‘Saheb’ Snooping Tapes

What do the tape-recordings of illegal surveillance on a woman by the Home Minister and ATS for their ‘Saheb’, and the BJP’s line of defence, show about the state of democracy in BJP’s ‘model’ state Gujarat?

The tapes show that the then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah monitored the minute-by-minute intrusive surveillance of a young woman’s personal life, to relay information to their ‘Saheb’.

The BJP’s defence actually authenticates the tapes and identifies ‘Saheb’, and exposed the woman’s identity which the media web sites that revealed the tapes had kept private. The BJP issued a letter supposedly written by the woman’s father, claiming that the surveillance was actually ‘protection’ which he had requested for his daughter from his ‘family friend’ Narendra Modi. So the BJP does not deny the tapes, and in fact tacitly admits that ‘Saheb’ is Modi.

It is ironic that the Chief Minister who turned a deaf ear to Ehsan Jafri’s repeated calls for help, is today claiming that he provided round-the-clock ATS ‘protection’ to a woman (including cops following her in a flight) in response to a worried father’s request!

Several questions arise. Why did ‘protection’ for a woman require surveillance by the ATS? Why wasn’t the surveillance legal? The Telegraph Act mandates that phone-tapping can be allowed only in a ‘public Emergency’ that endangers ‘public safety’, on receipt of a Home Secretary’s order. The Supreme Court verdict in the 1996 PUCL case further ordered that a Review Committee must verify the Home Secretary’s order to ensure that the tapping was required because of an authentic threat to public safety. While the BJP trots out absurd defences, the otherwise voluble Gujarat CM is silent on whether his Government can show the required written order by Home Secretary and authentication by Review Committee.

Further, the actual transcripts leave us in no doubt that the surveillance was not to protect the woman. Not a single line in the tapes does Amit Shah express any concern for the woman’s safety, rather the ATS cops tell him that they laid a ‘trap’ for her which she was too ‘clever’ and so escaped. Far from protecting her, Amit Shah tells the ATS cop to identify the boy she was meeting, so that he could be ‘jailed for longer than Vanzara has been jailed.’ Why did ‘Saheb’ have such an obsessive interest in details of the woman’s personal life, including even who was with her in her hotel room at night? The BJP’s excuse that the ‘father asked for it’ is extremely weak because the tapes show that the woman’s parents’ phones and her conversations with them were also tapped.

This kind of obsessive illegal snooping on a woman’s intimate personal life by anyone constitutes ‘stalking’ under the new law. The fact that it was done by Gujarat Government machinery is yet more proof – after genocide and fake encounters - of the fascist criminalisation of the entire Government machinery under Modi.

The BJP is asking why others are objecting if the woman herself hasn’t complained. They need to be told that the Government’s violation of laws protecting Constitutional liberties is not a private matter to be arranged between an individual citizen and the Government. It concerns each citizen and our entire democracy. The Gujarat Government – or any Government – cannot be allowed to say ‘We are allowed to violate the law as long as the victim has no complaints.’ Any politician’s private life is their personal business that does not concern us. But the violation of laws and Constitution by a Government is every citizen’s business.

The BJP’s claim that a father’s request for ‘protection’ is enough to justify illegal snooping on a woman’s personal life is itself dangerous. It is not accidental that women protesting rape last year demanded that their freedom be protected, as opposed to violating freedom in the name of protection. BJP’s argument implies that the Government must act as a Khap Panchayat for aggrieved parents.

The BJP stalled Parliament for several days over Arun Jaitley’s phone being illegally tapped. Why this airy dismissal of the violation of privacy by Saheb? BJP demanded a probe into who tapped Jaitley’s phone. There is damning evidence that Modi ‘Saheb’, Shah and Gujarat ATS cops tapped ‘Madhuri’s phone and illegally followed her. Yet the BJP wants us to condone and justify it, without even a probe! If the PM’s silence on his role in scams is unacceptable, isn’t Modi’s silence on stalking and illegal snooping unacceptable? Why the double standards?

This grave matter cannot be sacrificed at the altar of Congress-BJP shadow boxing. The CBI, which is in possession of the tapes, must initiate criminal proceedings without further delay. The violation of a single citizen’s constitutional rights by a Government endangers every other citizen. Gujarat is BJP’s model state, and Modi is BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. So the whole country has a right to demand the truth about the illegal snooping on a woman by the Gujarat Government on the orders of Modi.

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