THEMES

Gujarat 2002-2007, Genocide's Aftermath, Part II
July 1, 2007
Gujarat 2002-2007, Genocide's Aftermath, Part II
More reasons to remember

Acknowledgement, remorse, justice and reconciliation are the accepted steps required for collective healing when wounds of an indescribable nature have been inflicted on a whole population. In Gujarat, five years after independent India’s worst genocide, there has been little or no acknowledgement of the crimes and no question therefore of any expression of remorse from perpetrators and masterminds. Justice, except in a few isolated cases, dodges Gujarat’s survivors. It must therefore be a while before we talk of reconciliation.  

In the midst of the struggle for reparation and justice, this year brings an electoral battle to the battered state. In past months, Chief Minister Modi has utilised most of his energies and much of the taxpayer’s money to sell the ‘normalcy’ jingle and the ‘vibrant Gujarat’ pipe dream. As the election environment draws out the inevitable scandals, the dissensions among his partymen, the aura around Modi appears a trifle less bright, a little less shining. Will Modi’s vibrant Gujarat hard sell meet the same fate as NDA’s ‘India shining’ mantra?  

Electoral predictions apart, what is of real concern to CC and its wide readership is this: 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 the Gujarat 2007 state election campaign is made of? Will our candidates and political parties take the spirit, the core of the Indian Constitution, to the Gujarati people?  

This could well be our very own pipe dream. Switch to nearby Maharashtra, where in 1992-1993, after the Babri Masjid demolition, a communal pogrom led by Bal Thackeray and his Shiv Sena ripped Bombay of its essence, its cosmopolitan fabric. Two years later, the perpetrators, the Shiv Sena-BJP romped home to a calculated electoral victory, riding high on hatred and division among the people. Two governments have since come to power, in 1999 and 2004, both ‘secular’, both a combination of the Congress (I) and the NCP, who promised punishment of the guilty but failed to deliver. It was under former Congress chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik that Bombay was allowed to burn.

In February 1998, Justice BN Srikrishna submitted his historic report on the Bombay violence, making detailed recommendations for punitive actions and remedial measures. Despite election promises in 1999 and again in 2004, these remain unfulfilled. Perpetrators have not been punished and memories of the pogrom lie buried. In stark contrast, the system has meted out harsh punishment if not speedy justice to those convicted of ‘involvement’ in various degrees in the serial blasts of 1993.  

The harsh reality of discriminatory justice has raised its ugly head. While those responsible for bomb terror are labelled traitors and anti-nationals, and sent to the gallows, the perpetrators of home-bred mob terror escape censure and punitive action.  

Similar or worse questions arise from Gujarat today. This issue of CC, Genocide’s Aftermath–Part II, which has also been put together by co-editor, Teesta Setalvad, analyses in detail the evidence placed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. Thousands of victim survivors braved threats and intimidation from a vindictive administration to place their affidavits on record. (In August 2004, victim survivors and members of citizens’ groups were assaulted and threatened by riot accused, Babu Bajrangi, in the premises of the circuit house where the commission sits.) The rare courage of two police officers has exposed the cynical nitty-gritty that shaped the orchestration of the genocide. The tenacity of groups like the Jan Sangharsh Manch in deconstructing the Godhra fire before the commission pokes serious holes in the barefaced lies behind the Godhra train burning. Today, more than ever, it appears that the incident was an accident and not an ‘ISI-inspired conspiracy’ as touted by former union home minister LK Advani and Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi.

Now, even as the Godhra fire can no longer be used to justify the post-Godhra massacres, 84 accused languish in Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati jail. Meanwhile, escaping the long arm of the law, perpetrators of the genocide, many with powerful political connections, roam free. Details of the illegal continued custody of those accused in the Godhra arson have been placed before our apex court for three years now. However, despite sincere efforts by legal action groups and counsel, these men have been denied bail.

The fact that 84 accused still remain in Gujarat’s jails five years after the incident, the fact that many of them are ill, one is blind; the fact that their families have been reduced to penury and indignity while the main accused and masterminds of the post-Godhra carnages not only roam free but rule Gujarat by action and word, raises the niggling, troublesome question once again.  

Discriminatory justice. Can a discriminatory system of justice be viable in principle, given what our Constitution espouses? What does this reality mean in practical terms, given that today we also face the challenge of another kind of terror, internationally supported bomb terror? In the ultimate analysis, genuine secularism and constitutional governance must mean that issues of mass violence, accountability, transparency, impunity for mass murderers and government officials, are not merely the stuff of election campaigns but the basis on which the balance sheets of our public servants and representatives are drawn. Only then would we have made the transition from a purely electoral democracy to true constitutional democracy.

 — Editors
Deconstructing Godhra

Courtesy: AP

The alleged torching alive of 59 persons in coach number S-6 of the Sabarmati Express returning from Faizabad (Ayodhya) to Ahmedabad at the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002, became the sordid justification for unleashing the post-Godhra carnage across Gujarat. The incident was first described by the district collector, Jayanti Ravi, to be an accident. But from 7.30 p.m. onwards the same evening, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the state, started portraying it as a conspiracy inspired by Pakistan’s ISI.

On the afternoon of February 27, in parliament, the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee described the incident as an accident. Weeks later, at the BJP’s national meet in Goa, he too fell in line, justifying the post-Godhra carnage with his famous "agar Godhra na hota to Gujarat na hota" (If Godhra had not happened Gujarat, too, would not have happened). The sangh parivar’s Goebbelian propaganda machine relayed this message of "Muslim aggression" and "Hindu retaliation" throughout the country and abroad. Riding high on the carnage, Modi called a snap poll and romped back to power in 2002.

The report of a three member fact-finding team from Delhi, brought out by Sahmat, New Delhi (March 18, 2002), CC’s special issue, "Gujarat – Genocide 2002" (March-April 2002), and most importantly, the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, authored by a panel headed by former judges of the supreme court, justices VR Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant (November 2002), were the first efforts at deconstructing the Godhra lie. The mainstream national media, which is often faulted for its failure to do a systematic follow-up on tragedies, kept a keen watch post-Godhra. Two reports in The Times of India, the first based on statements of policemen on the spot, the second on the findings of the Ahmedabad based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), also confirmed the attempts to manipulate Godhra to political advantage.

Since 2002, two significant legal efforts have taken this exercise further. One is the voluminous evidence placed on record before the Nanavati-Shah Commission by advocate Mukul Sinha of the Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM). Building on the evidence available, the JSM has systematically deconstructed the Godhra lie. The other is the petition by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in the Supreme Court, documenting the rank injustice meted out to the accused. CJP has filed a transfer petition urging that the Godhra trial also be reinvestigated by an independent agency and transferred out of Gujarat. The petition is supported by five families of Hindu victims of the coach burning. It was the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that had originally recommended this action in its first report on Gujarat. Thereafter, it also filed a transfer petition in the apex court. Over five years after the carnage, 84 accused in the Godhra arson case remain in jail. Repeated pleas to at least grant bail to the accused have yet to be given a proper hearing by the highest court in the land.

On November 21, 2003 the Supreme Court stayed 14 trials in Gujarat, including the one related to the Godhra burning. This has not deterred the Gujarat police from continuing a politically motivated investigation into the incident. But no such further investigations have been made by the same police into the post-Godhra massacres, Naroda Gaon and Patiya, Gulberg Society, Ode and Sardarpura.

There is no clear evidence that any person in Gujarat (except, perhaps, members of the VHP) knew of the specific date on which kar sevaks would travel from Ayodhya to Gujarat. Central, state and local intelligence agencies have in fact deposed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission stating that they did not have any information about the kar sevaks’ travel plans

Here we bring to CC’s readers the deconstruction of the Godhra lie, relying on the sources of information mentioned above.

Background

In 1933, a young arsonist named Marinus van der Lubbe from Holland had been wandering around Berlin for a week, attempting to burn government buildings. The exact sequence of events will never be known but Nazi storm troopers, under Nazi leader, Hermann Göring’s direction, befriended the arsonist and helped him to burn the Reichstag (German parliament) that night.

The storm troopers, led by SA leader, Karl Ernst, used the underground tunnel that connected Göring’s residence with the cellar in the Reichstag. They entered the building, scattered gasoline and hurried back through the tunnel to safety. The Reichstag was set on fire on February 27, 1933.

Following the arrest of the Dutch arsonist, Adolf Hitler became enraged: "The German people have been soft too long. Every Communist official must be shot. All Communist deputies must be hanged this very night. All friends of the Communists must be locked up."

Leaving the scene of the fire, Hitler went straight to the office of his newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, to personally oversee news coverage of the fire. He stayed up all night with Goebbels to put together a paper full of tales of an alleged communist plot to violently seize power in Berlin. Over 4,000 communists were killed thereafter.

VHP’s ‘Chalo Ayodhya’

It all began with the VHP’s mobilisation for a programme in Ayodhya, which they called ‘Purnahuti Maha Yagna’.

