Skip to main content

When phone tapping rumours were afloat in Gujarat among BJP leaders, IAS babus

Gordhan Zadaphia
By Rajiv Shah 
While alerts were coming in over the last few days about a series of articles on how phones of “journalists, ministers, activists” may have been used to spy on them with the help of an Israeli project, Pegasus, finally, when I got up on Monday morning, I saw a Times of India story quoting (imagine!, we never used to do this, did just a followup in case we missed a story) the Wire, a top news portal on this providing some details, along with government reaction.
While the first Wire story on Monday confines itself to journalists, including the news portal founder-editor Siddharth Varadarajan, pointing towards an “international collaborative reporting project” which establishes “the frightening extent to which governments around the world, including India, could be using surveillance tools in ways that have nothing to do with national security”, a friend in Australia, Neeraj Nanda, editor, South Asian Times, Melbourne, sent me a link of a “Guardian” story in the afternoon, which says:
“The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s most prominent political rival, the opposition figure Rahul Gandhi, was twice selected as a potential surveillance target in leaked phone number data, making him one of dozens of Indian politicians, journalists, activists and government critics whose numbers were identified as possible targets for the Israeli company’s government clients.”
Those of us who have covered Gandhinagar (I did this for the Times of India between 1997 and early 2013), however, are little surprised about this, though this always was reported as suspicion, with few facts. Rumblings about phone tapping in Gujarat date back to a couple of years after Narendra Modi took over State chief minister in October 2001. Ironically, those who protested against phone tapping were not from the Congress, but from within BJP.
I recall, among those who raised the banner first against phone tapping was BJP’s former North Gujarat strongman Dr AK Patel. Now 90, he created history by becoming one of the two BJP MPs who won Lok Sabha seats during the Congress sympathy wave in 1984. He served as Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government in 1998-99, and was a Rajya Sabha member from 2000 to 2006. I would be in touch with him to find out what was happening in BJP.
As for phone tapping, all that Dr AK Patel, who was close to Modi's top bete noire Keshubhai Patel, would tell me was in the form of circumstantial evidence. I recall, he openly protested against phone tapping even at a public meeting. Interestingly, the person whom he groomed as one of Gujarat’s top politicians is Nitin Patel, now deputy chief minister.
Another leader talked about it was Gordhan Zadaphia, the controversial minister of state for home during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Belonging to the Keshubhai Patel camp, Zadaphia never went on record on this, but was strongly “suspicious”. I think, the year was 2006. Things went so far that Keshubhai phoned me up informing me something interesting soon after a BJP MLAs’ meet.
Dr AK Patel (right)
Keshubhai told me that Zadaphia, spoke out rather emotionally about phone tapping at the party MLAs’ meet, with tears rolling down his eyes. Zadaphia, who turned a rebel, left the BJP in 2007 along with a few other MLAs and became part of a short-lived party formed by Keshubhai. After remaining dormant for a few years, he rejoined BJP.
I phoned him up to find out what he was doing in BJP then, and he told me, “Animal husbandry issues of BJP”! Later, I read he had been appointed Uttar Pradesh in charge of BJP. I don’t know what he did on that post – as whatever I knew of him suggests he had little influence even in Gujarat or BJP. Why was given that post I failed to understand. Now he is in charge BJP Mahila Morcha. There is little details on what does this in charge do. 
Be that as it may, I forgot about phone tapping, till there were rumours again around 2009. These rumours said phone tapping instruments had been installed “somewhere in Ahmedabad”. Top Gujarat government bureaucrats, whom I was in touch with as part of my duty became extra cautious talking with me on phone, and would advise me to meet them personally, instead.
Even I was warned that my mobile may be tapped, but I would reply, I had nothing to hide, as all that I talk with officials in Sachivalaya would be published as news story on the next day.
I do recall one incident in this regard, which would somewhat confirm that the Modi establishment in Gujarat may perhaps have tried its hand on this. Talking to a senior Gujarat home department official, I asked him whether there was phone tapping in Gujarat, as it was suspected. He said, there were legal procedures laid down for this, which officials had to follow.
However, this official underlined, he, along with the state DGP and Amit Shah, then minister of state for home, had “seen” a demonstration of an Israeli machine on phone tapping. I asked him how did this work, and this is what he said: You enter in phone numbers, and you could listen (and possibly record) the conversation! “I don’t know if it is at all being used for phone tapping”, he quipped.

Comments

TRENDING

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Is sacrilege charge against Punjab Dalits any different from Pak blasphemy cases?

Lakhbir Singh, his wife By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  There is no doubt that Sikhism actually was a revolt against the Brahmanical system and superstition. Guru Granth Saheb is perhaps the only Holy Book which contains matters from different religions as well as those of various Sufi saints, including Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid and others. The aim of Sikhism was to create an egalitarian society, and, definitely, Punjab that way is far better than many other States in India, where violence against Dalits is rampant.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Religious mobs replicate blasphemy laws, 'threatening' liberty in a free country

Nihangs, Lakhbir Singh By Ajit Singh*   A Dalit man, Lakhbir Singh, was mercilessly beaten up and lynched to death near farmers’ protest site in the State of Haryana allegedly by Nihang Sikhs. It was alleged that he committed blasphemy by desecrating the Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib.

March opposes Sabarmati Ashram renovation: 'Mahatmaji had kept open for access to all'

Counterview Desk A Sevagram to Sabarmati march, which began on October 17 from Wardha (Maharashtra) and will end on October 24 in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), has demanded that the Sabarmati Ashram, the government should not impose "the fashion and glitz of a shallow modernity" at the cost of Rs 1,200 crore, in the name of renovating the Ashram founded by Gandhiji.

Shabana Azmi joins Pak physicist Hoodbhoy to condemn B'desh anti-minority violence

By Our Representative  Several well-known South Asian activists and public figures of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives have expressed “deep distress” by the spate of violence and killings in Bangladesh on the occasion of Durga Puja and Vijayadashami. “Attacks on minorities are a sign of injustice and a matter of shame for any society and bring a bad name to the Government”, they said in a joint statement.