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Gujarat cop accused of burying evidence
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | August 25, 2004 12:40 IST
Senior Sub-Inspector R J Patil of Kalol police station, Panchmahal district, Gujarat, was on Monday night arrested for 'destroying evidence' related to some Gujarat riots cases.
Patil allegedly helped the accused in disposing off 14 bodies. Investigations have revealed that he also clubbed seven cases, which accounted for 14 murders, into one first information report†and closed the file.
The tribal areas of Panchmahal had witnessed some of the worst violence in Gujarat in the aftermath of the February 27, 2002 Godhra carnage.
Over 50 people, mostly pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were burnt alive when miscreants set two bogies of Sabarmati Express afire near the Godhra railway station. The incident sparked off riots in large parts of Gujarat, leaving over 1000 people dead.
Two of the worst incidents in Panchmahal had taken place near Delol, where 23 Muslims were killed; and near Ambica Society†in Kalol.
Investigators have found glaring loopholes in the way the Ambica Society incident was investigated by Patil and his team.
Patil allegedly helped in the disposal of the bodies without the knowledge of the victims' relatives.
For all the violent incidents that took place near Ambica Society on March 1, 2002, including 11 murders, Patil filed only one first information report.
The senior sub-inspector's arrest followed investigations by Special Investigating Officer Neerja Gotru.
Gotru assisted Inspector General of Police Rakesh Asthana, much before the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government on August 17 to reopen over 2000 riots cases, in re-investigating cases that were closed either on the grounds that the accused were untraceable or that there was no credible evidence available.
Last year, after the Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat police to file a report on the Bilkis Bano rape case, the then police chief K Chakravarthy directed Asthana to look into all rape, murder and other serious riots cases closed summarily for want of evidence.
Additional Director General of Police (CID, crime) Kuldip Sharma monitored the investigations.
Gotru, who was then superintendent of police, Amreli, was chosen as a special investigating officer and was handed over four rape cases.
Gotru, who camped at the Kalol police station, found that soon after the March 1, 2002 incidents, the local police had collected some material evidence and put it on record in the station diary. Among the items were some bones.
The records mentioned that the bones were sent to a laboratory in Baroda for tests. Patil, however, did not follow up the tests before closing the case.
Mukhtar Ahmed, a social activist in Kalol, said: "Police officers, who have not fulfilled their duty in the riots cases, should be punished more severely than the accused. If an accused is to be hanged, the police should be hanged 10 times."
When the Ambica Society incident happened, Patil's senior was Deputy Superintendent of Police Dinesh Parmar, whose role is also likely to be scrutinised.
It is believed in political circles in Gujarat that equations between the police and the state establishment have changed after the change of guard in New Delhi. The pressure from the Supreme Court has also played its role.
Several police officers who had acted under political compulsion are now feeling the heat,†particularly after the SC order to reopen over 2,000 riots cases.
A senior Indian Police Service officer told rediff.com: "We were used after the riots. We will become scapegoats now."
A majority of the accused in the Ambica Society case have strong political connections. Ajay Soni and Dilip Dave, main accused in the Ambica Society cases, are members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
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