Three groups from Gujarat, consisting of about 2,000 Ram bhakts (devotees) each, were to go to Ayodhya for kar seva. The first group of about 2,200 Ram sevaks was to leave Ahmedabad on February 22, 2002.

They left for Ayodhya, as planned, on February 22 and began their return journey to Ahmedabad by the Sabarmati Express on February 25, 2002.

There is no clear evidence that any person in Gujarat (except, perhaps, members of the VHP) knew of the specific date on which kar sevaks would travel from Ayodhya to Gujarat i.e. on February 25. Central, state and local intelligence agencies have in fact deposed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission stating that they did not have any information about the kar sevaks’ travel plans.

CJP and CC have studied the detailed intelligence records submitted before the commission. While the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB), Gujarat, had sent several missives warning of communal mobilisation by kar sevaks, especially regarding their travel to Ayodhya from different locations in Gujarat, the absence of adequate reports from central or Uttar Pradesh intelligence departments regarding their return journey, and their belligerent and aggressive behaviour on the return journey, is significant. The only letter that arrived from central intelligence about the kar sevaks’ return was received by the Gujarat SIB a day after the Godhra tragedy i.e. on February 28, 2002. In the absence of specific information about the kar sevaks’ return journey, there could have been no conspiracy hatched by any person to burn coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27.

Chief minister sets the agenda

Yet on February 27, the chief minister made the following press statement which was widely publicised all over Gujarat: "The abominable event that has occurred in Godhra does not befit any civilised society...it is not a communal event but is a one-sided collective terrorist attack by one community…" He further said that this was not a simple incident of violence or a communal event but a "pre-planned incident".

Who could fit the "international terrorist" label?

They found a maulana – Maulana Umerji – and booked him a whole year after the incident had occurred. Who was this "terrorist"? An old, semi-invalid, respected Muslim leader from the Ghanchi Community in Godhra who ran a riot relief camp at the Iqbal Primary School from March 2002 until August 2002. The maulana was a senior and respected member of his community who had consistently galvanised resources for national tragedies, including the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984, from Godhra’s citizenry.



Narendra Modi: Plotting a conspiracy theory

Arrival of Sabarmati Express at Godhra

At 7.43 a.m. on February 27 the Sabarmati Express from Ayodhya arrived on platform No 1 at Godhra railway station. The train was nearly five hours late. In their statements – nearly identical in content – before the police and later, before the commission, Sheelaben Virpal, Punamkumari Tiwari, Satishkumar Ravidutt Mishra, Sadhwiji Minakshi Deviji, a kar sevak, and Savitaben Tribhovandas Sadhu, an activist of the VHP, stated that there had been a quarrel on the platform with some tea vendors.

There was also a reported incident involving the attempted abduction of a Muslim girl by kar sevaks. In statements dated February 28 and recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC, Sophia Bano M. Shaikh, a minor, her mother and her sister all stated that some kar sevaks had tried to molest Sophia and pull her into the train. While the FSL report was filed along with the first charge sheet, the statements by Sophia Shaikh and her family were initially kept out it.

Sophia Shaikh also deposed before the commission where she stated: "The persons wearing saffron bands came down on the platform for tea and snacks. They took their tea and snacks and at that time one bearded person was there whom the persons wearing the saffron bands started beating for some reason. Seeing this, we got scared and we went away a little far. In the meantime one person wearing saffron band came and he covered my mouth and started dragging me towards the station.

"As I started shouting, he released me. As this incident happened, I went inside the platform, near the ticket counter. Along with me, my mother and sister also went inside. We people had become very scared because of which we postponed the idea of going to Vadodara and decided to go back to my auntie."

There are many similar evidences to establish that there was indeed a scuffle between some kar sevaks and the tea vendor on the platform of Godhra station, and that the kar sevaks had prevented a Muslim tea vendor from serving tea inside coach S-6 and even pushed him out of the train.

A railway guard, Pachuram Verma, has deposed before the commission stating that the chain was pulled soon after the train had left Godhra station and was only a short distance from it, and that the driver had informed him of this fact.

His statement says: "At 8.00 a.m., the train had started and at this time persons wearing saffron head and neck bands came running and boarded the train. I came to know that the chain pulling had happened because these kar sevaks had not been able to get up. I did not take any action since there was a big crowd of kar sevaks and I could not know who had specifically pulled the chain."

It is therefore quite clear that the chain was first pulled from within the train itself. Some of the kar sevaks who had got off the train were left behind on the platform when the train started at 7.48 a.m. In all probability, therefore, these were the kar sevaks involved in the scuffle with the tea vendor, because of which they did not notice that the train had started.

The conflict after the first chain pulling

After the chain was first pulled, the engine stopped just beyond the platform with coach S-6 coming to a halt near the parcel office. By this time, due to the altercation at the station and especially as news had spread that a Muslim girl had been abducted by kar sevaks, a crowd of local Muslims had gathered behind the parcel office.

Another eyewitness, a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable named Mohan Jagdish Yadav has deposed before the commission: "We saw stone throwing between the train passengers and the outside people. Some passengers were shouting slogans of Jai Shri Ram. We told those passengers to go and sit in the train and raising our sticks we told the outsiders to go away and chased them away. The passengers who were shouting and throwing stones were passengers of two coaches. The people who were throwing stones from Signal Falia were doing so from behind the wall and some of them were trying to jump across the wall to enter the station."

The train then started moving but stopped again, coming to a halt near the ‘A’ cabin.

How did the train stop near the ‘A’ cabin?

Six months after the incident, the Gujarat government extracted two confessions, from Anwar Kalandar and another Muslim boy. They ‘confessed’ that they had stopped the train by boarding the running train and rotating the ‘alarm chain disc’ from outside.

Kalandar subsequently withdrew his confession, claiming it was extracted under torture. However, what is even more significant is the information that since 1995 the railways have modified the design of the alarm chain pulling system (ACP) to curb its misuse. (To escape a check, ticketless passengers jumped off/on the train by rotating the disc from outside to stop the train beyond platform limits.) This fact obviously escaped the Gujarat police’s attention while they were extracting a confession from Kalandar.

On an enquiry made of the railway authorities by the JSM during commission proceedings it was learnt that all 18 coaches of the Sabarmati Express possessed the modified alarm chain system. Therefore the train’s vacuum brakes could not have been activated by turning the alarm disc from outside. The ACP can only be operated from inside the coaches and corrected from outside.

From categorical statements made by both the guard and the assistant driver of the train it is clear that on that day they had corrected the ACPs in four coaches of the Sabarmati Express. Railway Guard Verma has deposed that he along with assistant driver, Mukesh Pachhori, had corrected the chain pulling of four coaches (Nos. 83101, 5343, 91263 and 88238) when the kar sevaks first pulled the chain. From this view of the matter, the ACP of a fifth coach (No. 90238), noticed by another railway official, Harimohan Mina, whose statement has been recorded, was not corrected.

To correct a chain pulling, railway employees have to physically rotate the alarm disc to reset the clappet valve. In this case, while the first chain pulling was done from five coaches, the ACP was only put right in four coaches thereby leaving one clappet valve uncorrected. This was the reason why the driver dragged the train up to the ‘A’ cabin but could not go further.

In his deposition, Rajendraprasad Misrilal Mina, the assistant stationmaster (ASM), an eyewitness, stated: "On February 27, 2002 I was on duty as assistant stationmaster at `A’ cabin of Godhra railway station from 12 at night to morning up to 8.00 a.m. Sabarmati Express train arrived at Godhra railway station at 7.43 a.m. Since the line was clear, departure signal was given at 7.45 a.m. The train started at 7.48 a.m. After some time the train stopped by blowing the whistle. I could see from the cabin that the train had stopped. At that time no crowd was seen between ‘A’ cabin and the train.

"When the train started again I looked at the clock in the cabin and the time was 7.55 a.m. When the train reached near the cabin I was standing near window of the cabin for showing ‘alright’ signal. When the train arrived at ‘A’ cabin, the engine was blowing the whistle indicating chain pulling. The period between the restarting of the train and its arrival at ‘A’ cabin would have been around five to six minutes. I did not see any crowd at that time. It was about 8 o’clock when the train had stopped.

"When the train was moving with slow speed I had seen a crowd running towards and along with the train. When I got down from the cabin, at that time some people from the crowd had come near the cabin. Few persons from the mob were throwing stones on the train...

"The mob did not arrive together but 10 to 15 persons were coming and gathering... There were women and children also in the mob. I did not see personally as to who set the fire and how."

What did the district superintendent of police, Raju Bishankumar Bhargav, see inside coach S-6?

Bhargav’s deposition before the commission is very important so as to comprehend the severity of the fire and the speed with which it spread. He said that he had reached the burning coach at about 8.30 a.m. i.e. barely 15-17 minutes after the fire began.

Bhargav said he saw people with blackened faces and with some burn injuries to the head, coming out of the coach. He saw 10 or 12 passengers coming out of the coach; they were coming out of the coach door on the Godhra town side. The injuries that he noticed were on the upper part of passengers’ bodies. He did not notice any injuries below the waist area.

