Gujarat cop's balancing act: A VHP swami by his stretcher, Muslims push his wheelchair

FPADGP P P Pandey was reported to have asked the Muslim men to come with him, and to have specifically instructed them to wear skullcaps.

Two days after he appeared in court on a stretcher, with a priest, Swami Akhileshwardasji, by his side, Additional DGP P P Pandey, an accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, was escorted by four Muslim men to the special CBI court on Wednesday.

The Indian Express had reported Wednesday about the "special bond" between Pandey and the VHP-linked priest, with a photograph of the duo outside court.

Pandey today urged The Indian Express team to speak to the Muslim men. Introducing one of them as Zubair Sheikh, a garment- seller from old Ahmedabad, he said, "Please talk to him, you will know how I am." Pandey also claimed to be a descendant of Mangal Pandey, the sepoy whose revolt triggered the 1857 uprising.

The four men were identified as the sons of a former Congress loyalist and social worker from Shahpur, Chand Mohammad Sheikh, popularly known as Chand Mama, who is now dead.

They said Pandey had asked them to accompany him. "Pandey called up Zubair this morning and asked him to come to the hospital with his brothers. He specified that they should wear skull caps. They went to the hospital, and then accompanied Pandey to court," said Zubair's cousin Rafiq Sheikh. "Zubair's father knew Pandey from the time he was posted as DCP of Shahpur zone in 1991," he added.

At the court complex, Zubair helped Pandey alight from the ambulance, and escorted him inside. He stood beside Pandey throughout the first half of the day.

"When I was DCP in Ahmedabad city, I could walk into the house of any Muslim in Shahpur area," Pandey said. On being declared a "proclaimed absconder" in the Ishrat case, Pandey said, "I was never running away, I was fighting. I approached different courts during this time. I belong to the clan of Mangal Pandey and I am not going to run away. I will fight against the injustice."

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