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Zaheera was paid Rs 18 lakh by BJP MLA: Tehelka
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 22
In a seemingly convincing undercover operation, the Tehelka today showed a spycam footage before mediapersons to claim that the Best Bakery prime witness Zaheera Sheikh was paid Rs 18 lakh by a BJP MLA Madhu Shrivastva to turn hostile.

The 10-minute video footage screened at a press conference showed Mr Srivastava telling Vadodara corporator Nisar Bapu that the amount paid to Ms Sheikh was Rs 18 lakh.

“At least now Zaheera Sheikh must be made by some authority to give the clear picture in the Best Bakery carnage,” Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal stressed.

Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who had been recently accused by Ms Sheikh of threatening her to give “wrong testimony”, called the footage “a very interesting development”. “Let the Supreme Court decide about it,” she told newspersons.

In the footage, Mr Srivastava is shown as telling the corporator of Vadodara, where the Best Bakery killings took place, that Ms Sheikh came to “my house and cried”.

There is also the talk of getting involved in the issue “unnecessarily” and getting defamed for “no fault of ours, for helping a Muslim girl”.

According to Mr Tejpal, a Tehelka reporter who went to Gujarat to investigate the Zaheera Sheikh story established several contacts and “infiltrated into the network”.

A Tehelka newspaper cover story also carries an interview with Ms Sheikh’s grandmother Zareena Shahu, who recounts the horrors of March 1, 2002, the day of the Best Bakery massacre.

“We went to Doomariah in Uttar Pradesh to talk to Zaheera’s grandmother who ratified everything that happened on that day. She should be summoned as a key witness,” said Mr Tejpal.

Ms Setalvad, who declined to comment on the merits of the new video footage, said she was interested in a full-scale and legitimate inquiry into how Ms Sheikh turned hostile in the trial of the case, which was ordered to be held outside Gujarat by the Supreme Court.

“We need the truth and we need justice,” said Mr Tejpal. “This footage shows what happens when money and threats come into high-profile cases.”

The Tehelka chief said he hoped that now the “true testimony” of Ms Sheikh could be obtained. “I have a lot of faith in the functioning of our institutions,” he said referring to the judiciary.

Fourteen people had been burnt alive in the Best Bakery carnage during the Gujarat riots that followed the Godhra train massacre.

Recently, Ms Sheikh had blamed Ms Setalvad, who played a key role in the events leading up to the Supreme Court order of retrial of the case in Mumbai, for “intimidating” her into giving testimony against “innocent” people.


Zaheera denies taking money

Mumbai, December 22
Zaheera Sheikh, a key witness in one of the worst massacres during the 2002 Gujarat sectarian violence, on Wednesday denied taking money to retract her statement in court.

After a stunning disclosure by the Tehelka newsweekly that made public video footage showing people purportedly admitting they paid Zaheera’s family Rs 18 lakh to change her testimony, Zaheera claimed she was the victim of a conspiracy.

“I did not take any money from anybody,” Zaheera told reporters, her face partly masked by a burqa, outside a local court where retrial of the Best Bakery case is currently on.

“These charges are baseless. It is a wrong allegation. I have never asked for money from anybody.”

The Tehelka video footage had Chandrakant “Bhaththu” Srivastava, a relative of the BJP legislator Madhukar Srivastava, relating how Zaheera and her family initiated negotiations and finally settled on Rs 18 lakh to change their court testimonies.

Madhukar Srivastava, too, was videotaped making the same admission.

Zaheera accused Chandrakant Srivastava of being a Congress member in cahoots with Setalvad and conspiring against her to tarnish her.

“I have never seen Madhukar Srivastava,” she said. “I have never taken money from anyone. I have never asked for anything from anyone.”

Earlier, during the court proceedings, the public prosecutor asked Zaheera if she had been promised Rs 35 lakh to change her statement in court, out of which Rs 18 lakh had already been paid.

Zaheera denied the charge.

She was declared a hostile witness by the prosecution on Tuesday. — IANS


Laloo demands Advani’s resignation

Patna, December 22
RJD chief and Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav today demanded that BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should resign following the Tehelka expose on the alleged bribing of Zahira Sheikh, a key witness in the Best Bakery case, by BJP MLA Madhu Shrivastava.

Before leaving for New Delhi tonight, Mr Prasad told reporters here that the BJP claim of being a different party was exposed again after the Tehelka expose showed Mr Shrivastava claiming that he had given Rs 18 lakh to Zaheera Sheikh to change her statement in the court.

The BJP had left no stone unturned in protecting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the main villain of Gujarat riots, Mr Yadav said. Mr Prasad said it was only the BJP and its allies which could intimidate and tempt a girl of a minority community. He said it also amounted to contempt of the Supreme Court.

The Railway Minister said the UPA Government could not remain a mute spectator to the latest developments and would take the matter to its logical conclusion. — UNIBack


SC should take note of Tehelka expose: Cong
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 22
The Congress today said it expected the Gujarat Governor as well as the Supreme Court to take note of the latest expose on BJP legislator Madhu Srivastav allegedly bribing Zahira Sheikh, a key witness in the Best Bakery case. Party spokesperson Anand Sharma today maintained that it was for Gujarat Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma and the apex court to take requisite action following reports involving a bribe of Rs 18 lakh.

“We have no delusion that we, as a political party, can issue a directive either to the Home Ministry or the apex court on this particular issue,” remarked Mr Sharma even as he refused a direct answer to questions whether Gujarat is a fit case for President’s rule.

He maintained that as far as the Congress is concerned, the Narendra Modi Government in Gujarat had lost the moral right to rule the day it failed to stop the carnage in the state following the Godhra incident. Mr Sharma said there is no denying that the previous Gujarat Governor had failed to discharge his constitutional duty but hoped that his predecessor would take necessary action.

The latest expose, according to Mr Sharma, once again confirmed that the BJP as a ruling party in Gujarat and at the Centre had failed to uphold the rule of law during the shameful bloodbath in the state.Back

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