Tracking the Gujarat Justice Process
(written in 2008)
My deep involvement and intervention in the Gujarat genocide of 2002 stretches beyond the visible interventions in the relief camps and law courts that continue until today. From mid-1991 onwards when I was a special correspondent in one of India’s leading newsmagazines, Business India, I had journalistically tracked 1995 onwards, that is a good seven years before the genocide’s full blown manifestation, the steady criminalisation of Gujartai society, the erection of ‘borders’ within neighbourhoods and the complete ‘othering’ of the Muslim in Gujarat. One particular incident I still recall with horror of that time. July 1991.
During the well orchestrated violence that surrounded the rath yatra, an annual ritual, one incident stood out. In slick and posh Navrangpura locality, buxom Gujarati women (two or three of them) had been responsible for shoving, to his death a middle class Muslim professional from the second floor of a bungalow. His crime? That he and his family had dared to move out of the well constructed Muslim ghetto and dare to claim share in upmarket Gujarat. Their punishment? None as they had carried out an act that many in urban Gujarat would heartily approve of. A map of Ahmedabad city, demarcated in ‘orange’ and ‘green’ how the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) visualised ‘their’ dream metro. Green confined to the old city and the now burgeoning Johapura and pure orange spread over the rest.
Come the mid nineties and we, my husband Javed Anand and I, both professional journalists started Sabrang Communications and Communalism Combat following the media’s abdication of responsibility in the wake of orchestrated hate speech and mass violence pre and post December 6, 1992, the demolition of the Babri Masjid. For this monthly I had covered the slow and steady poison being injected into Gujarat’s polity repeatedly. The overt communalisation of Gujarat’s social studies text books that continue until today (despite a Parliamentary Committee observations following Communalism Combat and KHOJ’s study that the presentation and language were discriminatory and unconstitutional), the steady infiltration of fasciost majoriatrian mindsets into the police, bureaucracy, educational institutions and the psychological and physical suppression of the rights of minorities within the state; were extensively documented and analysed by me.
One particular document that I had accessed was particularly ominous. Printed anonymously with the ‘Om’ prominent on the cover this document directed the flagbearers of Hindu Rashtra how to break the law. And get away with it. A serving police officer of Gujarat at the time (not Mr Sreekumar) found this exposure by CC so revealing that he made his juniors study the document closely to understand the psychology of the enemy of the Indian state and the Constitution, the Hindutwawadi.
How to bend & break the law , was the pamphlet accessed by me and published. It was a potent, inflammatory, step–by–step guide for supporters of Hindutva on how to bend the law, when convenient, and break it, whenever necessary. Some of the chilling highlights from the pamphlet are:
‘Now that we have our own government we (should take proper advantage of it) and should get our work done by it’
‘The main attack on Hindu Samaj is that our sisters of tender age are being abducted through inducements and allurements and then made to sign the marriage register after getting converted by force. Hundreds of Hindu girls are being made Muslims like this in Gujarat State.
‘Many times the girl does not agree. If habeas corpus petition is filed in the court and the girl changes her mind, we will be let down. As I mentioned earlier, these problems are not going to be solved by law under the protection of the police or the court. The Hindu Samaj needs to resort to social opposition to find a solution to this and even resort to violent attacks if necessary’.
‘The police ran away, the magistrate and his staff hid under the table to save themselves. The Muslim boy and the Hindu girl were beaten to death by the people and their dead bodies were left in the court room…. since thousands were involved, no one was convicted. The incident of Halvad is etched in golden letters in the proud history of Hindu samaj. Revenge of this type is necessary against such abduction of our girls.’
‘There is not wrong if we abduct a (Hindu) woman and keep her under our custody. But the girl’s people should take the initiative.’
1. Hindu samaj (society) is being attacked repeatedly by non–religious elements in the country. They are supported by Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Arab countries. In the same way, Vanvasi and poor areas are being attacked by the missionaries on the basis of their economic strength.
Thereafter the long pamphlet is a step by step guide on how to dupe the law, register false complaints and get away with it.
Readers may be wondering why I have gone into this elaborate record for an introduction of a book on RB Sreekumar former Director General of Police Gujarat. The reason is simple. To closely document and record the vast extent of ‘Sir’s’ or RB’s or Sreekumar’s role (he has forbidden me calling him Sir) is to contextualise his contribution given the peculiar and painful circumstances of decades long subversion of the Indian Constitution in the land of Gandhi.
It is a subversion that was documented by us, serious attempts were made by me to draw in the National Human Rights Commission (JS Verma) to intervene as the build up to the genocide took place. I had even contacted eminent constitutional lawyer, Fali Nariman in mid 2000 with a plea that all these carefully documented facts made a case for an intervention in the apex court. I was told that this was not all enough, I should carry on the work, document things carefully but something more substantial was needed to justify either the NHRC’s or the apex court’s intervention, then. When 2,500 lives were taken following the loss of 59 lives in the train fire burning at Godhra from February 28, 2002 to March 5, 2002—the crucial 72 hours that chief minister Narendra Modi executed his tested experiment—the final rounded off evidence of state sponsored genocide was there for all to see. Six and a half years down the line we await the apex court’s verdict on whether or not, simply, an FIR should be registered against the chief minister and 63 others for mass murder and criminal conspiracy. The state is ably preventing even the registration of offence and attendant investigations. So far the judiciary too, has not come out unequivocally on the side of justice and fair and transparent functioning.
Strange are the way of circumstance in times of acute despair and adversity.
It was not until November 2005 that I met RB personally. The circumstances were peculiar in that it was possible, and entirely logical that we should have met and shared all information from ‘within’ the system and ‘without’ before that. Eight months or so before we met, for the first time the Times of India, broke the story of his historic first affidavit following his supersession in being appointed to the post of DGP and his petition before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). Soon after, as all of us marvelled and applauded his raw courage as a serving officer to a vicious administration, some petty activists and even retired policemen in high places tried to belittle his contribution. Attempting to say that he only came out with the truth because he was superseded. Not having met him and his endearing family, I was one of the few who was scathing of this vicious campaign. I simply pointed out that the first affidavit, in some ways the most significant, because it is backed by ground level assessments of state intelligence officials had been filed before the Nanavaty Shah Commission way back in July 2002. Where was the question of his supersession then?
Between November 2005 and now, RB, his family and I have forged a lasting bond made stronger by the adversities faced through the significant legal battle he has fought and won. To do so he risked political wrath and vendetta, ostracisation from his colleagues. He has however gained so much more than he has lost. He has made Constitutional history. His battle within CAT, fought ably and pro bono, by senior counsels Navroz Seervai and Gautam Patel within CAT and Suhel Tirmizi in the Gujarat High Court has established a simple but mostly forgotten fact and legal principle. That the role of an IPS officer, a central government employee is first and foremost to uphold the Indian Constitution and to uphold this prime duty, and record and reveal issues concerning the rule of law, or the breakdown of it, before a Commission appointed under the Commission of Inquiry Act, in no way constitutes a breach of his official duty, in fact enhances it. In two separate legal battles before CAT, one to ensure his reinstatement as DGP and the other to challenge the principles behind the state government challenging his depositions before the Nanavati Shah Commission, he emerged victorious. The vagaries of our legal system, delay being its scourge, unfortunately ensured his reinstatement on the day of retirement. February 28, 2007. He still had to fight and ensure his rightful pension. All this and more he did with verve and tenacity.
