Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: In what could lead to a major political controversy, two independent media websites on Friday claimed that former Gujarat minister of state for home Amit Shah allegedly misused the state police and other surveillance machinery for illegal surveillance of an unmarried young woman from Bangalore on behalf of a mysterious “saheb” in 2009.
Congress has demanded a CBI inquiry into allegations against the Shah.
It also wanted Shah, a close aide of Narendra Modi, to come clean on who is the "saheb" for whom he had ordered the surveillance.
Party spokesman Meem Afzal said Shah should reveal for which saheb this work was being done and why was the saheb "so much interested" in the woman. He also wanted to know why the snooping was being done, when it is illegal to follow any person in such a manner. He wanted the CBI, already going into the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, to take cognisance of the matter and inquire into it.
"The nation wants to know why Home Minister of Gujarat, who has been jailed in the Ishrat Jahan case and now is on bail, had ordered the surveillance," he said.
Three key wings of Gujarat Police misused their powers to stalk the woman, say investigative websites Cobrapost and Gulail.
"The entire surveillance-cum-phone interception operation by the State Intelligence Bureau, the Crime Branch and the Anti-Terrorist Squad was mounted in August 2009 on oral orders, without any valid legal authorisation, and was meant only to serve the interests of someone whom the then minister of state for home, Amit Shah, addressed as `saheb,`" the report says.
Gujarat IPS officer GL Singhal, who is an accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case (Ishrat was killed, along with three others, by Gujarat Police in 2004) and out on bail, has handed over hundreds of recorded telephonic conversations to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) revealing the details of the tailing of the young woman.
"The illegal spying operation in which Singhal has confessed to his key role was initiated on the instructions of Shah sometime in the month of August 2009 and continued for several weeks thereafter."
"The 267 audio recordings submitted to the CBI primarily contain telephonic conversations between Shah and Singhal, who was at the time posted as SP with ATS. In at least half a dozen conversations, Shah is alluding to his saheb`s acute personal interest in the snooping of the woman," says the report by Cobrapost.
The tapes of the phone conversations "indicate that for at least over a month the Gujarat Police apparatus used its sweeping powers to rigorously monitor every private moment, every personal conversation and every daily movement of the woman," it adds.
Singhal, according to the report, has told the CBI that the surveillance was illegal and was carried out only on the oral instructions of Shah.
"The recordings reveal that the woman was tailed even as she visited shopping malls, restaurants, ice-cream parlours, gyms, cinema halls, hotels and airports. She was followed even when she visited her ailing mother in a hospital in Ahmedabad."
"When she boarded a flight out of Ahmedabad, orders were issued to put cops on the flight so that she was not out of sight even when she was flying. Strict orders were given to closely observe and profile those who met her. Shah was particularly interested in knowing the men she was meeting and whether she was alone or with some man when she checked into a hotel in Ahmedabad."
"Her phones and that of her family and friends were tapped. Every bit of information was conveyed to Shah in real time, who in turn claimed to be relaying it to his `saheb`. Listening to the conversations leaves no doubt that the people involved in the operation knew who this `saheb` was," the investigative site says.
"The disclosures in the Singhal-Shah tapes raise several disturbing questions. Who wanted the woman to be watched and why?"
The website says: "Whether Singhal`s statements and evidence stand the scrutiny of the courts or not, they nonetheless reveal a chilling modus operandi of the Modi regime. Officers like Singhal who were willing to do all the dirty work would take instructions from Shah who would freely use Modi`s name and mandate them to indulge in all kinds of criminal activities."
"The question arises was all this happening without Modi`s knowledge?... How many more people-political opponents, human rights activists, journalists, witnesses, police officers-have been snooped around?... Why did Singhal record his conversations with Shah for just over a month and not beyond that? How the information procured about her was put to use?"
"This is a closet that only opens from the inside. Singhal has cranked it open, but just a bit. Perhaps, the full scale of illegal snooping that may have gone on for years in Gujarat will never be fully known," it says.
(With Agency inputs)