Some Questions Raised by the Prashant Sahai Murder
- Mahendra Prasad Singh
[Ed. note: Mahendra Prasad Singh had tirelessly raised the issue of Deepak Verma’s involvement in the Prashant Sahai murder, not only in the Assembly, but in meetings, press conferences, as well as in several articles in various newspapers and magazines. We carry one of these articles, written by him for Prabhat Khabar, 13. 9. 04.]
The modern state, especially a democratic state, is taken to be a system of governance in which none is above the law.
Com. Mahendra Singh
This implies that the state is expected to create a system of checks and balances, in which any wrongdoing can be impartially investigated, the guilty can be punished and the victims can get justice. But in real life, what becomes of struggles for justice, and how those resisting injustice are eliminated can be seen in the case of the killing of advocate Prashant Sahai. Today, all the agencies of our country, which are supposed to keep a watch on injustice and crimes, are being rendered irrelevant.
When a bright, struggling young advocate like Prashant Sahai tried to take on the dark forces of injustice, he was killed in broad daylight. The issues which Prashant had raised were not personal, nor had he taken them up to compete with others in his profession. He had started a crusade for justice against those criminal forces who thrive under the patronage of those in power. A CBI inquiry was needed, precisely because those against whom he had taken up cudgels had close ties with the State Government. Thus, there is no hope that the state and district police would play a fair and effective role.
It is most natural that the murder of Prashant Sahai will be viewed in connection with the crusade that he had started. Two important events converge at one point — the long-standing crusade against the coal mafia and the one against the corrupt IPS officer Deepak Verma, that was being spearheaded by Prashant Sahai. In both cases, willingly or unwillingly, the Government was forced to initiate certain steps. Both the case of false encounters of Gendu Ganjhu and Umesh Ojha were dealt so effectively by the Advocate, that they were raised in the Vidhan Sabha, and an inquiry had to be instituted through the Additional Director General of Police, BD Ram. The inquiry report of BD Ram not only exposed the false encounters of Gendu Ganjhu and Umesh Ojha by Deepak Verma but also exposed his involvement in usurping lakhs of rupees from the booty seized from the MCC. He also recommended that the investigations be conducted through the CBI in these cases.
According to the Government, the report of BD Ram was to be placed in the Vidhan Sabha in March 2003, but this was not done. Only on 9 September was the report sent to the Home Department. In December when the matter was again raised in the Vidhan Sabha, the Government pretended ignorance regarding the report. The report was then placed on the floor of the house and again the Government dilly-dallied by saying that action would be taken only after a summary of the inquiry report was prepared. When it was asked as to how much time the Government required to prepare a summary of a 17-page report, the CM replied that action would be taken before the next session. But even during the present session, the Government is maintaining stony silence.
In the matters relating to the coal mafia and coal smuggling which were exposed by Prashant Sahai, the needle of suspicion pointed to Deepak Verma; the BD Ram report too centered around Deepak Verma. Despite all this, the fact that no action has been taken against Verma, shows that in our society and our state, the forces of injustice are so strong that they can mock at the law.
In this backdrop, we must also consider some of the events leading to the killing of Prashant Sahai. In the case of Umesh Ojha, on whose killing a case had been filed by his wife Basanti Devi through Prashant Sahai, the matter had been going on in the courts for a long time, yet no action was taken, nor was justice done with his wife. On the other hand, the intimidation by Deepak Ojha and company was so strong that Basanti could not continue with the case. But Prashant did not give up. Through Umesh’s mother and brother he again pursued the case by filing a fresh petition. The next date for hearing was September 15, 2004. This day was to prove a turning point for the case, but the very person who dared to take it to this stage is no more. Can this be called a mere coincidence?
How seriously Prashant Sahai had been pursuing these cases is evident from BD Ram’s report. There is mention of his name dozens of times in this report, which only goes to show how many important clues Prashant had provided to the officers of the Vigilance Department. In society, there is no dearth of people who raise issues just as blackmail, but Prashant was one who was honestly and meticulously trying to bring truth to light. If the phone calls made by him a few days before his death and other clues are seriously examined, it will be established beyond doubt that he was facing a threat to his life from Deepak Verma. Along with the circumstantial evidence, it should also be probed as to who would be the real and immediate beneficiary of Prashant’s death.
In our country if, despite the existence of several political parties, the courts of Law and investigative agencies, acts of people like Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy stand out as milestones, it is because these people have stood up for the cause of the common masses, and because various institutions that exist in society have proved unwilling to fulfil the aspirations of our people. Prashant Sahai was another link in this chain and if we wish to really pay homage to him, all justice loving people should carry forward his task. q