Our biggest letdown through this battle, and there have been many others concerning the Gujarat genocide, has been the supine and collaborative role of the so called ‘secular’ United Progressive Alliance government. Ever since its advent to power in May 2004, we have apprised top functionaries including the union home minister and others about the Sreekumar case and the obvious and logical stand of the Centre’s ought to have been to support the high standards of constitutional governance displayed by RB and back him through the battle within CAT stating unequivocally that what he had placed for public record and scrutiny in the Nanavati Shah Commission was necessary and vital in his role as public servant and moreover the grounds for his supersession were unjust, the acts of a vindictive and manipulative state government.
Instead, on September 4, 2006, 12 days after arguments had been completed before CAT and one day before judgement was to be delivered, while counsel Navroz Seervai was present at Ahmedabad, the Centre plays traitor. Aftermonths long conspiracy of avoidance and silence, the Centre files an affidavit through one
Y. P. Dhingra, S/o late Shri Thakur Dutt, aged about 53 years, working as Under Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi supporting Narendra Modi’s government that took a vindictive stand against this brave officer. There is worse. Celebrating this collusion, the Central Government’s counsel in Ahmedabad ( Nayana Vinodrai Malkan) was being fully guided by Nikhil Bhatt, the IAS officer from Gujarat Home Ministry at CAT. Fortunately for justice CAT remained unmoved and in fact passed strictures against the Centre for this conduct.
We did not stop here. Every effort continued to be made to shake the central government into conscience and accountability. Sadly though, despite interventions at the highest levels, including meetings with the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, RB and Citizens for Justice and Peace received no support from a central government reluctant to take of Modi and the BJP in the courts just as they miserably failed to take these malevolent forces on in the electoral battlefield. Obviously the UPA’s commitment to secularism, justice and fairplay did not extend beyond sloganeering at elections. In all other cases that we have fought and are still fighting related to the Gujarat genocide of 2002, the Congress led UPA has turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the rightful cry for justice of the victims. Its allies including the normally strident RJD and Lok Janashakti Party both of whom have senior ministries under their belt have also failed both their electoral constituencies and the Indian Constitution.
The issue for us, then and now has never been one individual but fundamental and inviolable principles of Constitutional Governance without which we believe this country of us with several hundred years of negotiated co-existence, will fall apart, from within.
Will and can the issues of mass murder, mutilation and gender violence be issues that resonate in mainstream politics? Can the brazen remarks of a chief minister who scoffs his hatred at Muslims be publicly and rationally discussed, and then seriously rejected? Will issues of impunity to mass crime figure not just in party manifestos but action plans for governance? Will the rule of law and good governance be the stuff that our elections are made of? Will our candidates and political parties take the spirit, the core of the Indian Constitution to the Indian and Gujarati people?
Personally for me, Gujarat hurts so deeply and the reason probably goes back seven generations to the land of my ancestors --- we are Ahmedabadi Gujaratis settled in Bombay, now Mumbai. How can we be accountable for such hatred and perpetrated violence?
Badge of courage
“If observance of Truth was a bed of roses, if Truth cost one nothing and was all happiness and ease, there would be no beauty about it.”
– Mahatma Gandhi, Harijan, September 26, 1936.
In the weeks following the Godhra arson it became increasingly evident that the Gujarat genocide had been crafted in minute detail, meticulous orchestration and planning that resulted in the widespread bestiality witnessed during the carnage. Militias numbering several thousand persons, trained to disseminate rumour, barter on hate and fuel frenzy, erupted into countless streets across the state. Their venom spread through major cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Bhavnagar, and swept through several districts, Kheda, Panchmahal, Dahod, Mehsana, Anand and elsewhere in Gujarat.
Newspaper reports as well as Communalism Combat’s special issue, "Genocide – Gujarat 2002" (March-April 2002), traced numerous efforts by individuals in the highest echelons of the state government and bureaucracy to prevent the functioning of the law and order machinery and administration. Officers who did their jobs sincerely were punished. Those who danced to the tunes of Narendra Modi's Machiavellian flute all flourished.
Amidst this bloody landscape, a silent operation was afoot, conducted by some of the finest in the police force. The Nanavati-Shah Commission opened a window of opportunity for the honest officer to play his card. From mid-2002 onwards a handful of police officers have placed a wealth of scandalous material before the commission to document, in detail, the execution of the gory genocide.
On July 6, 2002, the then additional director general of police (ADGP)-Intelligence, RB Sreekumar filed his first affidavit before the commission. The affidavit was deemed a privileged document until the commission released it two years later. (After the BJP and its allies were ousted from power at the Centre, the Modi government in Gujarat moved stealthily to expand the enquiry commission's terms of reference to include investigation into the role of the chief minister and senior officers in the post-Godhra violence. The obvious intention was to pre-empt the newly formed UPA government at the Centre from appointing another commission of enquiry covering all aspects of the genocide.)
Thereafter, RB Sreekumar filed three more affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, on October 6, 2004, on April 9, 2005 and on October 27, 2005. His submissions before the commission reveal a startling pattern of state complicity and duplicity in the events related to the Gujarat genocide of 2002 and the government's continuing efforts to subvert the process of law and justice. But his insistence on the truth in the face of such persistent and powerful adversity proved costly. In early 2005, barely a few months after he had filed his second affidavit before the commission in October 2004, Sreekumar was superseded for promotion to the post of director general of police (DGP), a post he richly deserved.
In his third affidavit dated April 9, 2005 filed before the commission, Sreekumar narrates the state government's efforts to browbeat him into obscuring the truth. A tape recording and transcripts of a conversation that took place between Sreekumar and the undersecretary of the home department, Dinesh Kapadia, on August 21, 2004, form an annexure to this affidavit. With Sreekumar’s deposition before the commission due on August 31, 2004, Kapadia tried to persuade Sreekumar to depose in favour of the state government. Three days later, on August 24, 2004, GC Murmu, secretary (law & order), home department, and Arvind Pandya, government pleader before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, did their best to further browbeat Sreekumar regarding his deposition. This conversation was also taped and the tape recording and transcripts were submitted to the commission. These are crucial documents that record the pressure being exerted on Sreekumar by Murmu and other officials, including a lawyer appearing for the state government, to conceal the truth from the Nanavati-Shah Commission.
These were not the only attempts made to restrain an honest police officer. To his third affidavit, Sreekumar also annexes a copy of a personal register maintained by him between April 16 and September 19, 2002. Cross-signed by OP Mathur, the then inspector general of police (IGP) (administration & security), the 207-page register contains a telling narrative of repeated efforts by the chief minister and top bureaucrats to browbeat an upright officer who was proving to be a serious thorn in the flesh for the state government.
On April 19, 2005, Sreekumar also moved the central administrative tribunal (CAT) challenging his supersession for the post of DGP. In September 2005 (after he had filed three affidavits exposing the state’s complicity in the post-Godhra violence) the Gujarat government ordered a departmental inquiry against Sreekumar on the basis of a charge sheet issued by the state, which, in effect, questions the facts he has placed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. After several hurdles the CAT finally delivered an order in Sreekumar’s favour on the day he retired from service i.e. February 28, 2007.
Analysis of the register
It is the duty of a competent officer in the intelligence department to collect data from various sources of which he then maintains a record. Sreekumar was issued what he interpreted as unconstitutional oral directives from the top man in the state. He not only resisted these orders, which he clearly saw as illegal, he did more. He maintained a record of these orders for the future. Not directed by his superiors, this personal register is a contemporaneous document maintained by an officer who grasped the wider motives at work and decided to provide a detailed record of those moments.
