Gujarat 2002 (Naroda Patya Massacre)

Ninety-seven bodies had inquest panchnamas filed, a legal procedure under which the police, in the presence of two socalled “independent” witnesses, or panchas, physically verify the place from which the bodies were recovered and the nature of injuries on them and record their findings in writing. Thus, by their own records, the police recovered at least 97 bodies from Naroda Patiya. But, shockingly postmortems were performed on only 58. Of the bodies recovered from Naroda Gaon, autopsies were not carried out on two. Apart from providing irrefutable evidence of the scale of the barbarity perpetrated that day, the autopsies, if done honestly, could have established the time of death, which would have given a fair indication of the total duration of the slaughter. These reports could have been a strong piece of evidence in court. But this is exactly what the police did not want.

 Crucial evidence destroyed: The scene of a crime gives an investigating agency its most critical pieces of evidence. In Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon, the accused had left behind a trail that the police set out to systematically obliterate. The pit in which a large number of people were burnt alive was not even examined — no samples were taken of the soil, of the traces of human tissue or of the remains of burnt fuel. On the contrary, the pit does not even figure in the police version of the massacre. The dying declarations of as many as seven victims were not recorded; two of them died on March 11 after prolonged treatment, but no explanation is forthcoming in the chargesheet of why their statements were not recorded.

 BJP MLA exonerated: Naroda massacre survivors had named local BJP MLA Mayaben Kodnani as having incited the murderous mob. However, at the time of filing the chargesheet for the carnage, the police dropped her name from the list of the accused, claiming that they had failed to find any evidence against her. But Richard had much to say about the role she had played. Richard and his co-accused Prakash Rathod said that Mayaben patrolled the streets of Naroda Patiya throughout the day, urging the rioters to kill more Muslims.

 Destruction of Noorani Masjid not investigated: In its records of what it found at the scene of the offence, the police mention the presence of an oil tanker, manufactured by Ashok Leyland, near the Noorani Masjid, with its rear in contact with the wall of the mosque. Its front number plate was intact and read GT-1T 7384. But the tanker was not seized. The Road Transport Office was not contacted to determine its ownership. No samples of its contents were taken for forensic examination. In fact, it is still a mystery as to how a tanker of this size managed to “sneak in” so close to the Noorani Masjid, a place where there were over 12 police personnel on “constant vigil”.

Photo: Cherian Thomas

 No proceedings against absconding prime accused: Many main accused went absconding after the police was forced to register an FIR against them. Babu Bajrangi, Kishan Korani, Prakash Rathod and Suresh Richard, for instance, were arrested three months after the FIR was issued. Bipin Panchal was arrested after a year and a half. But the police did not follow any of the usual procedures used when an accused absconds, such as pasting notices outside the accused’s house declaring him an absconder, confiscating his properties, etc.

 Not one confession recorded: Those arrested for the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon massacres were taken in on remand — a period the court grants to the police to take an accused into custody for interrogation. But the remand and interrogation were a farce. Not one confession has been annexed to the chargesheets filed in either of the Naroda massacres.

 Just one weapon recovered: Barring one sword recovered from Bipin Panchal in 2004, the police have not recovered any other weapon either from the scene of the crime or from any other accused. The survivors, however, had testified that their attackers, including the accused, were heavily armed with an assortment of weapons — knives, swords, trishuls, gas cylinders and firearms. In an instance where as many as 105 people, according to the police’s own admission, were butchered, the failure to recover any
weapon used in the massacre speaks volumes for the quality of the investigation carried out. In fact, the owner of a gas agency had given a written statement that 20-odd persons with a Maruti van had landed up at his godown on the day of the carnage and had looted a large number of gas cylinders. The agency owner said his watchman had been present when the incident took place. But neither was the statement of the watchman recorded, nor was any attempt made to identify those involved in the looting or to track down the vehicle used in the crime.

 Not one accused sent for scientific examination: Since not a single statement of any of the accused was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it would indicate that the police failed to elicit any information by conventional interrogation methods. The next step would have been to subject the accused to scientific examinations like a polygraph test or narcoanalysis or brain mapping. The police, however, initiated no efforts in this direction.

