'This is my statement. I signed it.'

Print edition : February 07, 1998

Atal Behari Vajpayee recounted the Bateshwar events of 1942 and his own role in them in a tape-recorded discussion with N. Ram in New Delhi on January 25. The transcript:

N. Ram: Could you tell me what happened in Bateshwar in 1942?

Atal Behari Vajpayee: I was a student at Gwalior. Because of my participation in the Quit India movement, to avoid police arrest I was sent to my ancestral village. My elder brother accompanied me, frankly speaking, to keep an eye on me and see that I did not do anything (laughs). We were new to the village because we had not been visiting very regularly.

Then the story is the same. Ala was going on and a number of people had collected and they decided to... I was a part of the crowd. And then the crowd was dispersed. The next day the police came and they were told that two students from outside had come and it was they who had fomented the disturbances. Some local people wanted to be absolved of all the responsibility for the events.

Our names were taken by the tehsildar and we were taken to the Bah police station. Then our statements were recorded and I related whatever I had seen. I did not speak against anybody - I did not claim that... whatever had happened was truly related by me. Then I was sent to Agra jail, but there was no case against me because there was no evidence. So we were released after 20 days.

This was under Section 169 of CrPC - for lack of evidence. Was the release unconditional... no surety or guarantee?

No, not at all. We would not have given any surety. And then there is no question of being an approver.

Yes, that is clear. The judgment makes every aspect clear.

Yes, there was no apology and this statement was not used in court to convict anybody. That comes out clearly. The only thing is - earlier, your lawyer denied the authenticity of this statement. (Shows the statement as reproduced and translated into English in a pamphlet issued in 1989 by a Congress-affiliated organisation.)

Another thing is that the statement was recorded in Urdu. I do not know Urdu, that is another point - and I was asked to sign the statement. It was not read out to me.

We have your brother's statement recorded at the same time, which you may not have seen (Hands over a photocopy of the confessional statement by Prem Behari Vajpayee, also taken down in Urdu and signed by the accused in English). This has given very clearly that your father's name is Krishna Behari alias Gauri Shankar...

Gauri Shankar was his family name. The people in the village knew him as Gauri Shankar.

But why was all this not cleared up earlier?

That is because I did not take it seriously. My conscience was clear. Whenever at election time this question was raised, it did not cut much ice. It had no effect. Shashi Bhushan was very interested in this matter. He used to be a freedom fighter but he was not involved in the case. When I stood for the Lok Sabha from New Delhi, he opposed me. So it was a political game for him. But this time the Congress party has itself taken up this matter. So I have decided to make the position clear - and the judgment makes everything clear.

Then they said that you never signed your name in English. This must be your signature in those days, in English (Shows the copy of Atal Behari's confessional statement, taken down in Urdu and with his signature in English).

Who said it? Our lawyer (laughs). (Reads out sections challenging the authenticity of the statement from the lawyer's letter) Naa... naa (dismissively).

He has denied the authenticity of the statement.

He has denied the authenticity of the statement-.

This is my statement. I signed it.

We have come to the conclusion that you were not an "approver" and that your statement could not have been used in court to convict anybody. But the criticism would be that you got out. How did you get out? Your brother seems to have said that a member of the Viceroy's Council had intervened in this case.

No, no, that is incorrect. That statement he made many years after the arrest. But nobody could interfere in a case like this. My brother was awarded as a freedom fighter by Madhya Pradesh - he was given a tamra patra. But I did not claim any credit because I was there for only 23 days. Nobody could have intervened in this case.

So that lawyer's letter must be withdrawn, because it is not the correct thing.

Yes, yes (laughs). I withdraw the letter.

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