Sreekumar’s register consisted of three columns. The first recorded the date and the time when each instruction was given, the second recorded the nature and source of the instructions that were issued and the third recorded the nature of action taken. The contents of this register provide invaluable information about the workings of the Modi regime.
Sreekumar makes his first entry on April 16, 2002. He notes that the chief minister, Narendra Modi called a meeting attended by his principal secretary, PK Mishra, the then DGP, K. Chakravarti, and Sreekumar himself. Modi claimed that some Congress leaders were responsible for the continuing communal incidents in Ahmedabad. As head of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB), Sreekumar said that he did not have any information to this effect. Nevertheless, Modi asked him to immediately start tapping state Congress president, Shankarsinh Waghela’s telephone lines. The chief minister's principal secretary also tried to persuade Sreekumar in this regard. Sreekumar replied that it was neither legal nor ethical to do this since they had received no information about Waghela’s involvement in any crime. A terse comment contained in the third column of Sreekumar’s register states: "The chief minister’s instruction, being illegal and immoral, not complied with."
At two separate meetings held on April 22, 2002 some officers, including Sreekumar and a few others, brought up the question of the Muslim community’s severe disenchantment with the police for its failure to register first information reports (FIRs) and conduct proper investigations into incidents of communal violence. At the first meeting, which was convened by the chief secretary, G. Subbarao, and where Ashok Narayan, additional chief secretary (home), and the Ahmedabad municipal commissioner were also present, Sreekumar brought up the issue of the Muslim community's lack of faith in the state administration vis-à-vis arrests of perpetrators and recommended that action be taken. The chief secretary said such action (against Hindu perpetrators) was not immediately possible as it went against government policy. At the second meeting too, the chief secretary evaded the issue of arrests. Sreekumar’s register reads: "This response of the chief secretary was reflective of government policy of evading, delaying or soft-pedalling the issue of arrests of accused persons belonging to Hindu organisations."
On April 30, 2002, ADGP RB Sreekumar received another illegal instruction from the chief minister routed via DGP K. Chakravarti. The DGP informed Sreekumar that the chief minister had instructed him to book Congress leaders for their alleged involvement in instigating Muslims to boycott and obstruct the ongoing Class XII examinations and that he (the DGP) had told the chief minister that action could only be taken on the basis of specific complaints. The next day, on May 1, the DGP told Sreekumar that the chief secretary was being persuaded to create a policy that would allow the ‘elimination’ of ‘Muslim extremists’ disturbing communal peace in Ahmedabad. Sreekumar records his reply that this would be cold-blooded and premeditated murder with which the DGP concurred. The emergent picture exposes Modi's plans to script yet another saga of illegal state driven violence and the chief secretary and additional chief secretary's willingness to go along with this. The DGP emerges as a man caught in the throes of a battle with his conscience, prompted by a little help from RB Sreekumar.
On May 2, 2002, former DGP, Punjab, KPS Gill took charge as special security adviser to Narendra Modi. Two days later i.e. on May 4, 2002 he called a meeting of senior officers for an informal briefing. DGP K. Chakravarti, the commissioner of police (CP), Ahmedabad city, PC Pande, the ADGP (law & order), Maniram, the additional commissioner of police (ACP), Ahmedabad, MK Tandon, the deputy inspector general of police (DIGP)-CRPF, Sharma, and ADGP Sreekumar were all present.
While PC Pande, the then CP, Ahmedabad (and currently DGP, Gujarat), tried to paint a positive picture about the situation, ADGP Maniram provided his frank assessment that the police force in Gujarat, and particularly in Ahmedabad city, was extremely demoralised and the situation demanded that there should be a change of (police) leadership at every level, from the CP, Ahmedabad, downward. Maniram also stated that police officers had become subservient to political leaders and in matters of law and order, crime, investigation, etc; they carried out the instructions of political masters because these individuals, local BJP legislators or sangh parivar leaders, had a lot of clout. Political leaders arranged police postings and ensured continuance in choice executive posts. Maniram pleaded for the restoration of sanity and professionalism in the police force.
Sreekumar endorsed Maniram's assessment and informed Gill that for the past five or six years the BJP government had been pursuing a policy of (1) saffronisation/communalisation, (2) de-professionalisation and (3) subversion of the system. He explained the subtle methodology adopted by the BJP government to persuade, cajole and even intimidate police personnel at the ground level. Sreekumar gave Gill a copy of his report on the prevailing situation in Ahmedabad. He also told Gill of the Muslims’ loss of faith in the criminal justice system and suggested remedial measures. Gill, however, did not respond to these suggestions. In his register Sreekumar notes: “It is felt that Shri Gill has come with a brief from Shri LK Advani, union home minister. So he will carry out the agenda of Shri Narendra Modi, the chief minister.”
On the afternoon of May 7, 2002, the chief minister, Narendra Modi summoned Sreekumar for a meeting where he asked the ADGP for his assessment of the continuing violence in Ahmedabad. Sreekumar promptly referred to his note on the prevailing communal situation whereupon Modi said that he had read the note but believed Sreekumar had drawn the wrong conclusions. The chief minister argued that the violence in Gujarat did not necessitate such elaborate analysis – it was a natural uncontrollable reaction to the incident in Godhra. He then asked Sreekumar to concentrate on Muslim militants. Sreekumar pointed out that it was not Muslims who were on the offensive. Moreover, he urged the chief minister to reach out and build confidence within the minority community. Modi was visibly annoyed at Sreekumar’s suggestions.
Quoting statistics of heavy casualties among Muslims due to police firing, Sreekumar appealed to Modi to see reason and to acknowledge that it was Hindus who were on the offensive. The chief minister instructed him not to concentrate on the sangh parivar since they were not doing anything illegal. Sreekumar replied that it was his duty to report accurately on every situation and "provide actionable, preventive, real time intelligence having a bearing on the order, unity and integrity of India".
The very next day, on May 8, 2002, the DGP informed Sreekumar that at a meeting with Gill the latter had told the DGP that (1) The police should not try to reform politicians (which meant that the BJP and the sangh parivar could continue to suppress, terrorise and attack Muslims even as the police took no action) (2) There was no need to take action against the vernacular press (who were publishing communally incendiary writing that fanned violence against the minorities) (3) The police should begin to play an active role in getting rid of the inmates of relief camps. Sreekumar told the DGP that the police should not be party to the forcible eviction of Muslim inmates of relief camps and the DGP agreed with him.
On June 7, 2002, the chief minister’s principal secretary, PK Mishra asked Sreekumar to find out which minister from the Modi cabinet had met a citizens’ enquiry tribunal (looking into the Godhra and post-Godhra violence) of which retired supreme court judge, VR Krishna Iyer, was a panel member. Mishra told Sreekumar that minister of state for revenue, Haren Pandya, was suspected to be the man concerned. He also gave Sreekumar the number of a mobile phone (No. 98240 30629) and asked him to trace details of this meeting through telephone records. On June 12, 2002, Mishra reiterated that Haren Pandya was believed to be the minister concerned. In his register Sreekumar states that he had stressed that the matter was a sensitive one and outside the SIB’s charter of duties. Call details of the above mobile phone were however handed over to Mishra through IGP OP Mathur.
On June 25, 2002 the chief minister convened a meeting of senior officers to enforce the law according to their (Modi’s) reading of the situation. Sreekumar writes, “It is… unethical and illegal advice because the police department has to work as per law and not according to the political atmosphere prevailing in the state. He (Modi) also asked police not to be influenced by the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) brand of secularism. The indirect thrust of the chief minister was that police officers should become committed to the policies of the ruling party so that law enforcement can be done smoothly.”
