CBI sleuths without delay, the Udaipur police were assisting the Gujarat CID (Crime) branch in apprehending the four wanted policemen.
In a related development the CBI on May 13 sought permission from the Rajasthan Director General of Police (DGP) to question Dasot who is presently IGP Kota. Dasot was IGP Udaipur when the Sohrabuddin ‘encounter’ occurred. Then Udaipur SP Dinesh M N has already been arrested in this regard. “The CBI has sent a letter to our office and has intimated that they wanted to question an IPS officer,” Rajasthan DGP H C Meena told media in Jaipur (Rajasthan).
A CBI team has already questioned three IPS officers, Hinglajdhan, who was posted as assistant SP in Udaipur and Bal Mukund Verma and Virendra Jhala, who were both additional SPs in 2005.
Though CBI officials remained tight-lipped about the investigation and questioning of the IPS officers, sources maintained that they were only trying to get a clearer picture of the events that transpired before the 2005 Sohrabuddin encounter.
[The writer is Gen. Sec. Forum for Civil Rights]