Bhargav said that he did not see any flames rising in the part of the coach that he could see from the doorway. "I had seen only smoke in that area... I had not noticed any flames on the floor of the area between the two doors. I had also not smelt any inflammable fuel like petrol, kerosene, diesel, etc."

The Gujarat government’s version of the cause of the fire

It is in the second charge sheet filed on September 20, 2002, that (i) the burning from inside story evolves into a conspiracy carried out by a core group; (ii) the spontaneous collection of a mob on hearing that a girl was pulled into the train is alleged; (iii) Chain pulling is said to have been done by Anwar Kalandar who is not made an accused because it is tacitly accepted that he did this to protect the girl. The first charge sheet, which details the altercations between the kar sevaks and the vendors, has no mention of any conspiracy.

The fourth charge sheet added the terrorist conspiracy angle. Thereafter, up to the present 16th supplementary charge sheet, the police version has not changed qualitatively. The case made out in the second and third charge sheets was "refined" by adding a "conspiracy" story. According to the police, the conspiracy was hatched by Razak Kurkure, Salim Panwala, Haji Bilal and a few others in room No. 8 of the Aman Guest House (owned by Razak Kurkure) at around 9 p.m. on February 26, 2002.

The alleged conspiracy included the plan to set fire to the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002. For that purpose, 140 litres of petrol was allegedly bought from Kalabhai’s petrol pump the previous night and kept in Kurkure’s house. It is alleged that at around 9.30-10 p.m. on February 26, 2002, Maulana Umerji had directed that coach S-6 should be set on fire.

The entire charge by the prosecution (Gujarat government) that coach S-6 was burnt down in pursuance of a pre-planned conspiracy rests on an FSL report which mentions that some residual hydrocarbons were found in samples collected from the site and that petrol was found in two carboys.

The reliability of the FSL report on samples collected from the site is highly doubtful. Hundreds of onlookers and visitors, including the chief minister and other ministers, had visited the site and also entered coach S-6 before the samples were collected. Suspect material could easily have been removed from inside the coach. Equally, what the FSL found inside the coach could well have been planted from outside.

The FSL report dated March 20, 2002 was accessible to the investigation officer (IO), KC Bawa, before he filed the first charge sheet on May 5, 2002. Yet the charge sheet made no specific allegation about the use of petrol in torching coach S-6. Bawa’s first charge sheet was quite vague: "At that time the accused armed with deadly weapons and highly inflammable fluids filled in cans and shouting slogans, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, ‘Hindustan Murdabad’, burnt down the coach S-6".

The big question is why did the IO refuse to specify the fluid that was allegedly used by the "conspirators"?

It appears therefore that initially the investigation began in right earnest. The two petrol pumps near Godhra station were sealed off by the police on February 27, 2002. The first petrol pump, on Vejalpur road, was owned by MH & A. Patel while the other was owned by Asgarali Qurban Hussein (Kalabhai).

On April 9, 2002, seven samples of petrol and diesel were collected from these petrol pumps and panchnamas were made. These samples, four samples of diesel marked A, B, E and F, and three samples of petrol marked C, D (from Kalabhai’s pump) and H (from MH & A. Patel’s pump), were sent for forensic examination to find out whether the petrol or diesel from these pumps had been used to burn coach S-6.

In his report dated April 26, 2002, DB Talati, assistant director, FSL, said that samples A, B, E and F contained diesel while C, D and H contained petrol. He added however that he could not give a clear opinion on whether the petrol detected in some samples in and around coach S-6 as per the FSL report dated March 20, 2002 and the petrol detected in samples C, D and H came from the same source.

The fatal blow to the prosecution’s "petrol theory" was delivered by two employees of Kalabhai’s petrol pump, Prabhatsinh G. Patel and Ranjitsinh J. Patel. In their statements recorded on April 10, 2002, the two men flatly denied having sold any loose petrol to anybody, adding that they did not sell loose petrol from their pump. Thus the police had no source whence they could allege the accused had procured the petrol. Strangely, the police did not question any employees of the petrol pump owned by MH & A. Patel; they only questioned its owners.

The charge sheet filed by KC Bawa on May 22, 2002 therefore "created" evidence to establish that coach S-6 was burnt from outside using some inflammable liquid. Bawa "recorded" the statements of nine important eyewitnesses between February 27 and March 15, 2002, namely, Janaklal K. Dave, Rajeshbhai V. Darji, Nitinkumar Harprasad Pathak, Dilipbhai U. Dasariya, Muralidhar R. Mulchandani (reportedly, the current vice-president of Godhra Nagarpalika), Dipakbhai M. Soni, Harsukhlal T. Advani, Chandrashekhar N. Sonaiya and Manoj H. Advani.

All nine of these eyewitnesses, who declared themselves to be active members of the VHP, made identical statements to the effect that they had gone to Godhra station on the morning of February 27 to meet the kar sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya and offer them tea and breakfast.

They gave the following identical statements: "…the train was standing near ‘A’ cabin; at that time, men, women and children numbering around 900-1,000 persons from Signal Falia started running towards the stationary train while howling and shouting; because of this me and other local activists ran towards where the train was standing and reached ‘A’ cabin and saw that people from Signal Falia came running there with weapons like dhariya, sword, iron pipes and sticks. Others started heavily stoning the train. These people were shouting slogans like "Sale Hinduonko kaat daalo, Mandir banane jaate hai, kaat daalo" (Cut up the Hindus; cut up those who have gone to construct a temple), etc. Five-six persons with carboys in their hands were sprinkling the fluid on one coach and they set it on fire and we kept standing at the side of ‘A’ cabin.

There are many similar evidences to establish that there was indeed a scuffle between some kar sevaks and the tea vendor on the platform of Godhra station, and that the kar sevaks had prevented a Muslim tea vendor from serving tea inside coach S-6 and even pushed him out of the train

"In this mob, I saw from the village of Godhra, R. Amin Hussein Hathila..." In their respective statements the nine eyewitnesses named around four Muslims each. The 36 Muslims thus named by these eyewitnesses were arrested for burning down the coach from outside. Those arrested included Haji Bilal and Mohammad Hussein Kalota (the then president of the Godhra Nagarpalika). Not one of these nine eyewitnesses, who claimed to be standing beside the ‘A’ cabin, said a word about Jabir Binyamin Behra and others arriving in a tempo with seven or eight carboys of petrol, climbing into coach S-6 by cutting through the vestibule and so on.

After making out a case that coach S-6 was burnt from outside, Bawa started discovering any number of carboys containing traces of kerosene from around the ‘A’ cabin. All this to build up the case that the fluid used to burn coach S-6 was kerosene. Between March 29 and April 5 three carboys were allegedly recovered from three of the accused, Haji Bilal, Abdul Majid Dhantiya and Kasim Biryani.

Since Bilal was considered to be the main conspirator at the time, along with Kalota, the kerosene theory was accepted. In his report dated April 26, 2002, DB Talati said he had found traces of kerosene in the three carboys that were sent to him for examination! The kerosene theory prevailed until the beginning of July 2002. From then on the new investigation officer, Noel Parmar, had more refined ideas and fuel in mind.

Even the prosecution’s star "eyewitness", Ajaykumar Kanubhai Bariya, who for the first time narrated the absurd story of the accused entering coach S-6 by cutting through the vestibule between coaches S-6 and S-7, did not allege that petrol was used to burn coach S-6 in his statement on July 9, 2002. This is what Bariya said, "…after some time I saw Rafique Bhatuk come with the carbo and give it to Irfan Bhopa and he told me, ‘Put this carbo in the rickshaw’. I kept that carbo in the rickshaw as I was very scared. The smell like kerosene was coming out from the carbo…"

Switch over

The primary motivation to introduce "petrol" as the ostensible fuel used by the alleged conspirators along with the theory that coach S-6 had been set alight from inside was the May 2002 report by Dr MS Dahiya, director of the FSL, Ahmedabad. Dahiya opined that coach S-6 could not have been burnt from outside. His report also said that it would take 60 litres of petrol poured inside the coach to burn the same. Dahiya’s report apparently did not reach Bawa in time for him to realise that his theory that the coach was burnt from outside using kerosene would contradict a report based on scientific analysis!

An enormous amount of material (370 kilos of burnt out remains) from inside coach S-6 was once again collected on May 1, 2002 and sent for forensic examination. The FSL report No. 2002/c/594 dated May 17, 2002 did not however find any trace of petrol in the residues from inside the coach. One yellow carboy showed some traces of petrol. But this carboy does not figure in the subsequent story.

The entire "petrol" theory hinges on Jabir Binyamin Behra’s "confession" dated February 5, 2003. According to this "confession", at about 9 p.m. on February 26, 2002, Razak Kurkure asked Behra to accompany him to fetch petrol from Kalabhai’s petrol pump. Behra and a few others, with seven 20-litre carboys, went there in a tempo. After the carboys were filled up, they were brought back and kept in Kurkure’s room located behind Aman Guest House. This petrol was then used to set fire to coach S-6 the next day.

