Thursday, 13 December 2012

Rahul Sharma & Nirjhari Sinha

Key role of IPS Rahul Sharma's CD
What was in the CD: The most crucial piece of evidence that could nail top police officers and politicians in the gruesome riot case emerged in 2004 when Rahul Sharma went to depose before the Nanavati and Shah inquiry commission. Sharma collected phone call data from the then mobile service providers Celforce (now Vodafone) and AT&T (Idea). The CD contained records of incoming and outgoing calls.

How CD was useful: Sharma was helping crime branch nail the real culprits behind the riots. He wanted substantive evidence to locate the key accused at the riot spot and who had talked with whom. The two mobile service providers operating at that time provided entire call records of two days starting from February 28.

Mystery behind the CD: Rahul Sharma was transferred from the police control room after which the CD disappeared. Sharma claimed that the original CD was given to the then crime branch chief PP Pandey but Pandey denied this. The government questioned the authenticity of the copies of the CD given to the Nanavati Commission.

CD helpful in nailing BJP minister Maya Kodnani and others: The CD was ultimately used by the Supreme Court appointed SIT. The mobile call records and location proved Kodnani was at the riot spot. The CD also became instrumental in putting IPS officer PB Gondiya, RJ Swani and MK Tandon under the scanner.

Published Date:  Aug 31, 2012
Nirjhari Sinha was always most interested in moonrocks and meteorites. Then the riots of 2002 happened and the scientist decided to do something about it, analyzing the call details of many VIPs, leading to the arrest of some
Ajay Umat | TNN 

    What happens when a former scientist of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), who spent a lifetime studying moon rocks and meteorites, pores over 10 million phone calls made during the 2002 riots in Gujarat? The calls also include those exchanged between policemen and politicians during the three most infamous fake encounters in the state — Sohrabuddin Shiekh, his wife Kausarbi and Tulsiram Prajapati. The result is the long arm of law finally catching ministers, MLAs and trigger-happy top cops.

    The Gujarat police had not even named BJP MLA Dr Maya Kodnani as an accused in the Naroda Patia massacre of 2002, where 97 people, including 35 children, were killed by rioters. But when the case was given to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), they turned to call data analysis done by scientist-turned-activist Nirjhari Sinha. It showed that Kodnani was at Naroda Patia during the peak of the killings on February 28, 2002. Although call data was not considered by the special judge hearing the case while sentencing Kodnani to life imprisonment, it played a crucial role during investigation and corroborating witness statements.

    Similarly, Amit Shah, former minister of state for home in the Modi government, wasn’t shown as an accused by Gujarat police’s CID (crime) in the Prajapati fake encounter case. But Sinha’s analysis of call data is believed to be key evidence which led to Shah being named the kingpin in the killing in the CBI chargesheet that was recently filed. This, despite many of the call records being tampered with or destroyed.

    Sinha says call data can help one trace location, duration, frequency and the persons involved. “By analyzing it, investigators get crucial information that can expose the nexus between criminals, police and politicians,” she says. “The accused police officers made hundreds of calls before and after Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi were killed,” she says. “Tracking one officer’s calls can give you not only his location but also corroborate where the couple was hidden and where the killings most probably took place.”

    Sinha says that one key officer’s phone was switched off when Kausarbi was killed, “but I was able to trace phone calls made by another policeman who was believed to be travelling with her body. It tracked locations such as the place Kausarbi’s body may have been burnt. The policeman’s statement says he was asked to collect wood to burn the body on the banks of a river; he followed those instructions. His phone call records show that he was by a riverbed in Illol, in Sabarkantha district on November 29, 2005, the day Kausarbi was killed.” Incidentally, Illol is the hometown of suspended IPS officer D G Vanzara, who is in jail since 2007 for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.

    But what made a scientist become a crime investigator? Born into a Gujarati Jain family in Ahmedabad, Sinha was extremely disturbed after the 2002 post-Godhra riots in which more than 1,000 people were killed. So, the science that helped her understand the cosmos, was put to more earthly use — nabbing conspirators of the 2002 violence. “The rule of law had been conveniently set aside for fanatical vote-bank politics,” she says. “The violence and deprivation of justice had alienated Muslims. They were losing faith in our democratic framework because their right to complain or seek legal help had been taken away.”

