Former Director General of Police (DGP) of Gujarat R B Sreekumar, who was in the news for taking on the then Chief Minister of Gujarat and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the post-Godhra riots of 2002, released his book Gujarat Behind The Curtain in the city at Azam Campus on Sunday.
In the book, he has alleged that Modi, as the Gujarat CM, had disallowed the police officials in performing their duties during 2002 riots. Sreekumar, who was the Additional DGP of Armed Units in Gujarat during Godhra incident and was the Intelligence DGP in 2002, said, “It is an attempt to see that constitutional values, spirit and ethos is sustained. I consider Gujarat carnage as a full scale re-enactment of 1984 riots. For the 1984 riots, we did punish the political executives or bureaucratic executives. The criminal justice system failed the people completely. It sent a wrong message in the society. That is why Gujarat riots happened and Congress as a political party benefited.”
Here is an extract from Gujarat:Behind the Curtain offering an inside look at the Naroda Patiya massacre:
On 28th February 2002 forenoon, when I was in office, Khurshid Ahmed (IPS, 1997 batch) Commandant of SRPF, Headquartered at Saijpur Boga near Naroda Patiya, where 96 persons were killed by evening of that day, informed me by phone that about 500 Muslim families threatened by attacking mobs were seeking asylum inside the camp, secured by compound wall and armed sentries. He wanted specific orders for letting these private persons inside the SRPF Battalion Headquarters. In response, I immediately sent a fax message directing the Commandant to accommodate those seeking protection in the vacant barracks emptied by men, who were deputed to disturbed areas. In fact, the Commandant and his second-in-command DySP Qureshi were in panic (both belong to Muslim community) about the risk of their permitting Muslims, facing imminent danger, inside the campus. I assured them that none would find fault with them as they were complying with my written orders. The State Government, later claimed that 500 Muslims were saved by permitting them to stay in SRPF campus. Afterwards, I came to know that the Commandant had refused, ignoring my written orders, entry of refuge seekers in empty SRPF barracks and consequently, they had become victims of riots at the hands of marauding brigands. Most of the 96 people killed in the evening in Naroda Patiya were reportedly from this group of Muslims who were denied asylum in SRPF campus. No action was initiated for defying written order of ADGP (AU) and no report was made. Reportedly, senior leaders pressurized Commandant for not permitting Muslims under attack by rioters inside SRPF campus. The State Government had subsequently posted Commandant Khurshid Ahmed in a sought after post of Deputy Commissioner of Surat city and his wife Shamina Husain (IAS, 1997 batch) as District Development Officer
(DDO), Valsad district and Collector, Surendranagar district. DySP Qureshi was awarded President’s Police Medal for distinguished service, which is rarely awarded to SRPF officers, having no experience in crime policing.5 SIT did not cite me as a witness in Naroda Patiya case. In the judgment of the case, many critical comments on the role of SRPF were made by the Special Judge.
In the afternoon I met DGP K Chakravorti in his chamber. I found him to be quite perturbed, helpless and stress-ridden about widespread mass violence in cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and many rural areas. He lamented that things were taking a bad shape and activists of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP were leading armed crowds and police officers, at decisive level on the ground, were not intervening effectively as they were keen to avoid crossing swords with supporters of the ruling party. He hinted that the Chief Minister had convened a meeting of senior officers at his residence after his return from Godhra in the late evening of 27th February 2002. DGP said that the CM told officers in the meeting that “in communal riots, police normally takes action against Hindus and Muslims on one-to-one proportion, this will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger.” The DGP added that no officer present in the meeting – PC Pande, Commissioner of Police (Ahmedabad city), Ashok Narayan, Addl Chief Secretary (Home Department), Swarankant Verma, the incharge Chief Secretary, Dr PK Mishra, Principal Secretary to CM (now he is the Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi) Anil Mukim, Additional Secretary to CM and K Nityanandam, Home Secretary including himself did not take any objection or speak against the illegality of this verbal instruction from CM. DGP had apologetically admitted that this posture of the CM was a major impediment in initiation of action against communal elements, perpetrating beastial brutalities on the minority community. He added that parading of dead bodies in Ahmedabad city of those killed in Godhra train fire incident, including dead bodies of those who did not belong to Ahmedabad city, had magnified communal frenzy of motivated Hindus.
Once the carnage of thousands of people was over and time for justice arrived, it too met the same fate at the hands of those who are meant to deliver it.
