3rd part of the editorial series written by Arun Shourie for New Indian Express.. questioning the eligibility of Pratibha Patil
The ‘cooperative’ bank for empowering women liquidated under orders of the Reserve Bank– The sugar mill bankrupt, having swallowed over Rs. 20 crore of unpaid loans– We see the very same pattern in the other endeavours of our next President. Her biodata speaks of the Shram Sadhana Trust that she has set up. It runs an engineering college – for rural youth, as the bio-data says. What do documents show? A Medical Aid Account is set up for students. Naturally, money from it goes to doctors – and, lo and behold, her brother, G.N. Patil’s name stands out by a mile. The documents indicate that the account is operated by Pratibha Patil herself– Employees of the college turn out to be working at the residences of the various directors – including at Pratibha Patil’s home in Mumbai. A guest house is built, and comes to be used, not by academicians visiting the college, but by members of the family– Money collected from the students goes to the soon-tobe- declared bankrupt sugar mill– Money is taken from the teachers’ salaries as compulsory deposits in that family-controlled ‘cooperative’ bank; these deposits are used to enroll ‘shareholders’ in the bank – who in turn help the family win the ‘elections’ of the cooperative bank– A pattern through and through.
Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who has been so exercised about enforcing morality on the media, is unmoved. ‘A visibly upset Dasmunsi hit out at the NDA for trying to malign Patil’s image,’ The Express reports. ‘In the process, he drew a parallel between Patil’s case and “many political leaders” whose brothers, sisters and relatives were loan defaulters and also “electronic media industry” which has been slapped with plenty of notices.’
Surely, the answer is to bring them to book too. Surely, the answer is to do what so many of us have been demanding for so long – namely, to publish the names of all bank-defaulters. Not to pick one of them at random and make her or him President of India! In any case, even Munsi, in spite of his fertile imagination, will not claim that murder has brushed the hem of the ‘electronic media industry’ as closely as it has in this instance.
Names and dates But first a few names and dates. Vishram G. Patil: Professor of English at a college in Jalagaon affiliated to the North Maharashtra University. A Congressman for thirty years. Elected President of the District Congress Committee not once but thrice. Murdered on 21 September, 2005.
Rajani Patil: his wife. Professor of Marathi at the same college. She names G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil as the conspirators in her husband’s murder. G.N. Patil: brother of the UPA nominee for the Presidentship of India. Rival and adversary of Vishram Patil. Defeated by Vishram Patil in his effort to become President of the District Congress Committee.
Ulhas Patil: former Congress member of Parliament. Close associate of G.N. Patil. Rival and adversary of Vishram Patil. Runs a number of NGOs of customary repute.
Raju Mali and Raju Sonawane: two arrested for murdering Vishram Patil. Raju Mali tells Aaj Tak correspondent, on camera, that they are just being made sacrificial goats. The real perpetrators of the murder are at large. Who are they, he is asked. “The persons who are being named by Rajani Patil,” he says. He suddenly dies in police custody – three days after, at long last, the CBI team visits Jalagaon on its first visit.
Leeladhar Narkhede and Damodar Lokhande: two who are named as having financed the murder of Vishram Patil. Phone records show several calls between them and G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil on the day before the murder, on the day of the murder and on the day after. The two are picked up. But four months later, they are let off. The FIR about them is withdrawn.
A few dates 21 September, 2005: Vishram Patil murdered. Great commotion in Jalagaon. People openly say that he has been killed as the result of a supari having been given to murder him by his political rivals within the Congress party. By the fourth day, Police say they have completed ‘90 per cent’ of the investigation, and will soon get the killers and those behind them. Police arrest the two who confess to the actual murder.
October 2006: Aaj Tak puts out a detailed story by Manish Awasthi cataloguing the murder. In it, Aaj Tak takes viewers through the records of the mobile telephone company that establish that numerous calls were made between the two reported financiers of the murder and the brother of Pratibha Patil, G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil – the calls were made on the day before the murder, on the day of the murder and on the day after the murder. The channel shows the exact times and duration of the calls from the records of the mobile phone company. Awasthi’s story contains a devastating interview of Raju Mali from within the jail. In September 2005, they had gone on an indefinite fast inside the jail. Raju Mali says in the interview that they had stopped taking food to protest against the Police for not arresting, for not even questioning the real culprits, ‘the persons named by Rajani Patil’. ‘We have simply been made sacrificial goats in the case while the real culprits are untouched.’ 4 April, 2007: a year and a half after the murder, and after vicissitudes that we shall soon encounter, the CBI team comes to Jalagaon for its first visit. 7 April, 2007: the CBI team interrogates Rajani Patil, the widow of the murdered DCC President. But something else happens in the jail not far away: Raju Mali ‘falls ill’; he is taken to the Government hospital; in little time, while still in Police custody, he dies.
Events The brother of Pratibha Patil, G.N. Patil — who, as we have seen, has been a close collaborator in her endeavours to empower women and bring succour to rural youth – is a frustrated rival of Vishram Patil. The latter has defeated him to the Presidentship of the District Congress Committee. Congress workers collect funds – ostensibly to provide relief to tsunami victims. This happens during G.N. Patil’s Presidentship of the DCC, that is before he is defeated by Vishram Patil. The collections are never deposited in the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. Congress workers again collect funds – this time to felicitate Pratibha Patil upon her appointment as Governor of Rajasthan. No one hears what happens to these funds either. Several office-bearers of the District Congress Committee send a memorandum to Prabha Rau, head of the Maharashtra Congress, asking her to institute an inquiry into the missing funds. They receive no reply.