    She had already helped found NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch with her activist husband Dr Mukul Sinha in 1987 and the duo jumped headlong into fighting for justice for the riot victims. Besides, she is also founding member of the New Socialist Movement and had assisted her husband when he challenged the Modi government during the Nanavati-Shah Commission, inquiring into the 2002 violence.

    Her new vocation also gave new meaning during a dark period in her personal life. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. “It was sudden, shocking and depressing, but when there is a will, there is a way,” she says. “One day, I learnt about IPS officer Rahul Sharma submitting crucial evidence in a CD to the Justice U C Banerjee Commission, set up by the Centre to probe the train-burning at Godhra in 2002. The same evidence had also been given to Nanavati Commission, but the state government was opposing it tooth and nail.”

    Sharma’s CD contained records on all mobile phone calls in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, the worst day of the post-Godhra riots. These included calls made by politicians and rioters, giving crucial evidence of who they had called and whether they were present at riot spots when the city was burning.

    “My husband encouraged me to take up the challenging job of analyzing the call data. He also wanted to engage me in meaningful work because cancer treatment had restricted my movements. As my husband was also representing Rubabuddin Sheikh, Sohrabuddin’s brother and Tulsiram’s mother Narmada Bai in court, I had lots of documents readily available. When I analyzed riot call details, it was appreciated by the SIT and cognizance was taken of it in the Naroda Patia case. But when I tried to get call details in the fake encounter cases, all agencies particularly from the state, denied help.”

    She then studied the chargesheet filed by CID officials, took all the annexed details of phone calls in Excel sheets and found specific acts of omission and commission by the investigators to protect the accused. “Our experience shows that meticulous work in the field of law and investigation linked with grassroots struggle can revive secular democratic forces. My faith in the law of the land is being restored.” 

CRIME TAKES A TOLL Nirjhari Sinha; (right) Maya Kodnani after being sentenced to 28 years in the Naroda Patia case 

This graph prepared by Sinha shows Maya Kodnani’s presence at Naroda Patia in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, when the killings were at their peak. Her mobile was tracked to her home in Shahibaug. She then went towards Gandhinagar to attend the state assembly, with her phone being tracked to Koba closeby. Though she claimed she hadn’t visited Naroda Patia, call records showed she was there from 12.30 pm to 4.30 pm, the time the murders took place 


3 yrs later, cellphones start talking: who called whom when Gujarat was burning

Posted: Nov 21, 2004 at 0214 hrs IST

Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s general secretary in Gujarat is a pathologist called Jaideep Patel. He was booked for rioting and arson in the Naroda Patiya massacre, the worst post-Godhra riot incident in which 83 were killed, many of them burnt alive. The police closed the case saying there was not enough evidence.Two compact discs could change that.

For, they contain records of all cellphone calls made in Ahmedabad from February 25, 2002, two days before the horrific Sabarmati Express attack to March 4—five days that saw the worst communal violence in recent history.

This staggering amount of data—there are more than 5 lakh entries—was investigated over several weeks by this newspaper.

They show that Patel was in touch with the key riot accused, top police officers, including the Police Commissioner, top government officials, and even the Chief Minister’s Office while Naroda burned.

The CDs, obtained by the Crime Branch of the Gujarat police way back in April, are now sitting with the Nanavati Shah Commission. They have been obtained by The Sunday Express and are a treasure trove of information that investigators could build on in their search for justice for the riot victims.

These are not transcripts of conversations.

These show:

• How the riot accused were in regular touch with politicians, police officers and government officials. All at a time when the city and the state was burning, when the Narendra Modi government looked the other way and the Opposition Congress went to sleep.

• Using cellphone tower locations, the data also gives information on the physical location of the caller and the person at the other end.

In the first of a series of reports detailing the records of the key characters of the Gujarat riots, The Sunday Express looks at the movements and calls of VHP leader Jaideep Patel.

