A Saheb who loves to spy

The phone call intercepts of Amit Shah and GL Singhal suggest that the top police machinery of Gujarat, at Narendra Modi’s behest, was illegally snooping on a woman close to him 

Sadiq Naqvi Delhi

 

Amit Shah: Singhal

GL Singhal: Yes sir

Amit Shah: Can we have somebody sent on the flight to Mumbai?

GL Singhal: Hmmm!

Amit Shah: Saheb has solid information of some activity so better put somebody on the flight

GL Singhal: Yes sir… Very well sir, I will send somebody

Amit Shah: Give some money and put him on the flight and second if she has made call from STD PCO at the airport have the number checked

 

Chilling details of stalking and illegal phone tapping of a young lady architect and Pradeep Sharma, an IAS officer, allegedly at the behest of ‘Saheb’—a reference to Chief Minister Narendra Modi—recently emerged on two web portals. Amit Shah, the then junior minister for Home Affairs in the Gujarat government, and a close confidant of  the CM, is heard overseeing the whole tapping operation that involved the entire top police setup of the state—the Anti Terror Squad, the Intelligence Bureau, CID, and the top police officials. The conversations were submitted to the CBI by GL Singhal, an accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, who was then serving as the SP, ATS.

The scandal, with all the ingredients of a spy thriller, has caused a storm in political circles. Modi, in his Bengaluru rally, claimed that the Congress was conspiring against him. BJP President Rajnath Singh promptly came out with a letter purportedly written by the lady architect’s father, Pranlal Soni, claming that he had verbally requested Modi to provide security to his daughter. Even as the BJP leaders tried to appear defensive, it was clear that this explosive expose had caught them off guard. A few months back, the party had brought the Parliament to a halt with their demand for a thorough investigation into Arun Jaitley’s phone tapping case, where a private detective in collusion with police officials had scooped the Rajya Sabha leader’s call data records (CDR).

The ‘security cover’ theory offered by the father falls flat if one goes through the conversations. Sharma’s statements, interestingly, hint at Modi’s secretive obsession of the woman. He claims to have introduced the young architect to the chief minister, who is supposed to have become close to her. It’s being suggested that the Gujarat government even awarded lucrative deals to the woman’s father, a businessman.

Allegedly, Sharma’s problems began when Modi suspected him of having in possession a video clip reportedly of the private moments Modi spent with the architect. Sharma also claims that because of this, Modi and Amit Shah had him jailed on trumped up charges of corruption. “When I was arrested, not once was I summoned by the police to record my statement. Not once was I given a notice or a hearing,” Sharma told a news channel. “I was informed by the girl that she had visited the CM’s residence in 2006. I have reasons to believe the CM suspects her of having made a clip, and which she might be sharing with me – which is not true,” he added.

The ‘stalking’ saga apparently began when Sharma mistakenly dialled Modi’s private number, which he had taken from the architect. “She used to confide in me,” Sharma claims.

 

Other officers who have similarly dared to speak out against Modi’s conduct, especially during and after the 2002 riots, claim to have faced the music. Some officers like Pradeep Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt even had cases registered against them, while others, including Rahul Sharma, Satish Verma, RB Sreekumar etc., were sent on punishment postings.

Meanwhile, the news hasn’t come as a surprise to many in Gujarat. Journalists, activists, politicians and even police officials in the state suspect they are under surveillance on orders from the political bosses. Earlier this year, Gujarat DGP Amitabh Pathak was reportedly shocked to learn his own police force had carried out tapping on more than 93,000 phone numbers.

Modi is now attempting the easy way out. He has appointed a two-member enquiry committee. Previous committees like the Nanavati commission, or even the more recent MB Shah commission investigating corruption, are yet to come out with their reports. However, the revelations have only vindicated what many in Gujarat have been claiming all throughout. That it is fast becoming a police state run on the whims of an autocrat. And the fact that he is the prime ministerial candidate of the principal opposition party doesn’t bode well for this country’s
vibrant democracy.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: DECEMBER 2013