Behra’s story is "corroborated" by the statements of two employees at Kalabhai’s petrol pump, Prabhatsinh Patel and Ranjitsinh Patel, who allegedly sold the petrol to Razak Kurkure. These were the same men who in April 2002 had already given a statement to the police categorically denying that any such sale of petrol had taken place. Further statements by both these men were recorded on February 23, March 11 and March 12, 2003.

In these statements, both of them alleged that at about 10 p.m. on February 26, 2002, Kurkure rode up on his M-80 (two-wheeler) alongside a popti (green) coloured tempo. After Salim Panwala had paid for 140 litres of petrol, Ranjitsinh filled up seven carboys with 140 litres of petrol.

The two Patels also stated that although they had given statements to the police earlier, on April 10, 2002, since the police had not asked them whether anybody had bought loose petrol from their pump on February 26, 2002, they had not disclosed these facts at the time. Since the police had only asked them about petrol being purchased by the accused on February 27, they had denied the same a year ago! This was why they were now disclosing the facts before the magistrate, a year later.

Shockingly, the April 10, 2002 statements by Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel were only produced with the supplementary charge sheet dated April 16, 2003. These were the statements that the two men had given the day after the police had collected petrol samples from Kalabhai’s petrol pump on April 9, 2002.

Prior to the charge sheet of April 16, 2003, the two statements recorded on April 10, 2002 were not produced before the court along with earlier charge sheets. In other words, they were suppressed for over a year.

Apart from Jabir Binyamin Behra and the two employees from Kalabhai’s petrol pump, another person, Salim Zarda, who had also allegedly accompanied Razak Kurkure to Kalabhai’s petrol pump on February 26, 2002, also ‘admitted’ that the tempo was carrying seven or eight black 20-litre carboys in the tempo and that these were filled up with petrol at Kalabhai’s pump, and so on. The very petrol pump which, in fact, the police had sealed off for a fairly long period of time after the train fire was suddenly brought in as the source of a core group plan a whole year later.

So one year after the incident, the kerosene theory was suddenly abandoned in favour of petrol as the inflammatory fuel used. But the problem lies precisely in this double switch over: from kerosene to petrol, and from the earlier claim that the coach was burnt from outside to the new theory that the coach was set fire to from inside. The contradictions are so glaring, they make the investigation a complete charade. Truth, of course, is the biggest victim.

It appears that when there was little evidence to support the prosecution’s case, a statement by Jabir Behra was recorded (which was also done in violation of the law) after which Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel were allegedly forcibly detained and their confessional statements recorded under confinement. Ahmed Kalota, the uncle of accused No. 42, Mohammad Hussein Kalota, submitted a written application to the additional sessions judge, Godhra, expressing his apprehensions about the "kidnapping" of Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel and their illegal confessions being recorded. At the time, the press and the electronic media had reported extensively on the matter.

Another significant point is that the carboys containing traces of petrol were not found near coach S-6 but some distance away. They were found at a distant location adjacent to a Muslim-owned garage that was burnt down by kar sevaks at around 11 a.m. on the same day (February 27, 2002) as a reaction to the burning of coach S-6.

Retractions

Jabir Binyamin Behra retracted his confession before the POTA court on July 28, 2003 and the retraction was recorded. He complained that the confession was extracted forcibly and that his relatives were threatened. He reiterated this before the Supreme Court as well. Behra also submitted an affidavit to the Nanavati-Shah Commission dated January 19, 2005, detailing the torture and coercion used to extract his confession. His confession should therefore be treated as wholly involuntary and cannot be relied upon.

Salim Zarda, too, submitted an application to the POTA court complaining about the torture and coercion used to extract his confession and retracted the same.

Similarly, Saukat Farouque Pataliya retracted his confessional statement before the POTA court, complaining that he was made to sign a blank confession sheet, that he had been lured and induced and that the police had even threatened to beat up his wife. Saukat Pataliya has also filed an affidavit before the commission.


Mohammad Sakir’s confession has not been produced before the court by the police, and apparently he too has retracted his statement. As for the statements made by persons who are not accused in the crime, such as Ajay Bariya, Prabhatsinh Patel or Ranjitsinh Patel, the commission cannot rely on such statements unless they are proved and the deponents are cross-examined in a rigorous manner before an appropriate forum.

As far as Anwar Kalandar is concerned, he has appeared before the commission to make a deposition. Although the police tried to prevent him from doing so, with the commission’s permission his affidavit was placed on record dated April 7, 2005.

Since the prosecution did not choose to cross-examine Kalandar it is presumed that the contents of his affidavit before the commission have been admitted by the prosecution. In his affidavit, Kalandar describes in detail the inhuman torture and the threats (of being killed in an encounter) that he was subjected to by the police in order to extract confessional statements from him. He has categorically denied the facts recorded in these statements.

Shockingly, Sikandar, a witness whose statement was produced as evidence by the police, is also listed as an absconding accused, right from the first charge sheet onwards.

The moot question now is whether the commission, which is merely a fact-finding and recommendatory body, will have the jurisdiction to decide whether the confessions and statements are voluntary or otherwise before they can be used or be considered reliable. As the matter stands, a competent court (trial court) has yet to decide on the issue and therefore the commission cannot, under law, rely upon these statements/confessions to arrive at any conclusions.


Whose conspiracy?

Modi had obviously decided on the motives and identity of those who had set coach S-6 on fire by the evening of February 27, 2002 itself. The investigators in the Godhra arson case are not investigating the case at all but doing everything they possibly can to prove the state’s chief executive right!

The conspiracy theory has been developed without the slightest application of mind. By using torture, coercion and the draconian provisions of the POTA law, absurd confessions have been extracted whereby a person ends up confessing to having done something that it was impossible to do. As pointed out earlier, it was impossible to stop the train by rotating the alarm disc from outside because of the modifications in design. Yet the investigators forced such a "confession" to support their claim that Salim Panwala had instigated Muslim hawkers to stop the train near the ‘A’ cabin as part of a "pre-planned conspiracy".

While extracting "confessions" from Anwar Kalandar and Iliyas Hussein Mulla, several other blunders were made. Kalandar is made to say that the first chain pulling was carried out to enable kar sevaks who were left behind on the platform to board the train. After the train restarted at 7.48 a.m. Salim came running up from the direction of the parcel office and urged Kalandar to stop the train because a Muslim girl was being abducted.

Kalandar also "confesses" that Iliyas Hussein Mulla and Hussein Suleman also came running up with Salim to the pani ni parab (water distribution outlet) where Kalandar was standing and due to Salim’s urging the three of them jumped onto three different compartments of the Sabarmati Express. Kalandar does not say that Salim had told him to stop the train at the ‘A’ cabin!

In his statement dated August 2, 2002, Iliyas Hussein Mulla states that he was selling his wares on coach S-9 of the Sabarmati Express when it first arrived at the station. He further stated that at that time, before the chain was first pulled, Salim Panwala was standing near the bookstall on platform No. 1. He states that it was Salim who told him to jump into the S-9 coach and pull the chain when the coach approached the parcel office (not at the ‘A’ cabin).

He adds that he did pull the chain when the train approached the parcel office and then ran out of the station, went to Signal Falia and waited near the Aman Guest House. He did not know where Saukat and Hussein got off the train.

Iliyas Mulla goes on to state that during the period when the train had stopped near the parcel office (i.e. between 7.48 a.m. and 7.55 a.m.), Razak Kurkure came and told him to once again go and pull the chain to stop the train near the ‘A’ cabin. Iliyas then came through a breach in the wall in front of Aman Guest House and jumped onto coach S-4 of the running train. This time around he only saw Salim from a distance. Thus Iliyas Hussein Mulla wholly contradicts Anwar Kalandar who said that Salim Panwala had told Anwar, Iliyas and Hussein together to stop the train.

Interestingly, Jabir Binyamin Behra states that while stone throwing was going on from behind the parcel office, he along with some others ran towards the Aman Guest House where he saw Razak Kurkure and Salim Panwala coming out though the back door of a room at the guest house!

He also said that he and some others had been told to bring the tempo carrying the carboys to a spot behind the ‘A’ cabin and as they were going towards the ‘A’ cabin he spotted Salim Panwala and Kurkure on a two-wheeler.

Thus whereas Kalandar and Iliyas Mulla say they saw Salim Panwala at the station even up to 7.55 a.m. i.e. until the train started after the chain pulling, Jabir places Salim inside the Aman Guest House during the stone throwing period and thereafter. The main executor of the conspiracy, Salim Panwala, appears to be omnipresent.

One year after the incident, the kerosene theory was suddenly abandoned in favour of petrol as the inflammatory fuel used. But the problem lies precisely in this double switch over: from kerosene to petrol, and from the earlier claim that the coach was burnt from outside to the new theory that the coach was set fire to from inside. The contradictions are so glaring, they make the investigation a complete charade

Iliyas, who boasts of his skills as an expert chain puller, states that on the second occasion he had jumped onto the footboard of coach S-4, towards the platform side. He then had to go through a tear in the canvas between the vestibule of coaches S-4 and S-5 to reach the northern side in order to reach and rotate the alarm disc, which, he claims, was located only on the northern side. This chain pulling expert seems unaware that there are two alarm discs on both sides at one end of every railway coach manufactured in India.