Battle lines were further drawn on June 28, 2002 when at a meeting convened by the chief secretary, G. Subbarao, to discuss the chief minister’s proposed gaurav yatra (or parade of honour) in September Sreekumar proposed that in light of the prevailing tension the annual Jagannath rath yatra in July 2002 should be cancelled. The CP, Ahmedabad, endorsed this view while a few others suggested a change in the parade route. The chief secretary then informed the group that there was no question of such a cancellation or even a change of route. After the meeting, the chief secretary took Sreekumar aside to tell him that anyone trying to disrupt the rath yatra should ‘be eliminated’, adding that this was ‘the well-considered decision of the chief minister’. Sreekumar told Subbarao that such an action would be totally illegal and unethical. The chief secretary maintained that it could be justified in terms of ‘situational logic’. Sreekumar replied that the police had to function in accordance with the law. The chief secretary then promptly watered down his request and asked Sreekumar to keep an eye on the plans of anti-social elements.
On July 1, 2002 Narendra Modi himself convened a meeting to review the law and order situation in view of the proposed gaurav yatra in September and the annual Jagannath rath yatra scheduled to take place that month. At this meeting Sreekumar provided intelligence inputs of ‘high voltage threats’ from pan-Islamic elements who would use such occasions and elicit support from those damaged and scarred by the recent violence. He advised that the yatra should be cancelled. His personal register notes: ‘The chief minister said that the rath yatra will not, repeat, will not, be cancelled.’ Eight days later, describing a follow-up meeting organised by the chief secretary on July 9, 2002 where precautionary measures were discussed, Sreekumar’s register entry states that "The chief secretary informed (the meeting) that anybody trying to disturb the rath yatra should be shot dead."
On August 6, 2002 DGP Chakravarti informed Sreekumar that the additional chief secretary (home), Ashok Narayan was not too happy with the data on communal incidents that the ADGP’s office had provided to the home department. In his register, Sreekumar writes: "I responded that my office has been providing correct information and the ADGP (Int.)’s office cannot do any manipulation of data for safeguarding the political interests of the Narendra Modi government."
Sreekumar’s register notes that on August 5, 2002 the additional chief secretary had expressed his annoyance and displeasure at the SIB’s presentation of data on the communal situation. Narayan noted that it did not conform to LK Advani’s reply in parliament on the Gujarat question! He felt that every incident that occurred was being labelled a communal one, thus presenting a misleading picture of the law and order situation in Gujarat, especially to the Chief Election Commission (CEC). (This was the period when the Gujarat government was trying to push ahead with early assembly elections claiming that ‘normalcy’ had returned to the state, and the CEC was due to visit Gujarat for an independent assessment.) Sreekumar asked Narayan to define the yardstick for assessment of affected areas but received no satisfactory response. The same afternoon, the home secretary, K Nityanandam, instructed the ADGP's office that they should not send any data on communal incidents whereupon Sreekumar informed him that the data could not be manipulated to serve the interests of the Modi government. By this time it was evident that with elections around the corner, the higher bureaucracy was apprehensive about any information that could embarrass the government.
On August 8, 2002, Ashok Narayan informed Sreekumar and others present that the next day (i.e. August 9, 2002) the election commission, consisting of chief election commissioner (CEC), James Lyngdoh, and two other members, would be holding a meeting which Sreekumar should also attend. The additional chief secretary also told Sreekumar that he "should not make any comments or presentation which would go against the formal presentation prepared by (home secretary) Shri K. Nityanandam". Sreekumar replied that he would "present the truth and my assessment based on facts".
At the time the Gujarat bureaucracy had planned two presentations to be made before the CEC, one by the home secretary and another by the relief commissioner, CK Koshy. In an informal chat with his officers on August 9, 2002, chief secretary, G. Subbarao said that his men should present a picture of normalcy so that the CEC would have no reason to postpone the Gujarat elections. The CEC met the higher bureaucracy the same day. James Lyngdoh intervened at the start to say that he was not interested in presentations. The chief secretary carried on regardless, saying that "total normalcy was restored in the entire state and no tension was prevailing anywhere". Sounding both annoyed and incredulous, Lyngdoh observed that the commission had just visited affected areas where victims had made numerous complaints. He cited reports of a recently constructed wall barring right of passage to minority members in a particular locality of Ahmedabad. Undeterred, the chief secretary replied that rehabilitation was virtually complete and that most riot victims had returned home. A visibly angry Lyngdoh then asked the chief secretary how he had the ‘temerity to claim normalcy’ given the quantum and scale of the complaints. Lyngdoh insisted that the Gujarat government provide data along standard lines about the number of FIRs filed, the number of perpetrators arrested, the number of accused released on bail, the number of displaced persons, the compensation paid, and so on.
DGP K. Chakravarti then abruptly steered the discussion to the need for extra paramilitary forces during the forthcoming gaurav yatra. Sreekumar reiterated this point. Here, the CEC intervened to point out the contradiction between the chief secretary's claims of normalcy and officers' demands for additional forces. Lyngdoh then asked Sreekumar to elaborate on his claim for more forces. Sreekumar made his presentation (which included data on the number of deaths, property losses, the districts and villages affected and the overall plight of victims), arguing that tension still prevailed in 993 villages and 151 towns that had witnessed riots between February 27 and July 31, 2002. The affected area, he said, covered 284 police stations and 154 out of 182 assembly constituencies. On being asked to estimate the number of additional forces required, the DGP said that they would need at least 202 extra companies.
After all the other officers had left, the chief secretary summoned Sreekumar and shouted, "You have let us down badly! What was the need for you to project all those statistics about displaced people?" Sreekumar told him that he had presented the facts. Later, as Sreekumar was waiting for another meeting, additional chief secretary, Ashok Narayan came into the room along with the DGP and asked Sreekumar why he had made a statement contrary to the government's ‘perception’. Narayan also asked Sreekumar whether as a disciplined officer he accepted the DGP's authority. Sreekumar told him that the question was best answered by the DGP himself. Refraining from comment, the DGP (perhaps to avoid a confrontation) said that there was no point in pursuing the discussion. DGP Chakravarti later told Sreekumar that his assessment, particularly of manpower requirements, was accurate.
This was not all. On September 10, 2002, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) faxed a message to the Gujarat home department requesting a verbatim copy of the chief minister’s speech made at Becharaji, a temple town in Mehsana district, on September 9, 2002. Modi’s hate speech formed part of the overall message of his gaurav yatra. Keen to block such information, the home department got the DGP to endorse that Sreekumar’s department, the ADGP (Int.)'s office, was not required to provide such a report. Sreekumar, however, felt duty bound to comply with the request. Risking the wrath of his superiors, Sreekumar obtained a copy of the speech and forwarded this to the commission. Sreekumar’s action, his sending a copy of Modi’s speech to the NCM, was the proverbial last straw on the official camel’s back. He was immediately transferred from the post of ADGP (Intelligence) and made ADGP (Police Reforms), a position empty of content.
Following protocol, Sreekumar then called on the chief secretary, G Subbarao. The chief secretary told him that he should not have spoken up in contravention of state policy. Sreekumar responded that as a government functionary his oath was to the Constitution and "If the chief minister's policies are in contravention of the letter, spirit and ethos of the Constitution of India, no government officer is bound to follow such policies." Visibly annoyed, the chief secretary brought the meeting to an abrupt end. RB Sreekumar's personal register ends with this episode.