 No mention made of rapes: Three chargesheets apiece were filed in the Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya massacres. However, despite the testimonies of dozens of survivors who had reported that women were raped, not a single instance of rape was recorded. At least one post-mortem indicated a possible case of sexual assault, yet no investigations in this direction were carried out. (It should be noted that since autopsies on 41 bodies were not carried out, there is no ascertaining how many of them were women’s and whether they bore marks of sexual assault.)

 Mobile phone recovered from the spot not examined: On the day of the massacre, a survivor named Mirja Hussain Biwi Moherble recovered a mobile phone near her residence in Naroda Patiya. It had been inadvertently dropped by one of the accused, and was handed over to the police. On enquiry, Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, AK Surolia found that it belonged to one Ashok Sindhi, an accused in the massacre. Surolia launched a massive investigation and started collecting the call records of Babu Bajrangi and other accused, including Sindhi (Letters from Surolia addressed to telecom companies asking for phone records are with TEHELKA.

We also have handwritten notes by him in which he observed that he believed Bajrangi “to be behind all this”.) But before the investigation could go any further, Surolia was transferred. Once he was gone, the police stopped looking into Sindhi’s phone records. In the three chargesheets filed in the Naroda Patiya massacre, no mention has been made of any cellphone belonging to an accused being recovered from the scene of the crime.

 Mobile phone records of the accused not made part of the chargesheet: After the case was transferred to the Crime Branch of the Ahmedabad Police, the then DCP Rahul Sharma proceeded to collect the mobile phone call records of all the accused. But, a few weeks into the probe, he was unceremoniously taken off it and the case was handed over to Deputy Commissioner of Police DG Vanzara. Sharma, however, managed to make a copy of all the call records and produced it before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. These call records are a piece of strong corroborative evidence establishing not only how all the accused were making frantic calls to each other while the Naroda massacre was in progress, but also that they were present at the spot. Call records have not been included as evidence in the chargesheets.

Photo: Cherian Thomas

 No mention made of use of firearms: In the chargesheets, the police have only said that the mob was carrying sharp-edged weapons (of which only one has been recovered so far). The police have ruled out the use of any kind of firearm by the mob. The injury certificates of most of the survivors who were treated for gunshot wounds were not made part of the chargesheets; all the same, clear mentions of gunshot wounds did find their way into four injury certificates annexed with the chargesheets. One postmortem report also attributes the death to a firearm injury. The dimensions of the entry and exit wounds in all five cases show that the wounds were inflicted by small firearms and not by police rifles. In any case, though the police have claimed to have fired 91 rounds to disperse the mob, it is not their case that anyone was injured in police firing. As to how these five people sustained bullet injuries, the entire investigation is silent.

 No identification parades carried out: In the case of both the Naroda massacres, dozens of witnesses have stated that were the accused to be shown to them, they would identify their attackers. Yet, except for Ashok Sindhi, the police did not conduct any identification parades of the accused. The identification parade is of immense importance
in cases of mob violence.

THE INVISIBLE HAND
In the course of their conversations with TEHELKA, numerous accused spoke appreciatively of the role of the police, and named senior Sangh Parivar functionaries, for their role in the carnage, including MoS for Home Gordhan Zadaphia, whom Bajrangi spoke to after the massacre. When so many arms of the government were involved at so many levels, was the man who headed the state also involved?

TEHELKA asked Bajrangi this question. In reply, the Naroda massacres prime accused said that Chief Minister Narendra Modi had visited Naroda twice after the massacre — first, in the evening of the day of the massacre, when he came to the locality but was unable to enter it, and second, on the next day, when he went inside Naroda Patiya. On both visits, Modi had encouraged the murderers, Bajrangi said, and told them that whatever they had done was good and that they should do even more.

Suresh Richard corroborated this account and said that Modi had also visited Chharanagar on the evening of the massacre and garlanded the rioters. Bajrangi said that if Modi had not told the police to stand back, the massacre would never have been possible. But Modi’s support to the rioters did not stop at the facilitation of the killings. Bajrangi said after the Naroda killings, Modi kept him in hiding for more than four months and then stage-managed his arrest. If that was not enough he also brought in a favourable judge to hear Bajrangi’s bail petition and got him out of jail.

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