The most glaring omission in the prosecution’s tale is however its silence about what the conspirators’ original plan, was, had the train not been delayed by several hours. The VHP has alleged that if the train had arrived at the correct time, the plan was to set fire to the entire train at Chanchelav, a village about 12 to 14 km from Godhra (towards Dahod), around midnight. But the Sabarmati Express has no scheduled halt there. The VHP has so far not disclosed how in its view the conspirators planned to stop the train at midnight when its activists had not allowed anyone to even board the train from Lucknow onwards.

The fact is that if the kar sevaks had not pulled the chain to pick up their colleagues who had been left behind at Godhra station, the Sabarmati Express would have passed through Godhra without a hitch and saved the nation one of its greatest tragedies.

While the prosecution’s entire theory revolves around the allegation that several Muslims, including Jabir Binyamin Behra, had cut through the vestibule canvas of coach S-7 to get onto the train, there is absolutely no proof of such an absurd claim.


Storm troopers of the parivar

It is evident from their statements that the nine active members of the VHP who were standing next to the ‘A’ cabin right from the beginning did not see or make any allegations about anyone climbing onto coach S-7 and cutting through the vestibule canvas. The ASM, Rajendra Mina, who was in the ‘A’ cabin at the time, also does not make any such allegation. In fact, his deposition stated that he had not seen anyone climbing onto the train. If the slashed canvas was the most vital piece of evidence in their case, why didn’t the police collect and preserve it? Why was it allowed to be sold as scrap for a few meagre rupees?

How does the prosecution explain the statement it recorded from the parcel office clerk on March 1, 2002 to the effect that after the first chain pulling at the Godhra station passengers in the train were pelting stones at the people behind the parcel office?

Where are the black plastic 20-litre carboys that were supposedly filled with petrol and brought on a tempo to a spot behind the ‘A’ cabin and from which petrol was allegedly poured into the coach? The FSL has found three carboys containing traces of kerosene and three small carboys containing traces of petrol. Why didn’t the police find a single one of these 20-litre carboys? The FSL report clearly stated that the burnt residue of materials inside the coach did not contain any residue of a "plastic container".

How will the prosecution explain the fact that the two small plastic containers that were found to have petrol in them were found not near the coach but across the tracks near the Mallas Auto garage which was burnt down by passengers and kar sevaks on the Sabarmati Express around 11 a.m. on February 27, 2002? Two trucks outside the garage were burnt using petrol. From where did the passengers get the petrol?

Why did police inspector Barot from the police control room, Gandhinagar, inform the director general of police’s office at 9.35 a.m. on February 27, 2002 that kar sevaks had set fire to three coaches of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra and that the number of injured was not yet known? Barot therefore asks the police to be vigilant.

The burning of coach S-6 – Evidence

This is a first-hand account by Hariprasad Joshi, a passenger allotted berth No. 43 on coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express: "...the smoke had reached the place where I was standing inside the coach and as I inhaled the smoke that reached there, I got suffocated and had fallen down on the floor but as the smoke was less in the lower side, my breathing was restored and I found relief… As there was a huge rush near berth No. 72 of the coach, to save my life, I travelled to the opposite side towards seat No. 1 by crawling on the floor and had reached to right hand side door. The behind of my jacket near the shoulder and jacket cap had got burnt due to flames of fire. I had burns on both the ears and on the face and I had jumped down off the coach from the door near seat No. 1.

"The moment I jumped out of the coach and fell on the ground my breathing was restored on getting the fresh air and it had then struck me that my wife was inside the coach. Therefore I had walked up to the side near the seat where myself and my wife were sitting near the window."

Flashover

"Marleau had become separated from his fellow firefighters when a room in an apartment building suddenly exploded into flames in what is commonly called a flashover or backdraught… Capt Marcel Marleau, 47, died battling a fire in a Montreal apartment building… when he was caught in a backdraught, or a sudden explosion of flames…" (Dene Moore, Maclean’s Magazine, January 26, 2006).

"A sudden and sustained transition of a growing compartment fire to a fully developed fire occurs when all of the combustible materials present reach their auto-ignition temperature. Flame-over or roll-over can be an indication that flashover is imminent. It is important to note that ventilation may initially cause the fire to burn more intensely and as a result more heat energy may be released into the compartment than can be lost through the ventilation opening.

"Flashover can occur when a developing compartment fire produces flames in the thermal layer near the ceiling. The flames in the thermal layer can roll or dance across the ceiling as the unburned products of combustion ignite and burn off more completely. Heat will increase and force firefighters to the floor. This lowering of the thermal layer is often accompanied by the sudden lowering of an existing layer of smoke."

The burning of coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002 was not the result of any pre-planned conspiracy by Muslims. It was not due to petrol or inflammable fluid that coach S-6 burnt down but due to the flash fire that followed the initial ignition. The luggage caught fire thereafter and burnt the coach at a slower rate

Backdraught

"A ventilation induced ignition of the gases or combustible products accumulated in an under-ventilated compartment fire. With the introduction of ventilation, the accumulation of unburned particles suddenly ignites and can blast out of the opening used for ventilation.

Warning signs for backdraught

"Intact windows can show heavy smoke staining or glass crazing. There can be smoke issuing from the eaves or pulsing smoke movements in and out of cracks and openings. Upon opening a door or a window there may be a sudden inrush or draw of air that may create a ‘twister’ effect in the smoke. Blue flames may be visible in areas separate from the main fire and heavy smoke exiting a doorway or a window may roll back into tiny mushroom shapes."

(Excerpts from "Rapid Fire Progress" by Rob Aldcorn, February 22, 2006; http://www.firefloor.com/RapidFireProgress.htm.)

Conclusions by Jan Sangharsh Manch

The Gujarat government’s official version regarding the burning of coach S-6, developed through multiple charge sheets, does not inspire any confidence since it suffers from innumerable contradictions obvious from the record itself.

The official theory is as follows: At about 9 p.m. on February 26, 2002, in the Aman Guest House, Razak Kurkure, Salim Panwala and a few other Muslims from Signal Falia had conspired to burn down coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express. This was planned at the behest of Maulana Umerji. At about 10 p.m. that night, 140 litres of petrol was bought and hidden in Razak Kurkure’s house. After finding out that the train was running late, the burning of coach S-6 on February 27, 2002, at 8 a.m., was organised in two stages.

A mob of 1,000 was mobilised to stone the train. Under the cover provided by them, a few boys carrying 140 litres of petrol were sent into the coach by cutting through the vestibule canvas. Once inside, they poured out the petrol and set the coach on fire.

The above thesis suffers from the following obvious defects:
  • Absolutely no indication as to what the original plan was if the train had arrived at the right time.
  • Absolutely no evidence has been brought on record to show how the conspirators found out that kar sevaks were travelling by the Sabarmati Express that would reach Godhra on February 27, 2002. The police and the intelligence department have consistently claimed they had no such information! Besides, the train arrived way past its scheduled arrival time, four or five hours late.
  • In the first three charge sheets prepared by two separate IOs, there are no allegations at all regarding the purchase of 140 litres of petrol from Kalabhai’s pump.
  • On the contrary, in their statement before the police on April 10, 2002, the two employees at the petrol pump (Prabhatsinh Patel and Ranjitsinh Patel) had not mentioned any sale of large quantities of petrol on February 26, 2002. However, a year later, in March 2003, they were brought before a magistrate to make such allegations.
  • There is evidence on record to show that it was kar sevaks who had pulled the chain and stopped the train at Godhra station, and not Muslims.
  • The FSL has not found any petrol hydrocarbons among the 500 kilos or so of burnt materials found inside the coach. And no "black carboys" (in which 140 litres of petrol was ostensibly carried) were found anywhere near the compartment, either inside or outside.
  • The FSL did not find any traces of any carboy (plastic) inside the coach. Where did the carboys in which the 140 litres of petrol was allegedly carried vanish?
  • If 140 litres of petrol had actually been poured inside a coach and set on fire, this would have created a massive explosion, especially because of the confined space in which the ignition occurred.
  • If such a fire had in fact occurred, would a single passenger have come out alive? Over 70 passengers of coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, with superficial injuries above the knee, survived the fire. Can such a pattern of burning of injured passengers be explained by fluid induced burning which would have a much greater impact?
  • The burning of coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002 was not the result of any pre-planned conspiracy by Muslims. It was not due to petrol or inflammable fluid that coach S-6 burnt down but due to the flash fire that followed the initial ignition. The luggage caught fire thereafter and burnt the coach at a slower rate.
  • The commission should order a fresh investigation by a body of experts who have a special knowledge of fire in enclosed spaces.
  • The investigation officer should be replaced immediately.
Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, Godhra 1
Discriminatory justice
 

The plight of those accused in the Godhra train arson case is a grim travesty of justice. They have been denied a fair hearing and deprived of basic freedom. While in trials  related to the 2002 carnage incidents, influential accused have been let off, repeated efforts to obtain bail for the Godhra accused have proved futile.


