Note: This article was first posted as an informal response to an ongoing discussion in the webforum chhattisgarh-net. It was later translated into Hindi and published by the Raipur-based newspaper "Chhattisgarh".
Frankly, I am surprised at the number of comments posted consequent to my arrest about ten months ago: the topic, which posits a linkage between my Papa’s ‘pro-poor’ stance and my incarceration, is itself somewhat fascinating insofar as it encourages a rigorous contextual ‘rereading’- or what the post-modernist might call ‘deconstruction’- of what has been published in mainstream media. Allow me then to contribute, albeit belatedly, my own version to that now-forgotten debate.
Upon my release a few days ago, I was asked ‘how I felt?’ It is impossible for me describe ‘the agony and the ecstasy’ of ten unending months in ten quick seconds, which is the about the time the electronic-media is likely to allot to a ‘jail-bird’ like me. Yet, ten months is a long time- almost an eternity- to put things into perspective: the sad solitude of the seven by ten feet high-security prison-cell allowed- perhaps even compelled- me to indulge in philosophical introspection as well as analytical observations of the Carceral life, both of which have found their way into a four-part Jail Dairy, four plays, quite a few poems and drawings. Someday, they will be published and the reader will gain an insight into the ‘punctuated transformations’- the waltz between nature and nurture- that have molded me.
Whether I am a victim of high political conspiracy, or whether Justice has finally caught-up with me is not for me to say, atleast not right now when the matter is subjudice. What I do know for certain is this: I am being tried for the murder of a person whose name I hadn’t heard before; and the consequences of whose death have been equally if not more tragic for my family as for his. Despite assertions to the contrary, however, the fact remains that in India, we still uphold the view that ‘a person is guilty until he establishes his innocence’ when infact the opposite- ‘a person is innocent until he is proved guilty’- constitutes the bedrock of civilized jurisprudence.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has chargesheeted me for plotting the murder of Mr. Ram Avtar Jaggi, the then state-treasurer of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), in an unspecified room at the Hotel Green Park, Raipur, on the night of 21st May, 2003, before atleast fourteen other persons, including the bureau-chief of the Times of India. The details of this meeting, as stated in his courtroom evidence given by Mr. Reginald Jeremiah, who has been my friend for over a decade, is as follows:
(a) Between 10:30-11 p.m., I telephoned him and asked him to bring Mr. Law Kumar Mishra, state correspondent of the Times of India newspaper, to Hotel Green Park. He then called Mr. Mishra, picked him up from the Times of India office, and duly drove him to the hotel situated on the Raipur-Mahasamund highway.
(b) Upon arriving at the said hotel, they (Reginald and Mr. Mishra) found me in a room, engaged in discussion with twelve persons (who he can identify) as well as others (who he does not remember). Mr. Michael William and Mr. Mr. Arjun Bhagat, of Akash Channel, suggested that news coverage of an NCP rally, scheduled for 10th June 2003, be curtailed; Mr. Raj Awasthi, also of Akash Channel, recommended that buses, taxis, jeeps etc. be blocked from being hired for the said rally.
(c) During the course of this discussion, I advocated the murder of Shri Ram Avtar Jaggi in order to foil a forthcoming NCP rally scheduled for 10th June 2003. To this end, I asked Reginald to call one Mr. Chiman Singh, who was already present in Raipur. Accordingly, Reginald telephoned Mr. Chiman Singh on his mobile phone, and asked him to come to Hotel Green Park.
(d) After Mr. Chiman Singh arrived, I asked everybody else present to leave the room. Only Mr. Rohit Prasad, Chiman Singh and I remained inside. When we came out of the room, Mr. Singh had a bag in his hand.