15 August, 2005: nine office-bearers of the DCC issue a press release saying that G.N. Patil, the brother of Pratibha Patil, has not submitted accounts of funds that were collected by Congress workers for felicitating Pratibha Patil. Vishram Patil commences an inquiry within the Congress into the misappropriation of the funds. He also commences an inquiry into financial dealings of Ulhas Patil and his NGOs. He brings the matter to the attention of the high command of the Congress.
He receives three anonymous letters. Written in hand, they state that a supari has been given out to kill him, that he should be careful. He persists with the inquiry. He is killed. Local dailies are full of the murder. They surmise that it is the result of political rivalries in the District Congress Committee. Because of the enormous commotion among the local people, the Police act. Within a few days, they nab the killers.
They make swift progress in the investigation. They tell Rajani Patil, the widow, that 90 per cent of the investigation is over, that they will soon get the ones who instigated the murder also. Suddenly, the investigation goes off the rails. The police now put out a story that the murder actually took place because of a dispute over money — ostensibly Rs. 4.5 lakhs — that Raju Mali had borrowed from Vishram Patil. Rajani Patil strongly refutes the insinuation. Local papers puncture holes in this new concoction of the Police. As suddenly as the concoction had been put out, the investigation is taken out of the hands of the local police entirely, and turned over to the CID of the state Government. 26 September, 2005: alarmed at the way the investigation is being derailed, the widow, Rajani Patil writes to Sonia Gandhi. She says, ‘The brain behind the crime is pressurizing the investigation process.’
27 September, 2005: a local paper, Deshdoot, reports that at a press conference, Rajiv Patil, the parabhari adhyaksha of the Congress, has said that Raju Mali, the killer, is an agent of G.N. Patil, the brother of Pratibha Patil, Governor of Rajasthan. Another report in the paper says that everyone in Jalagaon is talking about the contract killing, about how much was paid for it, and by whom– The same day, 27 September, 2005, thirteen office-bearers of the District Congress Committee write to the local Superintendent of Police. They name G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil as being the persons behind the murder and express grave concern that the investigation is being dragged down to a crawl.
28 September, 2005: Local papers like Deshdoot and Deshonnati carry a tell-tale photograph. It has been taken on the day the election of the District Congress Committee President takes place. A group is standing around the victor, Vishram Patil. In the picture, mysteriously, is Raju Mali – the very man who is to kill Vishram Patil soon. He was not and is not a member of the Congress, the papers say. Who let him into the party office? With whose blessing was he roaming inside the office? With who is he linked? They have no doubt about the answer– On 28 September, 2005, Manikrao Gavit, the Minister of State in the Home Ministry at the Centre – and he too belongs to the Congress party — writes to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He writes that he has received a letter from the Prabhari President of the Jalagaon District Congress Committee, Rajiv Patil, in which the latter has named G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil as the conspirators behind the murder. Gavit says that there is haa-haakaar in the local Congress, hence he is sending Rajiv Patil’s letter. He urges the Chief Minister to have the matter investigated in this direction and to do everything necessary to get at the real culprits and have them punished. The local papers are full of the inaction that has overtaken the investigation. The real culprits are at large, they say. The names of G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil are splashed across the headlines of stories connected with the murder. Rajani Patil, the widow, writes to the local Police chief: ‘This murder has been committed out of political enmity. I therefore urge you to investigate the case from this angle and arrest the persons concerned. I strongly believe that, under somebody’s pressure, there is an attempt to misdirect the Police investigation by fabricating cock-and-bull stories.’
5 October, 2005: Rajiv Patil, the parabhari-adhyaksha of the Congress, writes to the Chief Minister, to the Director General of Police, and to the head of the Pune Branch of the CID. He records his concern that the investigation is going nowhere. He urges that some of the Jalagaon-based police officers who were handling the initial investigation and who know the facts should be involved in the inquiry. He gives the names of the concerned officers. He receives no reply.
15 October, 2005: Rajiv Patil writes to the authorities again pointing to the connection between the killers and G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil. He says that the killers who have been nabbed were never Congress activists, that they were brought to the Congress office by G.N. Patil and Ulhas Patil only at the time of the DCC election. 1 December, 2005: two months have gone by since the murder, the investigation has been steered into the wrong direction all too-patently. Rajani Patil, the widow, writes to R.R. Patil, the Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister of the state. She expresses her anguish at what has been done to the investigation. It is going nowhere, she says. The police had assured us that 90 per cent of the investigation is over and that they will soon get to the real conspirators. But as ‘the real conspirators have high-level connections, when only 10 per cent of the investigation was left, the case was taken out of their hands and given to the state CID.’
8 December, 2005: Rajani Patil again writes to the Chief Minister and Home Minister of the state. She strongly repudiates the police insinuation that there was some financial dispute between her husband and the killers. My husband was killed because of the supari given by the political rivals of my husband, she writes. You can find out who gave the supari by asking the two who are in custody, she tells them. There is no response.
(To be concluded)