A total of 135 persons were accused in the Godhra arson. Of these, 22 persons are absconding. Twelve of the accused were released under Section 169 of the CrPC, which provides for release of accused if, after investigation, there is found to be insufficient evidence against them. One of the accused died while in judicial custody. Of the remaining 100 persons, 84 persons are still in judicial custody, including two persons who were minors at the time of the incident. Only 16 persons have been granted bail. This includes bail granted to three persons who were minors at the time of the incident. The last bail order was granted by the Gujarat High Court on October 30, 2004. The court has simply not heard any bail applications since.

One of the 22 absconding accused, a maulvi, was implicated in the crime by an accused/witness, Sikandar, who stated that the maulvi was allegedly seen on the terrace of a masjid at Godhra (ostensibly planning the conspiracy) although it was later established that the maulvi was in Maharashtra and not even in Godhra on the relevant day.

There were many serious discrepancies in the arrests, glaring inconsistencies that have been pointed out to the state, which simply refuses to address these concerns. Some of these anomalies have been laid out below.

At least 20 of the accused persons were arrested as members of the mob, several hours after the event, without any statement or complaint naming them at the time (see box).

Five of the Godhra accused are shown as identified by a witness, Dilip Ujjambhai Dasariya. A schoolteacher, Dasariya has stated on affidavit that he was not present at the spot but on duty 25 kilometres away when the incident took place. The school where he teaches has certified to this fact. The prosecution has however refused to place this fact on record. Aminabibi, the wife of accused, Saeed Abdulsalam Badam, a resident of Chikhodra village in Godhra taluka, has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that her husband, a poor labourer, has been falsely implicated based on the solitary statement of Dilip Dasariya who, by his own admission, was not present at the scene of the crime on February 27, 2002.

The plight of those accused in the Godhra train arson is indeed a sorry one. Accused No. 54, Ishaq Mohammed Mamdu, is totally blind. In 1997, years before the train arson took place, the civil surgeon at the district hospital issued a certificate confirming that Mamdu suffered from 100 per cent blindness, following which he received assistance as a handicapped person from both the state and central governments. Mamdu’s father has made applications for reinvestigation into his arrest but this has not been done.

On the contrary, in a pathetic attempt to justify Mamdu’s arrest, the state of Gujarat has obtained a doctor’s statement dated June 2002 that states, vis-à-vis the 1997 certificate, that though Mamdu is blind his eyesight allows him to see up to a distance of one metre. Moreover, there is no record of a physical examination being conducted on Mamdu prior to the doctor’s certificate being issued. The state’s contention is that he was part of the mob. Despite this, and though the only allegation against him is that he was part of the mob, Ishaq Mamdu’s bail application has been consistently rejected.

Another of the accused persons, 42-year-old Fakruddin Musalman, died while in judicial custody on April 30, 2003. Fifty-year-old Siraj Abdulla Jamsa, a cancer patient, passed away after he was granted bail. Gulzar Agnu Ansari, aged about 23, suffers from tuberculosis even today. Maulana Hussein Umerji, aged about 60, suffers from kidney malfunction, high blood pressure and arthritis. Siddiq Abdulla Badam, aged about 38, suffers from bone tuberculosis. Anwar Mohammed Menda, aged about 33, suffers from serious mental depression. Idris Ibrahim Charkha, aged about 32, also suffers from serious mental depression. Anwar Hussein Ahmed Pittel, aged about 30, suffers from severe haemorrhoids.

Leaders of the minority community who played a significant role in providing relief to victims of the post-Godhra carnage were specifically targeted and arrested without evidence. Maulana Umerji, Harun Abid and Harun Rashid are some examples.

 

Injustice for all

1. Accused No. 1 in POTA Case 1/2003:
Name: Mohammad Ansar Kutubuddin Ansari
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Five police statements, Witness statement recorded – March 1, 2002

2. Accused No. 2
Name: Baitulla Kadar Telee
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Witness statement recorded – March 1, 2002

3. Accused No. 3
Name: Feroz Khan Gulzar Khan Pathan
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Five police statements; Witness statement recorded – March 1, 2002

4. Accused No. 6
Name: Ishaq Yusuf Luhar
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Five police statements; Witness statement recorded – March 1, 2002

5. Accused No. 9
Name: Sabir Anwar Ansari
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Two police statements; Witness statement recorded – March 1, 2002

6. Accused No. 10
Name: Inayat Abdul Sattar Jujara
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Two police statements; Witness statement recorded – March 1, 2002

7. Accused No. 11
Name: Nasirkhan Sultankhan Pathan
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Two police statements; Witness statement recorded – March 1, 2002

8. Accused No. 12
Name: Sadiqkhan Sultankhan Pathan
Arrested on February 27, 2002; Time: 9.30 p.m.
Two police statements

The misconduct by investigating agencies and the prosecution in the Godhra trial is potentially extremely dangerous not only because it violates the rule of law and the basic rights of the accused who have been unfairly implicated. In the wider context it epitomises the discriminatory system of justice at work in the state of Gujarat. Discrimination is particularly apparent with regard to bail, where many of those accused of mass murder in the post-Godhra violence roam free while most of those allegedly responsible for the Godhra arson are denied bail five years after the event. This sends a detrimental message to society as a whole.

CJP has placed on record before the Supreme Court the sworn affidavits of five Hindu victim survivors of the Godhra arson, family members of victims who died in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, who have also made a plea to the apex court for transfer of the Godhra arson case out of Gujarat. They cite threats, intimidation and political manipulation by the state administration that precludes a free and fair trial within Gujarat. They have stated that the VHP has influenced public prosecutors to present a partisan and unsubstantiated theory behind the tragedy. The case for transfer of the Godhra trial was made and supported by family members of the accused and supported by Hindu victim survivors of the train arson incident.

Illegal invocation of POTA in the Godhra case

The invocation of POTA (enacted on March 28, 2002) in the Godhra train arson case was itself both mala fide and illegal. On February 27, 2002 i.e. when the alleged offence occurred, POTO (Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, 2001) was not applicable in the area. It was on February 28, 2002, after the Godhra incident, that the state of Gujarat issued a notification declaring the whole area to be a notified area under POTO.

The Gujarat government did not publish the necessary circular in the state gazette announcing the application of POTO to Godhra on February 28, 2002. In spite of this, an attempt was made to wrongly apply POTA in the Godhra arson case by declaring that POTO could be applied to the Godhra incident on February 28. This attempt failed.

It was nearly a year later, on February 19, 2003, that POTA was invoked in the Godhra case. It appears clear that this followed the confessional statement by Jabir Binyamin Behra dated February 5, 2003, a statement that Behra ultimately retracted, stating that the confession had been extracted under torture. Behra’s confessional statement drew the first picture of a pre-planned conspiracy behind the train arson incident.

Interestingly, five days before POTA was applied in the Godhra train arson case i.e. on February 14, 2003, bail was granted to most of the accused for the first time by the Gujarat High Court. It is evident that POTA was applied to ensure that further bail orders were not passed.

Legal provisions under POTA allow for the review of individual cases by a central review committee to prevent misuse of the Act and its draconian provisions. A decision by the Central Review Committee on May 16, 2005 ruled that none of the alleged offences in the Godhra case warranted the invocation of POTA. However, the committee’s decision has not been taken into consideration by either the Gujarat government or the POTA court. Matters relating to bail for the accused, especially in view of the decision by the Central Review Committee, have been brought before the apex court. However these too have faced repeated delays.

Shockingly, over 45 of the accused have made written applications voicing their apprehensions about the likelihood of a fair trial within the state of Gujarat. From a perusal of these applications it is clear that the accused see little hope of facing a free and fair trial in the state. The persistent refusal by investigating agencies to follow up and investigate the facts raised by these applications, and the failure of the special POTA court to ensure this, also suggest that the Godhra arson case is not being conducted in a manner that inspires confidence in the people.

Some of the accused persons who were jailed at the Vadodara central jail were subsequently transferred to the Sabarmati central jail and they have also challenged this transfer. The jail transfer has meant that families of these accused persons, all from economically backward sections, already reduced to penury by the absence of an earning family member, cannot even exercise their basic fundamental right and visit their kin in prison.

There are also severe discrepancies in the discovery panchnamas relating to the recovery of weapons. These too have been detailed before the Supreme Court.

There are similar and serious lapses in the timing and statements/complaints in the arrests of the accused.

All police witnesses who provided statements are employees of the Godhra railway police station and serve under the same investigating officer who has been investigating the case. This further implicates the investigating agency on charges of bias. In fact, 36 of those accused in the Godhra train arson case were acquitted in another case, related to the Neelam Lodge (Godhra town CR No. 66/2002), on the same day. Ironically, the police witnesses are common witnesses for the same accused in both cases.

After the police filed the first charge sheet in May 2002, the government’s own Forensic Science Laboratory report came out. Far from strengthening the government’s position, the report exposed the prosecution’s case. This led to the entire team of police investigation officers being changed.