Apart from the above-mentioned statement, the CBI has no other evidence, direct or indirect, to establish my alleged complicity in the murder of Shri Jaggi. As far as Reginald’s statement is concerned, the following facts need to be noted:
(a) Reginald did indeed telephone Mr. Mishra at around 10:30 p.m. on the night of 21st May 2003, as has been proven by the call details of his mobile number submitted by the CBI; however the agency has failed to supply the cell-site plans of that mobile number, which would provide the exact cell-tower locations (within a radius of 1-2 kilometers) of not only the number from which the call was made but also, more significantly, the number to which that call was made. In this case, the cell-cite plan categorically shows that Reginald called Mr. Mishra at the date and time specified in the CBI chargesheet, but Mr. Mishra was not at the Times of India office at Raipur; infact he was in Patna. It follows from this that Reginald couldn’t have possibly picked him up and brought him to the Hotel Green Park, Raipur, in compliance with my alleged request.
(b) The General Manager of this hotel- who, it needs to be emphasized, has not been declared hostile by the CBI- has stated in his deposition that the first time I went inside the hotel building was after 15th July 2003, when a floor had been rented by the Congress Campaign Committee for electioneering. Reginald also doesn’t seem to recall the room number, or the floor on which it was situated, or even its size. Furthermore, both Mr. Williams and Mr. Bhagat, who allegedly suggested that news-coverage of the rally be curtailed, were not in Raipur from March-July, 2003; and infact on this date, i.e., 21st May 2003, they were in the United Kingdom, as can be verified from their passports, immigration seals issued by the Government of India as well as Her Majesty’s Government of Great Britain & the U.K., passenger-manifests, credit card transactions, hotel reservations etc.
(c) Reginald has stated on oath that after deciding that Shri Jaggi should be murdered, I asked him to call Mr. Chiman Singh. Accordingly, he called Chiman Singh’s mobile from his mobile. The call details submitted by the CBI do infact show one single call between them on this date, but on closer scrutiny, it has been proven that this call was made by Mr. Singh to Reginald, and not vice-versa, at 9:37 p.m., i.e., before the so-called meeting had even started.
(d) The meeting reached its culmination allegedly when I asked everyone present- except Chiman Singh and Rohit Prasad- to leave the room. However, even Mr. Rohit Prasad was not present in India on this date. Like Mr. Williams and Mr. Bhagat, he too was in London. As in their case, this can be verified from his passport, immigration seal issued by the Government of India as well as Her Majesty’s Government of Great Britain & the U.K., passenger-manifests, credit card transactions, hotel reservations etc.
Accordingly, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court, while granting me bail, has observed that Reginald’s statement is ‘too tenuous and unreliable’. Likewise, his Lordship has also pointed out that Reginald had a ‘motive in implicating the applicant (me) falsely since he was fired from Akash Channel by Rohit Prasad and expected applicant to intervene, which he did not…’ Furthermore, while examining the other evidence on record, the following finding was also pronounced: ‘from the evidence adduced, it cannot be proven that Ram Avtar Jaggi was murdered by Chiman Singh and therefore the story of the prosecution that the applicant conspired with Chiman Singh to murder Ram Avtar Jaggi presently stands shattered…’
Be that as it may, two questions still remain unanswered: first, how could these gross discrepancies in Reginald’s statement be overlooked by the nation’s premier investigative agency; and secondly, why did Reginald tell such ‘white lies’ in Court, making himself liable for perjury?
I shall answer the second one first. Reginald has stated that he came to court on 16th March 2006 by the Delhi-Raipur flight (IC 869) of his own accord while categorically asserting that he was not brought in CBI custody (which under section 171 of Cr.P.C. is illegal); he has also stated that the CBI Special Prosecutor and inspector were sitting on the two seats adjacent to his but curiously enough, he discovered that they were working for the CBI only when he entered the courtroom. The passenger-manifest of the aforementioned flight does not bear Mr. Reginald Jeremiah’s name. The seat on which he sat was booked on the non-transferable ticket of Mr. M. Narayan, DIG (CBI), who was already present in Raipur from before. Then, there is video-footage of Reginald being escorted out of the Raipur airport surrounded by CBI personnel; subsequently he was taken to the CBI camp office, where he was detained till 4 p.m.; afterwards, he was produced in court accompanied not only by CBI officers but also armed personnel of the Raipur Crime Squad, who formed a cordon around the witness-box even as he testified. Also, barely three weeks after he had recorded his judicial statement in May 2005, Reginald moved into a new apartment costing approximately rupees 25,00,000. Not surprisingly, he refused to furnish details of his source of income citing ‘security reasons’.