Records show that Patel, who lives in Naroda, was there when the massacre began, then left for Bapunagar which also witnessed killings and returned to Naroda. And that he was in touch with other riot accused, Babu Bajrangi, Ashok Govind Patel, Bipin Patel and local BJP MLA Maya Kodnani.

February 27, 2002

Sabarmati Express attacked at 8.05 am, bandh called by VHP in the evening, BJP backs the bandh

Patel is in touch with senior police officials, his VHP colleagues in Delhi, state Home Minister, BJP chief

Recalling the calling

• When asked to explain his cell records, Jaideep Patel said: ‘‘I don’t remember who all I spoke to, it’s been a long time since Godhra. But I brought the bodies to Ahmedabad, I might have spoken to cops as some Godhra victims could have been from Naroda. I might have spoken to people in the govt, I do not know. After all, I am a leader of the Hindus, several people speak to me everyday. It can’t be said that because I spoke to certain persons, something happened somewhere.’’ • Why was Minister Gordhan Zadaphia in touch with Jaideep Patel? Zadaphia: ‘‘When the inquiry commission will ask...I will reply. If I’m speaking to different persons who I think can help me restore normalcy, there is nothing wrong.’’ • Why did the Chief Minister’s Office contact Jaideep Patel? PS Tanmay Mehta, who made the call: ‘‘I do not know anything about this.’’ • Did the Crime Branch study the cellphone records before closing the case against Patel? Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) P P Pandey: ‘‘There are certain aspects about it yet to be looked into. As the Police Commissioner is on leave, I cannot comment.’’ • Will the review panel, set up at the behest of the Supreme Court, look into these records while scrutinising the 2,100 closed riot cases? DGP A K Bhargav who heads the panel: ‘‘These cellphone records have little value, they do not prove anything. Yes, these can be used to trace the movements of an accused.’’ • 11.09 am: Patel leaves the city for Godhra.

• 12.48 pm: Patel is in Godhra and one of the first persons he speaks to is then Ahmedabad DCP (Zone V) R J Savani who calls him at 1.05 pm.

• 2.29 pm: Patel receives a call from a Delhi number and speaks for 215 seconds. This number is registered in the name of Bharatiya Sanskriti Pratishthan, Sector-6, R K Puram, New Delhi, the VHP headquarters.

• 3.30 pm: Patel calls state BJP President Rajendrasinh Rana and speaks for 267 seconds. At 4 pm the VHP called for a Gujarat Bandh the next day, on February 28, 2002, and the BJP quickly declares its support.

• 5.00 pm: Patel receives a call from Bharatiya Sanskriti Prathisthan, Delhi and speaks for 357 seconds.

• 5.07 pm: Patel again receives a call from this Delhi institution.

• 5.14 pm: DCP Savani calls Patel and speaks for 117 seconds.

• 5.17 pm: DCP Savani again calls Patel.

• 8.03 pm: Then state MoS (Home) Gordhan Zadafia calls Patel and speaks for 159 seconds.

• 8.39 pm: Patel calls Zadafia.

• 9.13 pm: Patel calls Zadafia again, this time for just 3 seconds.

• 9.16 pm: DCP Savani calls Patel and speaks for 138 seconds.

• 9.20 pm: Patel again calls Zadafia and speaks for 186 seconds.

• After 11.58 pm: Patel leaves for Ahmedabad with the bodies of the 58 persons who were killed in the S6 coach of Sabarmati Express.

FEBRUARY 28, 2002

Ahmedabad erupted; worst massacre in Naroda Patiya; curfew imposed in all 30 police station areas

Patel is in touch with Naroda corporator minutes before massacre begins

• 2.34 am: Patel enters Ahmedabad with the 58 bodies of Godhra victims, heads for Sola Civil Hospital.

• 9.17 am: Patel calls then state Health Minister Ashok Bhatt and after 10 minutes, leaves for Naroda.

• 10.11 am: Patel reaches Naroda and at 10.52 calls one Ashok Govind Patel of Naroda and speaks to him for 80 seconds.

