By Ujjwala Nayudu
Sep 11 2012
D G Vanzara
Dahyabhai Gobarji Vanzara, the “encounter king” of Gujarat police, was seemingly indomitable until his arrest in 2007 for staging the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi. Believed to be close to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and former minister Amit Shah, Vanzara, 54, was promoted to the IPS cadre in 1987. He was deputy chief of the Ahmedabad crime branch and later the Gujarat ATS during six sensational “encounters” that saw 11 including two women killed, with most branded terror group operatives targeting Modi. Those killed included Sadiq Jamal Mehtar, Mumbai college girl Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram Prajapati. He was later promoted as DIG and as head of the border range. Lodged in Sabarmati Central Jail, Vanzara is acquiring degrees in yoga and spirituality and aspires to do courses in public management and IT through distance education.
The flamboyant Chudasama, 47, is called “well-networked”, “star cop” and “dreadful” in the same breath. As SP in Valsad, he made a name as an encounter specialist and was beginning to step into Vanzara’s shoes. He is said to have been involved in the abduction of Sohrabuddin and his wife. He came from a village in Bhavnagar and joined the police in 1991 through the Gujarat Public Service Commission. Upgraded to IPS in 1999, he served in the Ahmedabad crime branch in 2002 and was a DSP in the ATS and then in the Intelligence Bureau. In 2008, he finally sat in his mentor Vanzara’s chair as deputy commissioner of police in Ahmedabad’s crime branch; in 2010 he was arrested in the Sohrabuddin case. Chudasama is now in Nadiad sub-jail, away from Vanzara who is in Sabarmati Central Jail.
Bitter former protégé
His real name is S Pandia Rajkumara and he hails from Tamil Nadu. He was once under the shadow of Vanzara and came across as the officer who followed his orders, but he has fallen out with his former boss since their arrested for the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter in 2007. The 1996-batch IPS officer was then 38, the youngest IPS officer to be arrested in an encounter case. As SP in the ATS, he allegedly “kidnapped” Sohrabuddin and his wife from a bus and brought them from Sangli to Ahmedabad. It is suspected he possibly even captured Tulsiram Prajapati and brought him to Valsad before sending him away to Rajasthan. Pandian has a doctorate in agriculture and his career had looked promising. Now 43, Pandian has been involved in slug-fests in Sabarmati Central Jail with Vanzara and their aide N K Amin. Pandian had been close to former minister Amit Shah, too, and enjoyed plum postings in the Intelligence Bureau and as SP of Porbandar.
P P Pandey
Prithvi Pal Pandey, now heading CID (crime), was the Ahmedabad crime branch chief at the time Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan were killed. A 1980-batch IPS officer, Pandey came under the scanner for botching the probes into the Naroda Patiya, Gulberg and the Naroda Gaam incidents of 2002, which were then with the crime branch. He was supposed to have been the custodian of the controversial CDs containing logs of calls made during the riots, which he has denied. Pandey, 55, is said to have worked closely with former DGP K R Kaushik during the Ishrat and Sadiq Jamal encounters that were carried out by D G Vanzara’s team. Pandey is also accused of having tampered with papers pertaining to the Sameer Khan Pathan encounter.
P C Pande
The former Ahmedabad City police chief and Gujarat DGP has been named in the chargesheet in the Tulsiram Prajapati case. He has been blamed for creating hurdles in the Sohrabuddin encounter probe in 2006, and these allegedly led to Prajapati’s elimination. He had earlier faced allegations of inaction during the riots until the Supreme Court-appointed SIT cleared him. He was also cleared of the charge that he did not help former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed by rioters. In the encounter cases, the CBI reportedly found he had been aware of the CID (Crime) doctoring evidence to suit political bosses. Pande was removed as police chief by the Election Commission in 2007 and eventually retired as the director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau after a year’s extension. After retirement, he served as chairman of the police housing corporation.
Credited with opening the Pandora’s Box of encounters; blamed for derailing these very probes. Gujarat’s first woman IPS officer, 55, who had taken on the Ahmedabad underworld, came up with evidence in 2006 that Sohrabuddin was killed in a fake encounter and his wife too was killed. Her investigations eventually led to the arrests of Vanzara and other officers by her junior colleague Rajnish Rai in 2007. But when she took charge of the formal probe — she supervised the preliminary probe earlier — she seemingly gave in to pressure and is now accused of having skewed the probe to protect the powerful. Former investigating officer V L Solanki has told the CBI that Johri, a 1982-batch officer, prevented him from questioning Prajapati before he was killed.
