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Who killed Haren Pandya ?

Modi wanted Vaghela’s phones tapped, his chief secretary wanted CEC Lyngdoh misled about Gujarat reality, his principal secretary wanted Pandya under watch...

Hartosh Singh Bal & Mahesh Langa
New Delhi/Ahmedabad

Fathers And Sins: Vithal Pandya campaigns
The tapes of his conversation with the home secretary prior to his deposition before the Nanavati-Shah commission is not the only damaging evidence against the Gujarat government that Sreekumar has in his possession. Through his tenure as intelligence chief in Gujarat, a term that began on April 9, 2002, a month after the Godhra incident, Sreekumar maintained a diary of instructions given to him by senior officials in the state as well as Narendra Modi.

Perhaps, the most damaging of this information relates to instructions issued by the state government regarding Haren Pandya, Modi’s foe within the Sangh Parivar ranks who was murdered a few months later.

On June 7, 2002, Sreekumar was asked by PK Mishra, Modi’s principal secretary, to find out which minister in the Modi Cabinet had met an independent citizen’s tribunal that included former Supreme Court Chief Justice VR Krishna Iyer. Mishra told Sreekumar that Haren Pandya, the then revenue minister, was suspected to be the one involved in the matter. Sreekumar was given the mobile number 9824030629 and told to obtain its call details. Pandya reportedly told the tribunal that the post-Godhra massacres were orchestrated by Modi, his officials and members of the Sangh Parivar.

On June 12, 2002, Mishra was told by Sreekumar that the minister suspected to have met the commission was none other than Haren Pandya. Sreekumar, however, refused to submit this information in writing. He said it was a sensitive matter and not connected with the charter of duties. Further call details of the number were handed over by OP Mathur, IGP (Administration and Security). It was learnt that Haren Pandya used this mobile.

On March 26, 2003, Haren Pandya was assassinated and his father Vithalbhai Pandya said that his son’s assassination was “a political murder”. Speaking to Tehelka, he blamed Modi for Pandya’s murder. So embittered was Vithalbhai that he contested the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha against LK Advani, but lost.

This, incidentally, was not the only time the Modi government had issued instructions for tapping a senior politician’s phone. At a meeting on April 16, 2002, Modi told Sreekumar that Congress leaders, in particular Shankersinh Vaghela, were responsible for the continuing communal violence in the state. The meeting (apart from Modi and Sreekumar) was attended by then DGP K. Chakravarti and the CM’s PS PK Mishra and Modi’s OSD. Sreekumar told Modi that he had no information regarding the involvement of the Congress leaders in communal violence. At this, Modi asked him to tap Vaghela’s phone but Sreekumar refused saying he had no information on the basis of which he could order surveillance.

Interestingly, two days later, controversial IB Joint Director Rajinder Kumar, posted in Ahmedabad, sold the same line to Sreekumar. When Sreekumar sought specific information, the IB man said he had none. The IB had been one of the few claiming the Godhra incident was a ‘pre-planned conspiracy’. It is still not clear how the IB was able to reach this conclusion within hours of the incident and questions have been raised about Kumar’s proximity to Modi.

Sreekumar also documented the incident that was one of the main reasons for the Modi government to hound him. On August 9, 2002 at the Ahmedabad circuit house annexe, senior officials, who had been asked to attend the meeting convened by then Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh, assembled in a room next to the conference hall. Chief Secretary Subba Rao, Additional Chief Secretary Ashok Narayan, DGP K. Chakravarthi, Police Commissioner KR Kaushik, Principal Secretary (Revenue) CK Koshy, Relief Commissioner Shah and Joint Secretary (Home) K. Nityanandan were present.

At the meeting, Subba Rao told officials that they must maintain that complete normalcy has been restored in the state. When Lyngdoh arrived, officials said the situation was under control and total normalcy has been restored. The chief secretary also requested Lyngdoh to see the presentation prepared by Nityanandan. Interrupting Rao, Lyngdoh said that he was not interested in the presentations. He said that he was aware of the ground realities in the state. Lyngdoh refused to believe the officials’ claim that normalcy was restored in the riot-hit areas. Lyngdoh said he had seen Sreekumar’s reports about the situation and that these matched his own assessment.

March 12, 2005
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