The withdrawal

  • Rubabuddin Sheikh has withdrawn his petition against BJP president Amit Shah in the Bombay High Court
  • The petition questioned Shah’s discharge by a CBI court in connection with the encounter of Rubabuddin’s brother Sohrabuddin

The reason

  • Rubabuddin says he is too tired to continue fighting. He has neither the finances nor the energy
  • No one came forward to help him. Not even the Congress

More in the story

  • Is there evidence against those who got Sohrabuddin killed?
  • Is Rubabuddin withdrawing the case under fear?

For 11 years, Rubabuddin Sheikh fought to prove that his brother, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, was murdered on the orders of the then Home Minister of Gujarat. But just 10 days ago Rubabuddin approached the Bombay High Court to withdraw his petition against Amit Shah, who is now president of the ruling BJP.

An eyewitness who was present in the court said, “Rubabuddin looked pale and shaken in the courtroom. It looked like he had cried through the previous night”.

The court has given him two weeks to reconsider his stand.

On Tuesday, 20 October, if Rubabuddin confirms his decision to withdraw the case, the last criminal case against Shah will fall. Shah’s image has been eroded by this persistent allegation, so the collapse of this case would be a huge boost to his political career.

It was between 26 November and 28 November 2005 that Sohrabuddin, along with his wife Kausar Bi, was picked up and killed by Gujarat’s Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS). Kausar Bi’s body hasn’t been found till date.

In January 2010, Supreme Court handed over the case of the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin and his aide Tulsiram Prajapati to the CBI, which went ahead and arrested Shah in July that year.

However a CBI court discharged Shah in December 2014 even before the case went to trial. This is despite the fact that he was accused of murder and criminal conspiracy. The Bombay High Court was hearing Rubabuddin’s petition challenging the discharge of BJP president, until he decided to withdraw it.

But Rubabuddin went incommunicado and stopped taking calls, even of his own lawyers, after hurriedly announcing his decision in court.

For the first time in over 10 days Rubabuddin, in an exclusive interview to Catch, spoke out. He talked about the threat that led him to pull out of the case and kept him in a constant state of alarm since then.

And this was the reason why the six-hour long interview was conducted far away from his house in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, at a location he disclosed just a few hours before scheduled interview.

At the designated hour, Rubabuddin appeared with two men, one of whom was armed. The armed gunman searched the interviewer’s room thoroughly before the interview.

Despite round the clock armed protection, Rubabuddin was in a constant state of paranoia about his security, and often mistrustful of the interviewer’s motives. It explains why he answered many questions through allusions and riddles, quoting from movies, poems and mythology.

SM: What does this case mean to you? How important is it to you that those behind the murder of your brother, Sohrabuddin and his wife, are punished by court?

RS: They killed my brother and never even returned the body of my sister-in-law. Some say she was burnt alive.

When I went to collect my brother’s body, they told me to forget all about the case and not even think about approaching courts. They said my brother used to speak to Dawood Ibrahim which is why he was killed. But even if they killed him for being in touch with Dawood, they didn’t give us any evidence.

There is no dearth of evidence to prove that Amit Shah was behind my brother’s murder

But I went ahead and approached the judiciary, defying all their threats. It has been my life’s mission to ensure that those behind my brother’s murder go to jail if not the gallows.

SM: Who do you think was behind your brother’s fake encounter?

RS: I’ve got call records between Amit Shah and the officer who carried out the encounter. I’ve got copies of reports prepared by Madhya Pradesh’s CID which clearly name the people who tried to implicate my brother, posthumously, and me in false cases. There is no dearth of evidence to prove who was behind the murder of my brother.

SM: Then why are you pulling out of this case?

RS: There are several reasons for it. Mental torture is one of them. I’m tired and completely exhausted fighting them. There’s not a moment where I don’t fear for the security of my family. Two years ago some people tried to abduct my son and the police filed closure report without arresting anyone.

I’ve spent Rs 25 lakh in 10 years just on lawyers’ fees. I have no money or strength left to fight

A court issued a non-bailable warrant in my name for illegally encroaching on someone’s land. Imagine, a non-bailable warrant for land encroachment! And I spent this Eid trying to seek bail from High Court. I’ve spent the last 11 years doing this. They can put me in several such legal cases and I’ll spend the rest of my life doing this.

There are four other cases I’m involved with at the Madhya Pradesh High Court. I’ve spent close to Rs 25 lakh just on meeting lawyers’ expenses in the last 10 years. Our family earns from agriculture which doesn’t pay us as much. I have no more money or strength to fight anymore.

SM: Did you receive any threat just before you decided to pull out of the case?

RS: Yes.

SM: But you’ve received many threats in the last 10 years. What made you believe that this one was particularly potent? And who made it?

RS: I’ve received many threats in my life, but this one carried weight. I won’t tell you anymore. I’ll tell the court who threatened me and how. “They” just killed someone I knew and was close to. They killed this man in cold blood, and this was a warning to me. I can’t tell you anymore.

SM: Could it be that you’ve accepted money and are now willing to trade your fight with some peace and security for you and your family?

RS: ‘Kamzarf nahi hun jo maang ke pee lun, aur ye bhi nahi ki pyaas nahi hai.’ [I’m not shameless enough to borrow a drink, but it’s not as if I’m not thirsty.] I need money, quite desperately. You know I feel quite ashamed to be discussing this with you. But I’m not going to accept it from the very people I’ve spent my life fighting.

I just read about a victim of the Bhopal gas tragedy. He continued to fight for justice and after 28 years of fighting, committed suicide. This is precisely the fate I see for myself, my wife and my three children.

SM: Would you consider fighting the case if the court takes responsibility for your security and some lawyers agree to fight your case for free in public interest?

RS: I will, if someone takes responsibility for all the cases that I am fighting in Madhya Pradesh. Just as Krishna took the indecisive Arjun under his wing and urged him to fight on, I’d like someone to take care of these legal wrangles for me and then I see how I fight this case.

I desperately need money. But how can I take money from the people I’ve spent my life fighting?

You know the funny thing is, that all this while I’ve practically fought alone. The Congress, which could have come to my rescue and extended some financial or legal help, did nothing. I tried to reach out to some leaders but nobody responded. It is as if the entire world has conspired against us.

Tulsi Prajapati’s mother also gave up on this case a few months back. I’m alone. On whose assurance can I continue to fight?