Reward and punishment
The role of the Gujarat government in constructing the conspiracy theory behind the Godhra train arson and engineering the post-Godhra genocide has now been well documented. The report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal also documented the names of officers and bureaucrats with a clear nexus to the sangh parivar (Crime Against Humanity – Volume II, Findings and Recommendations).
As far back as April 24, 2002, the then ADGP, RB Sreekumar recorded in a confidential report of the State Intelligence Bureau (which was also submitted to the Nanavati-Shah Commission) that “The inability of the Ahmedabad city police to contain and control violence unleashed by communally oriented mobs created an atmosphere of permissiveness and this eroded the image of the police as an effective law enforcing machinery in society, particularly among the lumpen and underworld segments… Many senior police officers spoke about officers at the decisive rung of the hierarchical ladder viz. inspectors in charge of city police stations ignoring specific instructions from the official hierarchy on account of their getting verbal instructions from senior political leaders of the ruling party.”
Worse still was the consistent policy followed by the state government to punish those officers who performed their duties according to the law and to reward those who promoted killings, rape and arson by going along with the unlawful plans of the chief minister and his party during and after the 2002 genocide. RB was not the only one to pay a price for his honesty. Others did too. Those who bowed to the will of their political mentors and allowed and executed the state sponsored genocide were rewarded not just by the state of Gujarat but the union government at the Centre.
Truth and the Nanavati-Shah Commission
In addition to about 3,500 affidavits relating to issues of loss of life and damage filed by victim survivors before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, senior police officers in Gujarat have also filed their affidavits before the public commission of enquiry. An analysis of the latter tells its own two-pronged tale. On the one hand we see stoic courage in the face of adversity from a handful of officers who have laid bare the nitty-gritty of state connivance and planning not to mention several subsequent attempts at subverting the truth. In stark contrast are the testimonies by the majority of officers, many of whom assisted the government in whitewashing its dastardly role in and after the genocide of 2002.
The Gujarat government first announced the establishment of a commission of enquiry to probe the Godhra and post-Godhra carnage in March 2002. The initial announcement itself was seen as a partisan act. In its first official announcement on the matter, the state government declared that the commission would be headed by a single judge, Justice KG Shah, a man whose secular credentials were already somewhat suspect. The appointment of a single judge to investigate a volatile issue in a lawless state, one moreover who had been suspected of biased conduct in previous matters related to communal violence in Gujarat, led to nationwide protests that ultimately forced the government to modify its decision. Justice GT Nanavati's inclusion on the enquiry panel was a corrective step.
The Modi government's partisan approach was also reflected in the declaration of two distinct and discriminatory compensation packages for the families of victims who had died in the Godhra fire and those who had been massacred thereafter. Under the Gujarat government’s original plan, the families of victims of the Godhra train fire were to receive Rs two lakh each while the families of those who had died in the post-Godhra violence would receive Rs one lakh – half the amount. Protests finally corrected this blatant discrimination.
Cocooned in the warmth of political family – the parivar ruling at the Centre – the Modi government had announced the commission's first terms of reference excluding the role of the chief minister, his cabinet, top bureaucrats and policemen from scrutiny. Two years later, the NDA's unexpected rout in the national elections made the chief minister jittery. In July 2004, not long after the UPA government took charge, Modi hastily expanded the commission's terms of reference. The step was a pre-emptive one in the event that the new government decided to institute a central government commission to probe the 2002 carnage or worse, lodge an FIR against Narendra Modi!
Thus the second terms of reference of the Nanavati-Shah Commission, issued under a government notification dated July 20, 2004, requested the commission to enquire into “the role and conduct of the then chief minister (Narendra Modi) or any other ministers in his council of ministers, police officers, other individuals and organisations" relating "to the facts, circumstances and course of events of the subsequent incidents in the aftermath of the Godhra incidents".
Even after the commission's terms of reference were expanded and the enquiry necessitated a detailed scrutiny of their actions, Modi and his officials have done their best to subvert its proceedings. A majority of the key players in the planning and execution of the carnage and subsequent attempts to subvert the process of justice have not filed their second affidavits before the commission under its new terms of reference.
Specific directives by the then DGP, AK Bhargava, through his letters dated September 16 and 29, 2004, instructing all police officers who had filed their first affidavits under the commission’s initial terms of reference to also submit affidavits under the second terms of reference, were ignored. In fact, Bhargava's orders even stated that it was the duty of the current incumbent in a post to ensure that his predecessor had filed the second affidavit.
The chief secretary is the bridge, the key link between the political echelons of government and the bureaucracy, including the police. He is thus a crucial player who could provide a critical account of events relating to that period of time. Strangely, however, the former chief secretary, G. Subbarao, has not filed any affidavits before the commission so far.
Evidence placed before the commission is unambiguous. And the absence of statements under oath, from key officials of the bureaucracy and the police, revealing. The affidavit and testimony of Rahul Sharma, SP, Bhavnagar, in 2002, is a telling account of the pressures faced by an upright officer of the law who beat down the efforts by fanatical elements to attack a boarding school that housed over 400 Muslim children and burn them alive. Data that Sharma subsequently revealed before the commission in 2004 included mobile phone records of incriminating calls made and received by policemen between February 28 and March 5, 2002.
Sreekumar’s four magnum affidavits represent the persistent efforts of a police officer to document the dark reality behind the violence of 2002 and its aftermath. They reveal the role of intelligence agencies in the build-up to the Godhra incident and the genocide of 2002, and the response of the political class, policemen and bureaucrats. If his personal register is a gripping narrative of the Gujarat administration’s barefaced acts of collusion and subversion, his affidavits are substantive revelations of official records of the time.
But Sreekumar’s tireless efforts to expose the truth, his courage, came at a price. His affidavits before the commission not only cost him an important promotion, he was and continues to be hounded and harassed by a vindictive administration. Even so, the Nanavati-Shah Commission has not intervened with any orders that could protect this officer from persistent onslaught. Sreekumar has only suffered for telling the truth before this public body, for upholding Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. In light of this, the commission’s silence on the issue is particularly telling and raises serious doubts about the enquiry’s eventual outcome.
Role of state intelligence
The four affidavits filed by RB Sreekumar before the Nanavati-Shah Commission between 2002 and 2005 record startling details of sheer brazenness and collusion. The first affidavit, filed in July 2002, documents the assiduous attempts by the state intelligence bureau (SIB) to warn of the consequences of the rabid communal mobilisation undertaken by cadres of the BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal on their way to Ayodhya. Sreekumar has stated that the SIB issued regular warnings about the likely threats to public peace that could be expected because of unruly mobilisation by communal outfits. It was the executive wing of the police – influenced no doubt by Modi, key cabinet colleagues and the top echelons of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), including the chief secretary, G. Subbarao, and the principal secretary to the chief minister, PK Mishra – who simply did not translate these into strict directives for preventive action. The then DGP, K. Chakravarti issued no special instructions for the maintenance of law and order and no strict instructions on how mobs should be dealt with.
The affidavit also records a significant aspect of the post-Godhra genocidal violence in Ahmedabad, one of the areas worst affected by the violence. The attacks in Ahmedabad did not take place in communally sensitive areas and ghettos but in areas where minority communities live(d) in isolation surrounded by Hindus.