The statements before the police as well as the witness statements that allegedly led to the accused, clearly indicate that some of these witnesses were also active participants in the commission of the crime. What is more, if their own statements are to be believed, these witnesses are guilty of far more serious offences than those who were booked and denied bail for the past few years.

The very magistrate who had earlier recorded statements by two such witnesses under Section 164 of the CrPC, refused to record a statement by accused/witness, Jabir Binyamin Behra, on January 29, 2003 when he realised the seriousness of the lapse. Instead, he directed that Behra should be brought before the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) or a high court judge because the judicial first class magistrate’s court did not have the appropriate jurisdiction. Following these developments, Behra was brought before the CJM in February 2003 and a confessional statement by him was recorded on February 5. All three of Behra’s recorded statements are practically identical and adhere to a strange prototype – there is virtually no change in their content. Yet the law is clear in that such statements must be in the language and words of the accused.

The Gujarat police and prosecution have also denied the Godhra accused access to vital documents. For instance, confessional statements and statements by the Patels dated April 10, 2002 were not initially supplied to the accused persons. As the accompanying story shows, Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel, employees of a petrol pump in the area, had clearly stated that no petrol had been bought from them (petrol that the prosecution claimed was used in the arson).

The stay on the Godhra and post-Godhra carnage cases by the Supreme Court did not extend to staying the investigations. The state of Gujarat, which is the prosecution in all these cases, has, in the case of the Godhra arson, continued with an aggressive investigation apparently to suit political ends. In the post-Godhra cases however investigations have simply not proceeded as they should. True investigations would involve serious complaints by victim survivors about doctored FIRs, incorrect naming of accused and several other harmful revelations.

The conduct of the judiciary in Gujarat, be it in the POTA court or the high court, has been highly questionable. Bail applications have been pending without decision in the Gujarat High Court since May 2003. Hence the CJP has supported the NHRC’s plea for a transfer of investigation and trial of the Godhra arson case outside Gujarat.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, Godhra 2

 
Badge of honour

Courtesy: Getty Images

"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 coerce 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 enquiry 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. The order is yet to be implemented. The state government has challenged the CAT order through an appeal filed in the Gujarat High Court. Sreekumar’s challenge to the charge sheet is a matter still pending before the tribunal.

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

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 directives from the top man in the state. He not only resisted these verbal 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 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 unlawful 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, 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 joint commissioner of police (JCP), 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 (march of pride) 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 rath 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) 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".

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!

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.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13  No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, State Complicity 1
Commission and omission
Questions abound about the functioning of the Nanavati-Shah Commission in light of the wealth of material placed before it. There appears to be a definite reluctance to probe this evidence further. Former ADGP, RB Sreekumar and former SP, Bhavnagar, Rahul Sharma deposed before the commission. However, several obvious questions were left unasked:
 
  • Why were no minutes prepared of the meetings held by the chief minister and other senior officers to review the situation from February 27, 2002 onwards? Why were such minutes not circulated to concerned officials?
  • If such minutes were prepared, why were no copies of such minutes submitted to the commission?
  • Why were the dead bodies of the Godhra arson victims paraded through the streets of Ahmedabad city, especially when many of the deceased belonged to places outside Ahmedabad city and a few had not even been identified at that juncture?
  • Did the CP, Ahmedabad, or the DGP, Gujarat, report in writing to the chief minister or their superiors in government and administration on the possible adverse repercussions on law and order by this parade of dead bodies?
  • If any such letters were sent to higher authorities, why were they not placed before the commission?
  • Why was no preventive action taken against communal elements on February 27/28, 2000 even though the call for a bandh (on February 28) by the sangh parivar and the BJP was issued on February 27, 2002 itself?
  • Why was the Communal Riot Scheme not put into operation in relevant areas from the evening of February 27, 2002 onwards?
  • Why was no prompt and effective action taken against the rioters by officers of the rank of DSP (deputy superintendent of police) and above (who had additional forces of armed policemen moving with them), particularly in Ahmedabad city which has about 40 such DSPs and Vadodara city, which has about 30?
  • Why was no action taken by the policemen in approximately 100 police mobile vans stationed in Ahmedabad city, as also in Vadodara city, against crowds that first began to congregate in small numbers on the morning of February 28, 2002 onwards?
  • Why was no action taken when enforcers of the bandh created traffic disturbances and indulged in petty crimes on the morning of February 28, 2002 so as to test the mood and strategy of the police?
  • Why was there a delay in the imposition of a curfew, particularly in Ahmedabad city? (In Ahmedabad, curfew was imposed as late as 1.00 p.m. on February 28, 2002.)
  • Why were no arrangements made for videography of the violent mobs despite regulations to this effect?
  • How or why did the police fail to videograph mobs even as the electronic media succeeded in doing so? Were there any orders to prevent this?
  • Why was no effective action taken against rioters by policemen at specific locations and in mobile patrolling groups, both in vehicles and on foot, from the evening of February 27, 2002 onwards?
  • Why was there such a delayed response to distress calls from prominent Muslim citizens such as former MP, Ahsan Jaffri, despite their having made frantic calls to the chief secretary, the DGP, the CP, Ahmedabad city, etc, and possibly even the chief minister?
  • Why were there higher casualties of rioting and police firing among Muslims?
  • Why were the instructions contained in the compilation of circulars entitled "Communal Peace", issued to all district magistrates and police officers of the rank of SP and above, not implemented?
  • Why were the "Instructions to deal with Communal Riots (Strategy and Approach)", originally issued by former DGP, KV Joseph, and prepared by former officer on special duty, ZS Saiyed, and forwarded to all executive police officers for strict implementation, not enforced?
  • Why was there no monitoring of the implementation of instructions issued by the chief secretary, the home department, the DGP and other higher officers from February 28, 2002 onwards?
  • Why was no action taken against the vernacular press publishing communally inflammatory news reports and articles despite clear reports from the SP, Bhavnagar (Rahul Sharma), the CP, Ahmedabad (PC Pande) and the ADGP (int.), RB Sreekumar, that such action should be initiated?
  • Why was no action taken or any enquiry instituted against police officers for their alleged failure to record FIRs and conduct proper investigations into complaints of riot victims, largely minorities, although this matter was emphasised by ADGP RB Sreekumar in his reports to the government dated April 24, 2002, June 15, 2002, August 20, 2002 and August 28, 2002?
  • Why was no action taken or any enquiry instituted against officers of the executive magistracy, particularly district magistrates, who failed to initiate prompt action against rioters, especially between February 27 and March 4, 2002? Similarly, why was no action taken or any enquiry instituted against district magistrates and their staff who recommended the appointment of pro-BJP/VHP advocates as public prosecutors in a bid to subvert the trials that would follow?
  • Why was no action taken against supervisory officers (i.e. DSPs, Range IGs/DIGs, CPs and the DGP) who violated Rules 24, 134, 135 and 240 of the Gujarat Police Manual-Vol. III by not properly supervising the investigation of serious riot related crimes and who were thereby guilty of culpable omission and grave misconduct?
  • Why was no action taken against supervisory officers (i.e. the Range IG, Vadodara Range, and the CP, Vadodara city) who were guilty of gross misconduct and negligent supervision in the Bilkees Bano and Best Bakery cases, trials of which had been transferred from Gujarat to Maharashtra by the Supreme Court?
  • Why was no investigation conducted into the deposition by Rahul Sharma, the then SP, Bhavnagar, before the commission on October 30, 2004, about the location of BJP leaders and senior officers in Bhavnagar while a madrassa was being attacked? (In November 2004, the English daily, The Indian Express, published a three-part investigative report that exposed revealing conversations between influential politicians and policemen.)
  • Why was no clarification provided on the government’s inadequate implementation of recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Minorities and even the Supreme Court?

Godhra Train Burning, February 28, 2002, Gujarat 2002, Genocide, Pogrom, Narendra Modi, RB Sreekumar, ADGP Intelligence Gujarat, Nanavati-Shah Commission, Religious Intolerance, Violence, Discrimination, Rule of Law, Rights and Freedoms, Gender, Communal Organisations
 
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. For example:
 

RB Sreekumar: The former ADGP (intelligence) was transferred to the insignificant post of ADGP (police reforms) in September 2002. The transfer was ordered following Sreekumar’s determined efforts to uphold the law and expose the Modi administration’s nefarious activities during and after the 2002 violence. Between July 2002 and October 2005 Sreekumar filed four affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission that provided startling evidence of the chief minister and his administration’s complicity in the genocide, their continuing anti-minority actions and their unrelenting efforts to obscure the truth. In early 2005 Sreekumar was superseded for promotion to the post of DGP, Gujarat, a decision that he challenged before the Central Administrative Tribunal. Although the tribunal ultimately ruled in his favour, the order was delivered on the day Sreekumar retired from service on February 28, 2007.