K R Kaushik
Blot on clean image
Kaushik, a former Gujarat police chief, had a spotless image and an impeccable service record until the CBI named him in the Sadiq Jamal Mehtar and the Ishrat Jahan encounter cases. Kaushik was the Ahmedabad police commissioner when Ishrat was killed and had claimed a specific intelligence input that led to the killings of alleged “LeT terrorists” Ishrat and three others. When a special investigation team appointed by the Gujarat High Court grilled Kaushik, he reportedly said the intelligence input had come from IB officer Rajinder Kumar, who too was named in the FIR. Later Kaushik was booked by the CBI after it took over the case. An IPS officer of the 1972 batch, Kaushik was made the state DGP in 2007 by the Election Commission, replacing P C Pande.
O P Mathur
He was a deputy SP in Rajasthan, having joined the IPS in 1975, and then allotted the Gujarat cadre. As chief of CID (crime), he allegedly played a key role in derailing the probe into the deaths of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati. Since then, he has been promoted to DGP, made Ahmedabad’s police chief, and after retirement posted as director of the government’s Raksha Shakti University in Ahmedabad. Mathur, believed to be close to Rajasthan BJP leader Om Mathur, has been charge-sheeted in the Prajapati encounter. In the Sohrabuddin encounter case, his junior Geetha Johri blamed him for doctoring the CDs that contained call records between minister Amit Shah and police officers. The CBI says it was given the tampered version. Mathur has been charged with destroying evidence and pressuring Johri to delink the Sohrabuddin and Tulsiram encounters.
A practising doctor from Delhi, he joined the IPS in Gujarat in 2001. Aggarwal was the SP of Banaskantha in 2006 and allegedly provided logistical support to a special operation group that carried out the killing of Tulsiram Prajapati. Aggarwal, 36, had featured in call records of former minister of state for home Amit Shah and encounter cops D G Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandian, with whom he spoke several times the day before and the day of the encounter in December 2006. Known to be close to Vanzara, Aggarwal had allegedly agreed to “cooperate” and handed over the task of shooting Prajapati to his then inspector Ashish Pandya, also jailed. Aggarwal was allegedly present when Tulsiram was shot dead by Gujarat and Rajasthan police in a joint operation. He is now lodged in Palanpur subjail in Banaskantha.
G L Singhal
Girish Singhal, 47, is known as a “mischief man” among his colleagues. He was questioned by the High Court-appointed SIT probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter and is suspected, along with colleague DSP Tarun Barot, of having pulled the trigger on Ishrat and her aides Pranesh Pillai, Jishan Johar and Amzad Ali Rana in 2004, labelling them Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists. Now under the CBI scanner, he is also accused of destroying the original CDs of call records prepared by officer Rahul Sharma in the riot investigations. The SIT probing the riots concluded recently that Singhal had shown negligence in handling the crucial evidence when he was in the Ahmedabad Crime Branch. A trusted lieutenant of Vanzara in the Ahmedabad crime branch and ATS, he was also under a cloud in the Sohrabuddin case for trying to cover up the killing. Singhal was recently transferred to the State Intelligence Bureau.
‘Whistleblower’ to ‘threat maker’
Bhatt, 49, went public with Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged remark in a 2002 meeting that Hindus should be “allowed to vent their anger” after the Godhra train fire. The Supreme Court-appointed SIT probing the riots dismissed Bhatt’s allegations and all evidence he presented. The 1988-batch IPS officer, a product of IIT Bombay, was arrested for threatening a constable and asking him to file an affidavit supporting the claim that he had attended the CM’s meeting. The constable, K D Panth, has filed an FIR saying Bhatt forced him to file a fake affidavit before the Supreme Court’s amicus curiae, Raju Ramchandran. Bhatt’s one-time friend Tushar Mehta, additional advocate general, too filed a case against him with the Ahmedabad Police for hacking his personal email account. Bhatt has been under suspension for the last one year.
Probe and get probed
Satish Verma dug into the Ishrat Jahan encounter as a member of the High Court-appointed SIT. Since then, the 1986-batch IPS officer has faced charges in old cases that have been reopened. One relates to the 1993 RDX landing at Gosabara Island, when he was SP of Porbandar. He was accused of showing negligence in handling kingpin Maulana Sattar. Verma, an IITian hauiling from Bihar, also faced an inquiry by a High Court-appointed SIT for an alleged encounter that saw the killing of three people in Porbandar. The High Court recently dropped the inquiry, which had been initiated by the state government after he had raided the Ahmedabad forensic laboratory to seize a hard disc containing photos related to the Ishrat Jahan encounter probe. He had been ordered to join the CBI to assist them in the probe. Verma is currently recuperating from a hip bone fracture.