In para 17 of his first affidavit, Sreekumar states that as far back as February 13, 2002, in response to a message received from the inspector general (IG) (CI) of the UP intelligence department in Lucknow, the SIB in Gujarat requested the superintendents of police from all districts and commissioners of police from all cities and towns in Gujarat to: “inform the SP, Faizabad, about the movement of kar sevaks from their respective jurisdictions. Following this missive (the) SP, Western Railways, Baroda had informed (the) IGP (communal intelligence), UP, Lucknow, through his fax message…dated February 16, 2002 that Prahlad J. Patel, president of Bajrang Dal, Mehsana, would be leading a group of 150-200 Bajrang Dal activists of Mehsana for the Ayodhya Maha Yagna by 9165 DN Sabarmati Express on February 22, 2002. It was also mentioned in the said fax message that the Bajrang Dal activists travelling to Ayodhya would be carrying trishuls with them. Similarly, SP, Mehsana, also sent a…message to IGP (communal intelligence), intelligence department, Lucknow, UP…dated February 19, 2002, stating, among other things, that a group of 150 Ram bhakts armed with trishuls would be leaving Ahmedabad by train for Ayodhya on February 22, 2002 under the leadership of Prahlad Jayantibhai Patel, president, Bajrang Dal, Mehsana and would be arriving at Ayodhya on February 24, 2002.”
It was some of these kar sevaks who, on their return journey from Ayodhya, became victims of the Godhra arson incident on February 27, 2002, and this has also been mentioned in the affidavit.
Failure of central intelligence
Sreekumar’s first affidavit also records the utter failure of both the UP state intelligence department and the central intelligence bureau (IB) to forewarn local authorities about the kar sevaks’ movements. In para 18, Sreekumar states that: “It is pertinent to note that there was no intimation from (the) intelligence branch of UP police or central Intelligence Bureau, which has an extensive nationwide network to collect intelligence on developments relevant to internal security, about the return journey of these ram sevaks who had gone to Ayodhya.” (It is perhaps significant to note that during this period, while the BJP-led NDA coalition ruled at the Centre, in UP it was Rajnath Singh’s BJP government that was in power until March 8, 2002, following which president’s rule was imposed in the state.)
There was also no information from the central IB or any inputs from any other agency about the possible attack on Ram sevaks returning from Ayodhya by fundamentalist and militant elements among the minority community or other antisocial elements. Worse, in para 19, Sreekumar records that the UP police did not inform the Gujarat state intelligence department or the police about the unruly behaviour of Ram sevaks on their return journey even though there had been an altercation between some Ram sevaks and Muslims when the latter tried to board the train at Rudauli railway station in UP at around 9 a.m. on February 24, 2002. A note dated February 27, 2002, addressed to all DGPs of the country from the IG, intelligence department, UP, about the return journey of ram sevaks, was received a day later, post facto, at 8.15 a.m. on February 28 – that is, after the arson incident on the Sabarmati Express took place.
In this connection, Sreekumar states that: "Though there were intelligence inputs pertaining to the movements of kar sevaks to Ayodhya from Gujarat state, there was no specific information about the return of kar sevaks from Ayodhya, from (the) UP police or central intelligence bureau, which has the onerous responsibility of timely forewarning the law enforcement officers in the state about nationwide or interstate emerging trends so that suitable precautionary countermeasures can be taken. The only message about the return of kar sevaks sent by the Uttar Pradesh police was received (by the) Gujarat police only on February 28 i.e. after the incident on February 27, 2002. No intelligence input either from the government railway police (GRP), the Godhra district or central intelligence was available about the possibility of any conspiracy or planning by Muslim militants or any antisocial elements to attack or cause harm to the Ram bhakts returning from Ayodhya. The only intelligence received from the GRP indicated that the Ram bhakts, led by Prahlad J. Patel, president of Bajrang Dal, Mehsana, (were) to start from Ayodhya on February 26, 2002 at night and return to Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002.”
Maintenance of internal security is a fundamental if unwritten component of the central intelligence bureau’s charter of duties. And this is precisely what the central IB so singularly failed to do. In not providing advance preventive intelligence with regard to the Godhra incident and its aftermath, the bureau compromised internal security and put thousands of people in mortal danger.
Standard IB practice and procedure requires that whenever there are nationwide activities involving large numbers of organised groups, such as the communal mobilisation of kar sevaks, IB agents travel with these contingents. Through the detailed analysis provided in RB Sreekumar’s first affidavit it appears that this procedure was not followed in the case of kar sevaks travelling from Gujarat to Ayodhya in February 2002. If this procedure had been followed, the Gujarat police and intelligence network would have been alerted to the belligerent behaviour of the kar sevaks, their altercation with vendors and others at railway stations, their return to Gujarat a day earlier than scheduled and other related information. Sreekumar’s affidavit states that the central IB did not provide such intelligence to the local police. This ruled out any likelihood of the Gujarat police arranging effective police deployment at railway stations on the kar sevaks’ route.
However, given the communal mobilisation that had been under way from early February 2002, the absence of any deployment of army or paramilitary forces in Godhra, a communally sensitive spot, was conspicuous and even suspicious. This is a task that rests with the state’s home ministry. CC’s “Genocide – Gujarat 2002” issue carried interviews with former officials of the Indian army who have, in the past, been deployed at Godhra in far less tense situations and who expressed outrage that inadequate troops had been deployed there.
Sreekumar’s first affidavit also reveals that the SIB had alerted all police commissioners and SPs in all districts of Gujarat to take precautionary steps to prevent likely communal clashes in their jurisdictions. In effect it was the perverse will of the chief minister, imposed through a supine bureaucracy and top police leadership, which disregarded systematic warnings from its own intelligence bureau. The SIB had sent out as many as three separate notes in this regard on February 27, 2002 itself. In addition to these messages, on February 27, specific information was also sent to the CP, Ahmedabad city, about the VHP’s call for a Gujarat bandh (on February 28) to protest against the Godhra train burning and a meeting being held by the organisation in that connection at 4 p.m. that afternoon.
The affidavit also records that these warnings continued unheeded. Even after the initial outbreak of genocidal violence, the SIB periodically provided specific data to jurisdictional police, particularly to the CP, Ahmedabad city, where incidents of communal violence persisted. For instance, a written report dated April 15, 2002 was sent to the CP, Ahmedabad, by the ADGP (int.), informing him about the move by extremist and fundamentalist elements among Muslims to resist large-scale house-to-house search operations ("combing") conducted by the police. The same missive also warned of the plan by radical Hindu elements to organise a major assault in Juhapura, a predominantly Muslim colony. In another despatch to the CP, Ahmedabad city, dated April 26, 2002, the SIB provided information on the (1) The plan by Bajrang Dal leaders to distribute lethal weapons (2) The migration of Muslim families from certain areas in Ahmedabad city (3) The plan by Islamic militants from within and outside the country to distribute sophisticated weapons to local Muslim militants.
The central IB unit in Gujarat is called the subsidiary intelligence bureau, Ahmedabad. Strangely, it was Rajendra Kumar, the then joint director, central IB, (subsidiary intelligence bureau, Ahmedabad), who, within hours of the train arson, came out with the theory of an ‘ISI conspiracy’ behind the Godhra incident. On the afternoon of February 27, 2002 itself, the then DGP, K. Chakravarti, had informed Sreekumar that Rajendra Kumar had advised and even tried to persuade the DGP to pursue investigations into the Godhra incident along those lines.