Now, as far as the first question is concerned, the answer will be given in the course of my defence in court. Suffice it to say that several factors were at work, which together give credence to the topic that was debated in this forum: “Jogi’s son arrested because of his father’s ‘pro-poor’ stance”. Whether my father was pro-poor or not is a matter of historical debate, but what is certain is this: his detractors, some of them from within his own party, saw in me the ‘soft-target’ they could attack to destroy him by proxy. Two significant proofs have already been produced to support this thesis: one, an audio recording of a candid conversation between Mr. A.G.L. Kaul, the Investigating Officer of CBI, and one Mr. Raees Siddiqui, the brother of an accused. In this conversation, Mr. Kaul does the following:
(a) He confesses to having fictionalized the chargesheet on paper;
(b) He alleges that the court works under his directions atleast with respect to granting pardon in return for becoming approvers;
(c) He admits to having send an unspecified amount in cash to Raees’ house; and
(d) He offers ‘4-5-10’ Innovas to his interlocutor in order to entice his brother to turn approver for the prosecution.
Two: the close relationship between two IPS officers vis-à-vis Mr. Geelani, who took over as SP (CBI) incharge of this investigation in April of 2005, and Mr. Sabu, who was then posted in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh. During that month, seventeen persons, including Mr. Chiman Singh, were arrested from Bhind for allegedly having murdered Shri Jaggi, almost two years after the CBI had commenced its reinvestigation. Infact this breakthrough had been achieved in December of 2000- more than three years before Shri Jaggi’s murder- at a quaint little forest rest house at Achanakmar on the Bilaspur-Amarkantak road where Mr. Sabu, who was then a probationer posted at Bilaspur, was honeymooning with his newly-wed wife. After suspecting that they were being spied upon, he personally flogged the chowkidar and his entire family with his belt. My father, as Chief Minister, had ordered a judicial inquiry into this incident; and Mr. Sabu was found guilty. Now, as it turns out, Mr. Sabu and Mr. Geelani not only hail from the same place (Kashmir), practice the same faith (Islam), went to the same schools but also that they were in the IPS Academy at Hyderabad at the same time. Not only that, they have kept in regular telephonic touch since then, especially during and preceding the arrests of these seventeen persons- most of whom are boys in their early 20s- in April 2005. There are simply too many ‘coincidences’ to ignore the fact that I am a victim of their collective vendetta.
Other documentary and digitalized evidences, painstakingly collected over the past ten months, will also be presented during the Defence to demonstrate the working of certain officers of India’s premier investigative agency, their extra-legal influence on other branches of government and administration, political directives, and continuous nexus with certain other persons in high places. It should be worth noting that subsequent to the release of the audio recording, Mr. Kaul has been removed from his assignment as IO of this case although as of date, no investigation has been ordered into the contents of that recording even though he has not denied that the voice on that tape is not his.
It would not be proper for me to reveal anything more at this juncture.
I know that the battle is far from over. But I am now of the firm belief that this suffering has saved me: without living in prison, I might never have experienced life in black & white, stripped of all its colors. Without doubt, it has made me realize my own role in this world: it is futile to live for myself. Indeed, there can be no greater service to Man and to God than living for others, especially those who are not as fortunate as I am. How this learning will manifest itself in my life, I cannot say. Only time will tell. Yet, this is the goal towards which I shall continually endeavor for the rest of my days.
Amit Aishwarya Jogi
May 16, 2006
Friday, May 26, 2006
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