When you are summoned by national investigators in connection with the charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, murder, extortion and destruction of evidence, it is never a good idea to go into hiding as a strategy.
It is elementary that dodging such a summons would only strengthen the perception of guilt. And if you happen to be a state’s home minister in charge of its law and order and also once happened to have been its law minister, the standards of conduct in the face of such a summons are pretty narrow and exacting. There is practically no flexibility in how one can respond other than answering the summons personally.
Yet, defying common sense, legal and moral responsibilities Gujarat’s junior Minister of Home Amit Shah went into hiding after India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) required him to answer a litany of very grave charges. I was in Gandhinagar, the state’s capital yesterday, where much of the behind-the-scene politics was unfolding around Shah’s serious troubles with the law of the land. From my limited exposure to the atmosphere in the capital, I could tell that everybody was talking about Shah’s troubles, some openly but most mumbling under their breath. There was a general sense that the CBI charges could mark the beginning of the end of his career. I am not so sure for various reasons but that is not relevant here.
The plot surrounding this case is so complicated it could have happened only in real life and not in the pages of a political/crime thriller. In 2005, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a 37-year-old resident of the neighboring state of Rajasthan, and his wife Kausar Bi, were picked up by the Gujarat’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS)from a bus near the city of Ahmedabad. The state government then claimed and continues to do so since that Sheikh was an operative of the Islamic terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taba who was on his way as part of a plot to target political leaders in the state. Soon after his arrest/abduction Sheikh was allegedly shot dead in cold blood. His wife Kausar was apparently raped and then burnt alive. A third person, Tulsiram Prajapati was also killed.
The CBI has charged 18 people in connection with the killings. So far 15 police officers, including former ATS chief D G Vanzara, have been arrested and jailed. Of the remaining three, Shah has been the most high profile, considering not just his position as the junior law minister but his proximity to the state’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The sense in Gandhinagar was that while Shah was the immediate target of the investigation, Modi could be the eventual one given his virtually unassailable hold as the charismatic chief minister of Gujarat. There is nothing to suggest that the flames leaping around Shah would not threaten Modi in some way. The fact that the CBI is working under the direct order and supervision of the country’s highest Supreme Court carries a great deal of weight in the otherwise incendiary political atmosphere such cases always trigger.
It is inevitable that Shah would be arrested at some point with his application for anticipatory bail having been rejected. Of course, he has the option of moving the state’s high court to prevent his arrest. However, the trajectory of the investigation is clearly headed in the direction of his arrest.
Comeuppance is a word that definitely crossed my mind in Gandhinagar yesterday.