Had good police support because of Modi: Babu Bajrangi in Ashish Khetan’s Undercover

17 January, 2021

The former journalist Ashish Khetan’s Undercover: My Journey into the Darkness of Hindutva, which covers his investigations into the 2002 Gujarat violence, was released on 11 January 2021. The book details Khetan’s multiple interviews with Babu Bajrangi from the Bajrang Dal, accused of leading the mob in Naroda Patiya—a Muslim-dominated locality—during the violence. Khetan had met him multiple times in 2007, as an undercover journalist with a spy camera. In the following extract, Bajrangi confesses to his role in the massacre, and also speaks to the complicity of the police and the chief minister at that time, Narendra Modi. It begins with Khetan’s second meeting with Bajrangi, dated 10 August 2007.

Khetan rose to prominence with the Gujarat violence investigations for the Tehelka magazine, conducted between 2004 and 2007. He was a member of the Aam Aadmi Party between 2014 and 2018. In 2015, media reports covering emails leaked from the Essar Group suggested that a story by Khetan in Tehelka was planted by the conglomerate. Khetan dismissed the allegation. 

Again, he began our conversation with a self-congratulatory disquisition on the number of Hindu girls he had saved from the clutches of Muslim men. He told me he had “rescued” 956 women, which meant he had prevented the birth of around 5,000 Muslim children. It is commonplace among Hindutvawadis to imply that one Muslim man produces five children per wife (“hum paanch, hamare pachchees,” as Modi himself had said). He reiterated that, after returning from Godhra, he had openly declared that he would take revenge for the Hindus killed on the train, that he then collected guns to give rioters and told the police in Naroda Patiya to stand down and let what was happening happen. 

I asked Bajrangi, “Narendrabhai, that day, did Narendrabhai extend support on the day Naroda Patiya happened?” 

Usne to sab Ram nam kar diya na yaar, nahi to kiski taqat thi, sab uska hi hath hai bhai, nahi to police ko instruction dewe to gad phad dewe police.” (It was his hand which was behind this, otherwise if he had instructed the police, the police would have torn the rioters apart.) 


After the killing stopped, Bajrangi told me, he was asked by the police to leave the area, and even the state’s home minister told him to go into hiding. Bajrangi stayed underground for months while the police supposedly sought him out. 

“Narendra Modi,” he said, “was under immense pressure to get me arrested. So a drama to arrest me was staged. PP Pandey, the then JCP, crime, set up the entire drama. Twelve or thirteen vehicles came to arrest me ... Everything was decided in advance, that I would be passing that road at a particular time. They arrested me, handcuffed me, all drama.” 

While he was in hiding, Bajrangi claimed, he spoke with Modi more than a couple of times on the phone. He told me he was still in touch with Modi, though he could not meet him openly because of the media. He said his respect for Modi was such that if the chief minister asked him to become a suicide bomber and kill people, he would not bat an eyelid. “Marad aadmi hai Narendrabhai (He is a real man),” Bajrangi said admiringly. He then called out to an attendant and instructed him to bring before us eight women he had recently rescued, as he liked to put it. They were paraded before us, and Bajrangi addressed these embarrassed, downcast women by the names of the Muslim men with whom they had eloped. 

The heat from the button lens glued to my chest was beginning to bother me, so I asked Bajrangi if he could show me to the washroom. I changed the battery and memory card, switched the camera back on, and went back into the room, where we sat down to a Gujarati thali. During lunch, I asked him if he would introduce me to some of his men who had been involved in the Naroda Patiya killings. He gave me the names and numbers of Suresh Chhara, who also went by the nicknames Richard and Suresh Langdo (in honour of his distinctive limp), and Prakash Rathod. Both men were Chharas and lived in Chharanagar. 

On 18 August, I met Bajrangi for the third time. The conversation veered towards Narendra Modi. 

“Narendrabhai had come,” Bajrangi said. “He didn’t come inside Patiya. But he had a firm grip on what was happening [on the day of the massacre]. The police didn’t make a sound, and that was because of Narendrabhai ... Otherwise you won’t believe how many policemen were present on the scene. If they wanted, they could have killed us.” 

“So you took the help of the police?” I asked. 

“We entered from here,” Bajrangi said, drawing a map of Naroda Patiya for my benefit, “chased them down till they reached an open ground, and then we caught them.” As he said this, he laughed. 


I wanted one last meeting with Bajrangi, I wanted him to talk more specifically about his part in the Naroda Patiya killings. Luck was on my side. Bajrangi called me to say that he had some work to do in Delhi and wanted to meet Anandji, the fictional senior RSS functionary to whom I reported. Once again, Tarun Tejpal’s uncle prepared for his role. We put up large, framed pictures of Hindutva lodestars such as Golwalkar, Hedgewar and Savarkar on the walls of his house. I picked Bajrangi up in a cab, so I would not have to give him the address, and we made our way to Anandji’s house. 

We had prepared a list of questions for Bajrangi, I told the court. And he walked straight into our trap. 


“Muslims were hacked to pieces?” I asked. 

“Hacked, burnt, set on fire, many things were done. We believe in setting them on fire because these bastards say they don’t want to be cremated, they’re afraid of it, they say this and that will happen to them. I have just one wish, one last wish. Let me be sentenced to death. I don’t want to be incarcerated, I don’t care if I’m hanged. Give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura [a Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad], where seven or eight lakhs of these people stay. I will finish them off. Let a few more of them die, at least 25,000–50,000 should die.” 

“How many witnesses have testified against you?” I asked. 

“Fourteen Muslims and sixteen policemen. Out of the fourteen Muslims, some have moved to Juhapura. They’ve left Patiya, they don’t have the guts to stay there, defying us. The rest have gone to Karnataka.” 

“In other words, the way [you] have killed will go down in history.” 

“It has been written in my FIR. There was this pregnant woman, I slit her open, behenchod salaShowed them what’s what, what kind of revenge we can take if our people are killed. Hum khichdi kadhi wale nahin hai, I am no feeble rice-eater. They shouldn’t even be allowed to breed, I say that even today. Whoever they are, women, children, whoever. Nothing to be done with them but cut them down. Thrash them, slash them, burn the bastards. Many [Hindus] wasted time looting. Arrey [the idea is], don’t keep them alive at all, after that everything is ours. That day, it was like what happened between Pakistan and India. There were bodies everywhere, it was a sight to be seen. I felt like Rana Pratap, that I had done something like Maharana Pratap.” 

Then Bajrangi told us again that, without Modi’s consent, the slaughter at Naroda Patiya, and by extension elsewhere, would not have been possible. 

“Nobody can do what Narendrabhai has done in Gujarat,” Bajrangi said. “If I didn’t have Narendrabhai’s support, we would not have been able to avenge Godhra because the police were standing right in front of us, seeing all that was happening, but they had shut their eyes and mouths. If they wanted to stop us, there were fifty of them there, they could have stopped us. We had good support from the police because of Narendrabhai and that is because whatever happened in Gujarat happened for the best. We got some relief from these people [the Muslims], they had got so high and daring. The Muslims kept making calls to the police, kept running to the police. They had one man called Saleem, supposed to be a sort of Naroda Patiya dada. He got into a police jeep. I myself caught him and dragged him out. The cops said, ‘Kill him, if he’s left alive, he’ll testify against us.’ He was taken a little way away and finished off right there.’”

Excerpted with permission from Undercover: My Journey Into The Darkness of Hindutva by Ashish Khetan, published by Westland/Context, January 2021.