During the course of that year, in personal conversations with Sreekumar too, Rajendra Kumar repeatedly stressed the urgent need for the Gujarat police to collect evidence that would prove the ISI conspiracy angle. When Sreekumar questioned the basis of the conspiracy theory, Kumar could not provide any sound and acceptable material to substantiate it. Curiously, Kumar did not send any formal reports, from the central IB to the state IB, containing inputs on the genesis, course and perpetration of the ISI conspiracy and the persons involved in it. Senior BJP leaders, supported by bureaucrats like the secretary (law & order), GC Murmu, and officers like Rajendra Kumar, were hell-bent on projecting an unsubstantiated ‘ISI conspiracy angle’ without furnishing details or proof.
Interestingly, on March 28, 2002, as significant political moves were afoot to project an ISI conspiracy behind the Godhra tragedy, a ‘secret’ fax message, signed by GK Naicker, section officer, home department, was received from the union home ministry, suggesting “counter-aggression by radical Muslim youth organised by the banned SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) in Juhapura” and that the administration was not firmly dealing with these developments.
Significantly, it has also been reliably deduced that the collusion between the central NDA and Modi’s government extended to hand-picking key officials for key postings before the carnage. Rajendra Kumar and Narendra Modi were old friends. The two men grew close when Rajendra Kumar, an officer from the Indian Police Service (IPS)’s Manipur Tripura cadre, was posted at the central IB in Chandigarh and Modi, as BJP secretary, was in charge of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir during the 1990s. Within the Gujarat administration it is widely believed that Rajendra Kumar also played a key role in guiding and even prompting former DCP of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch, DG Vanzara, to organise the ‘elimination’ of several Muslims from late 2002 onwards. Rajendra Kumar was also instrumental in having many Muslim youth arrested under POTA and instituting cases against them through the Ahmedabad Crime Branch. Some of these cases were discharged by the court for want of evidence before they reached trial.
Although it is the central IB that is responsible for reporting on internal security, Rajendra Kumar, as joint director, central IB, has not filed any affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. This amounts to a significant abdication of duty. It is especially significant given the fact that the IB has filed affidavits before other commissions investigating other catastrophes in the past, including the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and so on. Not surprisingly, when on September 6, 2005 the Gujarat government served a charge sheet on RB Sreekumar, Rajendra Kumar, who is currently joint director, IB, at the IB headquarters in New Delhi, under the UPA’s home ministry, offered to be a witness on behalf of the state government!
RB Sreekumar filed his second affidavit before the commission in October 2004, after the commission’s terms of reference had been expanded. This document contains a minefield of information especially with regard to the internal discussions held with KPS Gill, former DGP, Punjab, who was brought in by the NDA regime to ‘bring normalcy to Gujarat’. The affidavit records the first meeting with the ‘supercop’ on May 4, 2002, at which, in keeping with their proclamations to the world, blatant attempts were made by the chief secretary and principal secretary to suggest that ‘normalcy’ had indeed returned to Gujarat. A few officers present at the meeting, including ADGP Maniram and Sreekumar himself, contradicted this by presenting the true picture. They also offered their suggestions on what could be done to improve the status quo. Among other things, Sreekumar gave Gill a copy of the report on Ahmedabad and other communally sensitive areas that he had prepared. His “Analysis of the Communal Situation” dated April 24, 2002, carried with it an unsigned note containing certain points of action that could be implemented to defuse the communally explosive situation.
The suggestions included: “(1) Restoration of the faith of the public, particularly the minorities, in the criminal justice system (2) Replacement of the present incumbents in executive posts at the cutting edge level from those places where the police did not act conscientiously during the riots (3) Effective action to unearth stock of arms and booking of criminal and communal elements of both majority and minority communities (4) Action through non-political spiritual and religious leaders to de-communalise those under the spell of fundamentalist/extremist sections (5) Action at the social level to bring together both communities by proliferating interaction at various facets (6) Action against radical groups (7) Measures to improve the security ambience in the riot affected areas for facilitating the refugees to go back to their pre-riot residential areas (8) Purposeful legal action against publication and distribution of pamphlets/ handbills, etc./reports in the vernacular press, etc. fomenting animosity between different groups on grounds of religion.”
The report also warned that alarming tendencies could grow and flourish (within the minorities) if such measures were not taken.
Unsurprisingly, Chief Minister Modi’s personal intervention after this report was recorded and circulated (on May 7, 2002) and ‘supercop’ Gill’s succumbing to political pressure (May 8, 2002) thwarted constructive suggestions from policemen like Maniram and Sreekumar. Gill, in fact, even ‘instructed’ policemen not to try and reform politicians.
Sreekumar’s second affidavit records that, at this time, the SIB had also issued detailed communications (through this report) on signs that the Gujarat police should watch out for: i) some information that about a dozen communal elements from the minority community were trying to instigate violence (May 2, 2002); similar attempts were being made by minority communal elements in the Panigate area of Vadodara (May 4, 2002); likelihood of violence in the Dhobhighat area of Ahmedabad (May 5, 2002); Thakor Hindus trying to foment violence in the Ranip area of Ahmedabad city (May 6, 2002); likelihood of communal violence in the Vadaj and Vasna areas of Ahmedabad city (May 7, 2002); certain tribal sections violently instigated to oppose rehabilitation of Muslims in Panwad and Kanwat areas of Chhotaudaipur in Vadodara Rural district (May 7, 2002); plans by extremist Hindu elements to create disturbances in the Paldi Muslim colony and peripheral areas of Ahmedabad city such as Juhapura, Kagadiwad, etc. (May 9, 2002); miscreants moving in specific vehicles with a view to cause explosions in Danilimbda and other areas of Ahmedabad city (May 11, 2002); communal elements trying to violently prevent the rehabilitation of Muslims in Tejgadh and Kadwal areas of Chhotaudaipur in rural Vadodara (May 13, 2002).
It is significant to note that other senior officers of the SIB who met Gill on May 10, 2002 and presented their own assessments of the scenario concurred with the ADGP (int.)’s assessment of the situation in his report of April 24. OP Mathur, IGP (administration & security), E. Radhakrishnaiah, DyIGP (communal branch), Sanjiv Bhatt, SP (security) and RB Sreekumar all attended the meeting. Interestingly, Rajendra Kumar, joint director (central IB), was also present.
The disgraceful saga continues. Through May and June 2002, as head of state intelligence, Sreekumar continued to alert his men to the potential dangers on hand. Following Sreekumar’s detailed missives, which included maintaining a strict watch on aggressive Hindu and Muslim communal elements, in June 2002, PS Shah, additional secretary, home department, asked for a report assessing the communal situation in Gujarat. In response to Shah’s request, an assessment of the prevailing situation was prepared (on June 15, 2002) in which it was emphasised that the measures suggested in the April 24 communication needed to be implemented so as to achieve total normalcy on the communal front.
Subsequently, following a further request by PS Shah, a review of the law and order situation dated August 20, 2002 was prepared. This report covered aspects regarding the rehabilitation of riot victims wherein it was observed that about 75,500 persons who had migrated from various districts in the state had not returned to their original habitats owing to a feeling of insecurity. Not surprisingly, the additional chief secretary (home), Ashok Narayan, who was clearly a part of Modi’s core group, had responded to this report with a report of his own dated September 9, 2002, stating that he did not agree with most aspects of the assessment.
A clash of wills also ensued between Sreekumar and Modi’s willing coterie with regard to the implementation of directions by the NHRC as contained in its report of May-July 2002. In its report titled “Run up to the Assembly Poll – Emerging Law and Order Trends” dated August 28, 2002, the SIB, under Sreekumar’s jurisdiction, stated that the non-implementation of the NHRC’s recommendations was also a key factor responsible for the delay in normalisation of the communal situation. This assessment was based on feedback from riot affected parties. Not content with a mere assessment, Sreekumar’s report recommended certain administrative measures. Among these was the suggestion that senior policemen and bureaucrats should issue comprehensive instructions in tune with various police manuals and compilations prepared by former Gujarat policemen. He said that it was time that a brochure on step by step measures to be taken in specific situations was issued by the state of Gujarat, and followed stringently. The brochure should be supported by a detailed drill on actions that need to be taken.