Sreekumar had submitted 9 affidavits (4 while in service and 5 after retirement) to the enquiry commission formed to look into Godhra and the riots that followed. He writes:
SIT did not summon me and record my statement under 161 CrPC, a legal requirement for appreciating evidentiary merit of my deposition. Though I had given order from my office to open SRP camp for the Muslims I was not cited as a prosecution witness in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. Despite my offer to undergo personally forensic tests, I was not put through Narco and Brain Finger Print Tests. Riot victims often expressed their concern, disillusionment and apprehension about the condemnable state of justice delivery to them by Gujarat Police and SIT investigating 9 major carnage cases through Gujarat Police officers. I had always been assuring them to have astute faith in the impartiality, dexterity and integrity of our Criminal Justice System and keenness of judiciary, to deliver speedy justice, lest they may get influenced by indoctrination drive of anti-national sectarian Jihadi militants. According to them, SIT devotedly followed the roadmap provided to them by Gujarat Police in the investigation of major carnage cases. But unlike Gujarat Police, who allegedly tried to turn witnesses and complainants, hostile through inducement, threat and intimidation, for sabotaging the very validity of even FIRs against the accused supported by the State Government, SIT was protective and empathetic to them, thanks to implementation of witness protection scheme on the Supreme Court orders, on the representation by CJP. While Gujarat Police tried to save practically all accused in anti-minority cases from clutches of law–only 30-35 cases, out of 2,000 odd riot cases, reinvestigated by Gujarat Police on the Supreme Court orders had reached the stage of prosecution and in the remaining cases, witnesses including riot victim survivors did not corroborate their own statements to police during the trial before the court. SIT had arrested and chargesheeted at least those indulged in violence directly, if not, planners, organizers, mobilizers and enablers of anti-minority crimes. SIT had assiduously kept the complicity level of offenders in main crimes at the category of foot soldiers only. Except two police Inspectors, no higher officer was found to be even remotely responsible for any criminal negligence of duties, facilitating attacks by Hindu mobs.
Sreekumar has made some startling observation in the book. One of them is the complicity of members of the victim community against their own people. He writes:
…….. in Gujarat remarkably three senior IPS officers with clear motive and without any vengeance (ADGP RB Sreekumar, Superintendents of Police Rahul Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt) had submitted in-depth data exposing the complicity of State Government and many officials in 2002 Gujarat riots. However, 6 IAS and 7 IPS officers from Muslim community in Gujarat remained silent about the authors of mass crimes.3 Similar is the apathy of officers from Sikh community vis-a-vis 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi, and reportedly not even the well-known first lady IPS officer of India – Kiran Bedi, did provide any useful evidence to probe bodies and moved for prosecution of real architects of riots.
The aftermath of Gujarat riots saw innumerable instances of non-Muslim police officers and socials activists standing up for the minority community and paying a heavy price for their uprightness. Gujarat:Behind the Curtain narrates the trials and tribulations of many such men and women. The writer himself being one of these people, the book traverses through the legal and social battles fought by him in the process of protecting the constitutional values that make India.
Gujarat:Behind the Curtain efficiently sheds light on misuse and manipulation of religion by BJP and Sangh Parivar for political use and how political Hindutva is divorced from real Hinduism and its values. With reference to Holy Scriptures of Hindus he writes:
Gujarat carnage was an anti-thesis of ideals of Rajdharma (duties of a ruler) and Ramrajya of Mahatma Gandhi. An attempt has been made to explain the core values of Rajdharma as elucidated in the Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata and auxiliary Sanskrit literature. Often, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, declared himself to be a Hindu nationalist. That means, he is first a Hindu and then a nationalist. But what happened in Gujarat in 2002 and demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 (built in 1528), were shamelessly antonymous acts, violating Shloka 11 of the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Gita captioned ‘Yoga of Renunciation of Action in Knowledge’. The Shloka reads thus “In whatever way men identify with Me (God), in the same way do I carry out their desires; men pursue My path, in all ways.” A devout Hindu has to lower his head if anybody questions him about scriptural justification of these 2 collective devilish ventures of Hindus.
Sreekumar has criticised UPA government for its indifference towards the Gujarat riot victims once it came to power in 2004.
UPA government and Congress could not come up anywhere near the lowest levels of hope and expectations on them, by riot victim survivors and human right activists since 2004. Specific proposals for measures to ensure prompt and adequate justice delivery and durable rehabilitation of riot affected, received near – nil or lukewarm response. UPA government did not provide information on reports by Army and Central Para-Military Forces (CPMF) about what they had experienced in Gujarat, during 2002 riots, when they were deployed for assisting Gujarat administration. Reportedly, Congress was apprehensive that too much of an anti-Modi posture would alienate a section of Hindus, who are anti-Muslims but not pro-BJP.
Gujarat: Behind the Curtain is a compelling narration of violation of law and constitution of India in the Gujarat of 2002 and the subsequent mockery of justice to riot victims in the years that followed