The mystery over the original mobile phone records during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat has deepened with the government's decision to chargesheet the whistleblower police officer Rahul Sharma, shortly after it suspended another senior police officer, Sanjeev Bhatt.
The state government has charged Sharma with alleged misconduct for not having submitted to his superior officers the original CDs containing the details of mobile phone call records during the riots.
But this version has been sharply contradicted by Sharma, a 1992 batch IPS officer. In his affidavit filed before the Nanavati Commission, which is probing the riots, Sharma had submitted that he never retained the original CDs.
"The attempt of the state government is to create a controversy on the authenticity of the CDs, which are highly damaging for them and would expose them," Sharma's lawyer, Mukul Sinha told HT.
In his detailed affidavit before the commission, Sharma said he was provided the CDs by the then joint commissioner of police, PP Pandey, since the police decided to analyse "all the calls received or sent by all persons holding mobile phone within the city of Ahmedabad."
"Since those CDs were really, a part of information received during the investigation. I had requested Pandey to keep the original CDs along with the case file. I had prepared one copy of that information and that has remained with me," Sharma deposed before the probe panel.
On being asked why the mobile phone call records were at all required by the police, Sharma said, "Ordinarily, in riot cases, we arrest the persons who are named but these cases being of a different type, we though it fit to collect evidence before we took action."
Sharma was posted as the superintendent of police Bhavnagar, when riots broke out in the state on February 28, 2002. He first earned the ire of the Narendra Modi government when asked why the number of Hindus killed in police firing was higher than Muslims killed in his district.
"One minister of state at that time, Shri Gordhan Zadaphia had contacted me. He had told me that while I had done a good job at Bhavnagar, the ratio of deaths as a result of police firing was not proper," Sharma told the probe panel.
Asked to elaborate, he said, "What I understood thereby was that he was complaining about more number of deaths of Hindus compared to Muslims as a result of police firing in Bhavnagar City."
Sharma was transferred from Bhavnagar to Ahmedabad police control room, a few days later when he refused to release some BJP leaders allegedly involved in an attempt to set fire to a local mosque in Bhavnagar.