(Ashok Govind Patel, who has been in constant contact with Jaideep Patel, is a BJP corporator from Naroda and an accused in the killing of eight persons in Naroda on February 28, 2002 and also in the case in which Jaideep Patel was named as an accused and which was later closed by the Crime Branch.)

• 11.05 am: Patel receives call from a cellphone which was allegedly being used by the prime accused in the Naroda-Patiya massacre, Babu Bajrangi.

The phone is registered in the name of one Priyanka Mahendra Pandya, B/3 Pragat Ghanshyam Society, Ranip. Records reveal that the phone had been carried to Godhra the previous day and was located in Naroda area from morning of February 28, 2002 till 8.28 pm.

When contacted by The Sunday Express, Mahendra Pandya, father of Priyanka Pandya, said: ‘‘I have been using this cell number for more than year. Three years ago, it was with Babubhai (Babu Bajrangi).’’

According to the police FIR, the attack on Naroda-Patiya started at 11 am and went on till 8 pm.

• 11.12 am: Patel again receives a call from Naroda corporator Ashok Patel.

• 11.21 am: Jaideep Patel leaves for Bapunagar area. This was one area in the city which witnessed unprecedented violence and the maximum number of deaths in private firing was reported from this area. This was under the control of DCP R J Savani.

• 11.32 am: Reaches Bapunagar and calls Minister Zadaphia.

• 11.37 am: Key accused in the Naroda-Patiya massacre, Bipin Panchal alias Bipin Auto, calls Patel and speaks for 62 seconds.

• 11.40 am: Patel calls then DCP (Zone IV) P B Gondia, under whose jurisdiction Naroda-Patiya and Gulbarg Society fall—38 persons, including ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed in Gulbarg—and speaks for 85 seconds.

• 11.52 am: Patel again calls DCP Gondia and this time speaks for 106 seconds.

• 11.55 am: Patel calls Ashok Patel and speaks for 63 seconds.

• 12.01 am: Ashok Patel calls back.

• 12.07 pm: Patel calls Ashok Patel and speaks for 71 seconds.

• 12.10 pm: Patel calls then Naroda BJP MLA Maya Kodnani and speaks for 79 seconds.

• 12.20 pm: Patel calls DCP Gondia and speaks for 42 seconds.

• 12.25 pm: Patel returns to Naroda.

• 12.39 pm: Patel returns to Bapunagar area.

• 12.57 pm: Patel receives call from the cellphone being used by Babu Bajrangi.

• 1 pm: Bipin Panchal calls Patel and speaks for 86 seconds.

• 1.17 pm: Bajrangi calls again.

• 1.19 pm: Bipin Panchal calls.

• 1.23 pm: Bipin Panchal calls again.

• 1.43 pm: Bipin Panchal calls again and speaks for 72 seconds.

• 3.25 pm: Patel receives a call from the Chief Minister’s Office and speaks for 141 seconds.

• 7.20 pm: Patel receives call from a cellphone registered in the name of Sanjay Bhavsar of General Administration Department, Government of Gujarat, and speaks for 102 seconds.

• 7.24 pm: Bhavsar calls again.

• 7.28 pm: Patel calls Bhavsar.

• 7.31 pm: For the first time in the day, Patel calls then Police Commissioner P C Pande and speaks for 47 seconds.

• 8.29 pm: Patel returns to Naroda area.

• 9.11 pm: Tanmay Mehta, Personal Assistant to the Chief Minister, calls Patel. The conversation lasts 209 seconds.

• 11.32 pm: State BJP President Rajendrasinh Rana calls Patel and speaks for 13 seconds.
By midnight, senior police officers, including Joint Commissioner of Police M K Tandon had reached Naroda-Patiya. The massacre was over, the survivors were being moved to hospitals and relief camps hastily set up by the Muslim community at Shah Alam and Dariya Khan Gummat. Another massacre had taken place in Gulbarg Society. Defence Minister George Fernandes arrived in town, the death toll was 125 and counting.

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