After 15 years, the murder mystery of Haren Pandya, former Gujarat Revenue Minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet, in 2003, has deepened with a witness in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh 'fake encounter' case claiming that that the BJP leader was killed on orders from ex-Gujarat IPS officer D N Vanzara. At the time of his murder, Pandya was neither an MLA or MP, as he had fallen out with Modi. Shaikh was later finished off in an alleged encounter.
In his testimony in a trial court on Saturday, the witness said he had met Shaikh, his wife Kausar Bi and his associate Tulsiram Parajapati (both of whom were also killed), as per a PTI report. The three killings took place between 2005 and 2006.
“During that time, Sohrabuddin told me he had got money from D G Vanzara to kill Gujarat’s home minister Haren Pandya and he completed the job. I then told him that what he did was wrong and he had killed a good person,” the witness told the court, adding that in 2005 he was arrested by Rajasthan police and lodged at Udaipur jail, which is where he met Prajapati. The witness is said to be one Azam Khan, an alleged gangster, according to the Times of India.
“Prajapati told me that the Gujarat police killed Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi,” the witness said, deposing before special CBI Judge S J Sharma, PTI reported.
Of the 38 people charged by the CBI for the two alleged fake encounters, 16 were discharged by the trial court. Among those discharged is BJP president Amit Shah, who was the then Gujarat Home Minister. However, the identity of the killer is still unknown, which is why the latest testimony has given a new twist to the case.
In 2007, Pandya's father, too, had raised doubts over the murder case. "My son's death was a planned, political murder...it must be reinvestigated," he had told Outlook magazine.
Pandya, who had critiqued Modi's role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, was killed in March 2003 when he was going to the Law Gardens in Ahmedabad for his morning walk. As per reports, as he parked his white Maruti car, a man came and shot him through the window of his car.
According to the Outlook, Pandya had deposed to a Citizen's Tribunal looking into the killings of around 2,000 Muslims during the Gujarat riots, which had raised Modi's hackles.
"More than four years after the minister's death, Justice Hosbet Suresh, retired judge of the Bombay High Court, confirms his identity: "The minister who deposed before us in the Concerned Citizens Tribunal was Haren Pandya, then a cabinet minister in the Modi government. Pandya told us two important things. One was about the meeting on February 27." The judge says Pandya said the senior most police officials were told by Modi that they should expect a Hindu reaction. "They were also told they should do nothing to contain this reaction," says the article.
With the testimony in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh case set to continue next week, the latest revelation has thrown up more questions that beg answers in Pandya's murder case, which raised doubts about the 'botched up' investigation which failed to nail the real culprits and identify the killer.