This story is before the Ishrat Jahan encounter hit front page news, and even before the CBI progress report on the four fake encounter cases that took place in Gujarat during the mid-2000.
It is the story of Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) D G Vanzara, the super-cop who made his name as an “encounter-specialist”. While Vanzara bides his time within the confines of a prison cell, his fall from grace has coincided with the rise of the man who is now being touted as the next Prime Minister, the man who he was reportedly very close to, Narendra Modi.
Having joined the state police in 1980 and becoming IPS cadre in 1991, Vanzara, the son of a landless labourer from Ilol village, rose through the ranks under the guidance of Modi. During the riots after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, Vanzara was the Superintendent of Police (SP) stationed at Mehsana which is about five hours from Surat, the epicenter of the riots. Vanzara, later on, said that he had no cases of violence in his district. Soon after, he was appointed the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) in Ahmedabad and he earned himself the tag of an encounter-specialist after reportedly killing over 10 ‘terrorists’ post-Godhra.
Almost all of these encounters happened due to an apparent plot to kill Narendra Modi, the head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Pravin Togadia or L K Advani. It was in this period that the encounters of Ishrat Jahan (2004) and Sohrabuddin Sheikh (2004) also took place. Both were labled as Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives. There were also the encounters of Tulsiram Prajapati (2006), Samirkhan Pathan (2002), Sadiq Jemal Mehtar (2003). In June the same year, two people were killed who were believed to be a threat to Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Ashok Bhatt and Bharat Barot. Prajapati had even gone to the extent of appealing to an Udaipur court before his death as he was witness to the Sohrabuddin encounter. Vanzara was transferred to the Banaskantha, just days before Prajapati was killed there in December. The Central Investigation Department (CID) also searched for remains of Kausar Bi, the wife of Sohrabuddin Sheikh who was reported missing, at Vanzara’s residence after his arrest. She was also a prime witness.
It came as a surprise to many within the Gujarat hierarchy when Vanzara was arrested in April ’07 by the Gujarat CID as he had become very powerful. He was also hand-in-glove with Modi and former Home Minister Amit Shah, who is said to have orchestrated the encounters. He is considered to be one of the first dominoes to fall and is now in a Mumbai jail where the CBI has recently interrogated him. Vanzara has applied to study Human Rights during his time in jail.