RB Sreekumar’s second and third affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, filed in October 2004 and April 2005 respectively, contained several incriminating facts that exposed the criminal and immoral conduct of the chief minister, Narendra Modi, and some senior officers. However, the Nanavati-Shah Commission has not taken any action on this alarming evidence. The commission did not call Sreekumar for further enquiry, nor did it order/conduct an independent enquiry into the allegations made and the facts revealed in his affidavits. The commission is empowered to summon documents from state government files before it comes to its final conclusions. It can also order investigations. But the commission has been a silent one so far. It has made no demands of the Gujarat government, nor has it called for any important documents relevant to its proceedings.
The behaviour of government advocates is another aspect that warrants attention. The conduct of Arvind Pandya, government counsel before the commission, contravenes the fundamental process of law and far overreaches his duties as an advocate. Pandya’s conduct, both inside and outside the commission, raises serious ethical questions. Instead of assisting the commission to arrive at the truth, he has been an active agent in Modi’s machinations; he formed part of the trio who, in August 2004, openly tried to intimidate former ADGP, RB Sreekumar, ‘not to tell the truth before the commission’. His conduct, however, has not elicited even a mild reprimand from the learned judges.
It was Rahul Sharma and RB Sreekumar who, suo motu, guided by their own conscience, submitted crucial documents and data from state government records. Even the startling revelations contained in these have not moved the Nanavati-Shah Commission to take any action or order any enquiry.
With his third affidavit, Sreekumar encloses more stunning evidence. A tape recorded conversation with Dinesh Kapadia, undersecretary of the Gujarat government, and an equally revelatory set of conversations with GC Murmu (secretary, law & order), both of whom were trying to persuade and then intimidate an honest officer into perjuring himself before a commission of enquiry. These meetings, which took place on August 21 and August 31, 2004, constitute the most blatant attempts by officers of the Gujarat state and even its own lawyer, to subvert the commission by intimidating officers.
At the first meeting Kapadia observed that newspaper reports conveyed the impression that Sreekumar was pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu. Sreekumar replied that he stood for the Indian Constitution and the ideals of citizenship. Kapadia then changes track, accusing him of being biased against the government and the ruling party. Sreekumar replied that it was not a question of community, party, office or regime. As a police officer, he failed to see the difference between majoritarian or minoritarian communalism. The undersecretary listens to Sreekumar earnestly explaining his position about the hate filled mindset that has resulted in such violence. Kapadia then asks him to ‘moderate his position’, requesting that ‘some circumspection be shown’. He also suggests that Sreekumar be ‘totally objective’ by ‘withholding ideology’. Responding to this, Sreekumar draws a clever comparison between Bhavnagar and Jamnagar, where violence was controlled, and other parts of Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, where it was not.
Kapadia then tries to be more specific, saying that it was Modi, not the Gujarat police, who was the target of criticism everywhere. Kapadia says: “What if…Narendra Modi is removed? This Supreme Court, media, all elements making hue and cry, will become silent.” He stresses, “You may place this on record. If Narendra Modi is removed, all these elements, self-proclaimed champions of secularism, will be totally silent. The main target is Modi.” Kapadia then goes on to laud Sreekumar’s honesty and integrity but suggests that the commission is not the forum for interventions. He further adds that although many police officers were quite critical of the government this had not appeared in public. He states that the then CP, Ahmedabad, PC Pande, was the model of officialdom. Incidentally, Pande told the commission that he did “not recollect, remember and recall many relevant things” pertaining to the time he was commissioner.
After a while Sreekumar becomes quite blunt, stating that his loyalty is only to the Constitution. Kapadia replies that revealing the truth before the commission would be futile: “These commissions are paper tigers.” Sreekumar retaliates, saying “Truth is truth”. To this, Kapadia, equating Modi to the state, replies, “It is against the public interest.”
The subsequent meeting with Murmu was in response to a direct summons. Murmu is accompanied by state government pleader before the commission, Arvind Pandya, who begins the conversation. Pandya remarks that he is surprised by the attention that Sreekumar’s affidavits have attracted considering that when the affidavit was first filed in 2002, it was one of 5,000 documents and no one noticed it. Trivialities about Sreekumar’s early years in the service are then discussed. Pandya carries on talking, questioning Sreekumar as if he were before Justice Nanavati, cautioning him "not to be very quick or very hasty in answering questions” and instructing him to “stall, and say 'I don’t understand the question'.”
Pandya tries to further the theory of a conspiracy behind the Godhra incident (which Sreekumar has already denied in his affidavits) and basically instructs him to toe the chief minister's line.
As is obvious, Sreekumar does not succumb to these pressures.
He has placed tape recordings and transcripts of both these conversations before the Nanavati-Shah Commission but no action has been taken so far. During his testimony and subsequent cross-examination before the commission, however, crucial questions are not put to him by either the government advocates or those representing victims or NGOs. This was and is a glaring deficiency.
It is in his third affidavit before the commission that Sreekumar places these details on record. The state responds by filing, on September 6, 2005, a set of nine charges against Sreekumar, simultaneously initiating a departmental enquiry against him. The charges for misconduct relate mainly to his depositions before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. These include the fact that he maintained a private diary of official behaviour which he then claimed was an official diary, conduct that is unbecoming of an officer. Second, that he had not obtained permission to do this. Third, that the unofficial diary contained secret information that had been clandestinely released to the press. Finally, the charges allege that Sreekumar had failed to obtain permission to place certain documents before the commission. Sreekumar has challenged this action before the central administrative tribunal and arguments by both parties have just concluded.
In his fourth affidavit, Sreekumar replied forcefully to these charges, contending that an officer’s loyalty was to the Constitution and not an elected government. He argued that the rule of law encompassed the activities of an elected chief minister. He added that personal whim or party ideology cannot be equated to law. He maintained that the official is not always true, nor always ethical or legal. Therefore, an officer who disobeyed a verbal order which covertly demanded illegal action could well be doing his duty. Sreekumar also held that as a professional, as head of the state intelligence bureau, he was only following the rules of his professional training in prudently and confidentially recording illegal orders for future reference. The message he sends out is a powerful one. Duty must follow the Constitution and basic ethics of equity and non-discrimination. In certain circumstances to dissent or disobey an illegal order may be the ultimate act of duty.
For his foresight and his insight, Sreekumar continues to be hounded even today. After his retirement and his decision to join Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), the state government stepped up its offensive while an old case filed by the VHP has been resurrected for ammunition. As SP, Kutch, in 1986, Sreekumar had taken firm action against the VHP for instigating communal violence. This matter lay stagnant until it was recently revived by a vindictive administration. RB Sreekumar was served a non-bailable warrant by an acquiescent court in Kutch. Fortunately, however, he was granted bail by the local court on July 23. This courageous and upright officer from Gujarat now joins the list of human rights defenders who have faced arrest in a similar fashion. There appears no end to the lengths that Modi’s government will go. And courts in the state seem only too willing to oblige.
This saga is another litmus test for Indian institutions, the judiciary and the executive. As we struggle on, we hope, sometimes against hope that our institutions of democratic governance will deliver.
Citizens for Justice & Peace