Rahul Sharma: The former SP, Bhavnagar, was transferred to the relatively unimportant post of DCP (control room) on March 24, 2002. Sharma’s strong actions to quell rioting mobs in Bhavnagar helped bring a volatile situation under control. On March 1, 2002, he prevented an attack on a madrassa that housed over 400 Muslim children by opening fire on the mob. Sharma refused to release the 21 persons/leaders belonging to the sangh parivar who were arrested for the attacks in Bhavnagar despite being under immense pressure to do so. In July 2002 Rahul Sharma was transferred to the post of SRPF commandant for opposing the anti-minority stance adopted by the Ahmedabad Crime Branch in the investigation of Ahmedabad city carnage cases. On July 1, 2002 Sharma filed an affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. In October 2004 during his deposition before the commission he produced extensive data in the form of mobile phone records that implicate both politicians and policemen in the rioting. Rahul Sharma is currently on deputation as SP, CBI.
 Vivek Srivastava: The former SP, Kutch, was transferred to the post of DCP (prohibition and excise) in March 2002. Srivastava had arrested a commandant of the Home Guard with known VHP links who was creating trouble in the border district. He carried out the arrest despite instructions to the contrary from the chief minister’s office.

Himanshu Bhatt: The former SP, Banaskantha, was transferred to the Intelligence Bureau at Gandhinagar in March 2002. Bhatt initiated action against a sub-inspector who had assisted a rioting mob. The sub-inspector concerned, who had important political connections, was reinstated from suspension and resumed his duties at the same police station.

MD Antani: The former SP, Bharuch, was transferred out of Bharuch to Narmada district in March 2002. Antani took action against some BJP/VHP supporters creating trouble in Bharuch.

Satishchandra Verma: The former Range DIGP, Bhuj, was transferred in March 2005 to the post of officer in-charge, SRP Training Chowky, Sorath, Junagadh, a post usually occupied by officers at the level of SP. The transfer was effected by upgrading the post from the level of SP to DIGP. Verma was transferred after he ordered the arrest of a BJP MLA from Banaskantha for his involvement in the murder of two Muslim boys during the 2002 violence. He carried out the arrest after fresh investigation entrusted to him as part of the review of about 2,000 riot related cases initiated under orders from the Supreme Court in August 2004.

 Jayanti Ravi: The former collector, Godhra, is now on deputation to the central government. Ravi maintained that the Godhra burning was an accident and firmly advised the chief minister against taking the bodies of Godhra train victims to Ahmedabad on February 27/28, 2002. It was these interventions that compelled the cavalcade to go by road, the initial plan being to take the burnt coach further. Following the outbreak of violence, there had also been large-scale arrests of BJP/VHP workers on rioting charges in areas within her jurisdiction.

Neerja Gotru: The SP (prohibition), Ahmedabad, was appointed special investigating officer assigned to reopen investigations in some riot related cases after the Supreme Court’s intervention in late 2003. Gotru reinvestigated riot related cases in Dahod and Panchmahal districts and managed to reopen some of them successfully. She was asked to wind up her probe in September 2004 soon after she ordered the arrest of a police sub-inspector who had burnt 13 bodies of the victims of the Ambika Society massacre at Kalol, all of them Muslim, in an attempt to destroy evidence. She was also instrumental in pursuing arrests in the Delol massacre case, which the same sub-inspector had closed "for want of evidence".
 

G. Subbarao: The former chief secretary was given a three-month extension in his post and also appointed chairman of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission for six years from May 2003. Occupying the senior-most position within the state bureaucracy in 2002, Subbarao coerced officials to support the unlawful policies of the Modi government and even instructed officers to ‘eliminate’ minorities.

Ashok Narayan: The former additional chief secretary (home) was given a two-year post-retirement position as Gujarat state vigilance commissioner. He was selected for this sensitive post despite the fact that his conduct and performance as former additional chief secretary is currently under scrutiny at the Nanavati-Shah Commission. Narayan helped the Modi government to carry out its anti-minority policies during and after the 2002 violence. He further demonstrated his allegiance to the chief minister by not revealing anything adverse in his affidavit before the commission and during his cross-examination before the commission in August 2004. Moreover, he did not file a second affidavit under the commission’s second term of reference (probing the chief minister’s role in the violence).

PK Mishra: The former principal secretary to the chief minister and chief executive officer, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), was later appointed to the important post of additional secretary, ministry of home affairs, Gujarat. He was also sent on several foreign jaunts in his capacity as chief of the GSDMA. Mishra was rewarded for his services to political masters as dedicated collaborator in the chief minister’s anti-minority drive. PK Mishra is currently principal secretary in the department of agriculture and cooperation of the union ministry of agriculture under the Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar.

AK Bhargava: Appointed DGP, Gujarat, in February 2004, Bhargava was allowed to hold the additional charge of MD, Gujarat State Police Housing Corporation Ltd., controlling an annual budget of Rs 200 crore. As DGP, he readily cooperated with the government in protecting the BJP’s political interests in the matter of review of about 2,000 riot related cases, the Pandharwada mass graves case, the harassment of upright officers, compliance with the government’s illegal directives, and so on.     

PC Pande: The former CP, Ahmedabad city, was inducted into the central government by the NDA in March 2004, to the prestigious post of additional director, CBI. Pande’s appointment to the CBI was challenged by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in the Supreme Court and he was directed by the apex court not to have anything to do with the Gujarat cases. Pande was then transferred to the post of additional director-general of the Indo-Tibetan Border Security Force in October 2004. In April 2006 Pande was appointed to the post of DGP, Gujarat, after which a second approach to the Supreme Court by CJP has once again led the court to direct him not to be involved in the investigation of riot related cases. It is relevant to note that Pande’s appointments to these influential posts are rewards for his services in facilitating the massacre of nearly 1,000 persons in Ahmedabad city during the 2002 riots, 95 per cent of them Muslim, and for shielding the Hindu perpetrators from arrest during the investigation of riot cases.

Kuldeep Sharma: The former Range In-charge, IGP, Ahmedabad Range, was promoted to the post of ADGP (crime), Gandhinagar. Sharma was rewarded for facilitating riots in the rural areas of Ahmedabad Range (the districts of Ahmedabad Rural, Kheda and Anand). He has also not filed any affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

Punishment: Interestingly, in July 2005 Sharma was shifted to the post of ADGP (training) for failing to book danseuse and social activist, Mallika Sarabhai, accused in a false case of cheating and other offences, and for failing to protect a minister in the Modi cabinet – Prabhatsinh Chauhan – involved in a case of criminal misappropriation.     

MK Tandon: The former Joint CP, Ahmedabad city, was transferred to the "lucrative" Surat Range post in May 2002 and later promoted to the post of ADGP, Gandhinagar. In July 2005 Tandon was appointed to the post of ADGP (law & order) at the state police headquarters, a position with statewide jurisdiction. Tandon was rewarded for his services in facilitating the carnages at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and elsewhere in Ahmedabad city where hundreds of Muslims were killed during the riots in 2002.  

Deepak Swaroop: The former Range Officer, Vadodara Range (covering the districts of Vadodara Rural, Godhra, Dahod and Narmada), was appointed CP, Vadodara, in February 2005. In charge of an area that witnessed ghastly incidents of violence in 2002, Swaroop is noted for his sustained inaction in the face of marauding mobs. He also narrowly escaped reprimand for concealing facts vis-à-vis investigation into the Best Bakery case by sessions judge, Abhay Thipsay, during the retrial of the case in Mumbai.

K. Nityanandam: The former home secretary was promoted to the post of CP, Rajkot city, in February 2005, a promotion effected by upgrading the post by two levels, from DIG to ADGP. Nityanandam was rewarded for his services as home secretary from 2001 to 2005, in particular for manipulating statistics and fabricating and drafting pro-government reports that were submitted to the NHRC and the courts.

Rakesh Asthana: Although a junior IG, Asthana was appointed to the post of IGP of the important Vadodara Range in April 2003. He was rewarded for zealously pursuing the government’s conspiracy theory with regard to the Godhra incident in his capacity as head of the Special Investigation Team probing the Godhra train arson. 

AK Sharma: The former SP, Mehsana, was appointed to the post of IGP, Ahmedabad Range, an important jurisdiction, an appointment that was achieved by downgrading the post. In early December 2002, prior to the Gujarat assembly elections, AK Sharma was removed from the post of SP, Mehsana, under instructions from the election commission who believed his presence would not be conducive to the conduct of free and fair elections in the district. He was however reinstated as SP later that month. Sharma was rewarded for his services during the riots of 2002. It was under Sharma’s jurisdiction that Mehsana district witnessed gruesome incidents of mass carnage, including the massacre at Sardarpura.    

Shivanand Jha: The former Addl. CP, Ahmedabad city, was appointed home secretary in February 2005. As Addl. CP, Jha headed the team that assaulted representatives of the media and social activists – including Narmada Bachao Andolan leader, Medha Patkar – at a peace meeting in Ahmedabad in April 2002. He was then transferred to the post of DIG (armed units), Rajkot, an appointment achieved by downgrading the post. Jha was rewarded in view of his services during the 2002 riots and for making no adverse revelations about the government before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. As home secretary, Jha is currently handling the preparation of reports defending the government in all matters relating to the 2002 riots and subsequent developments, to be presented to the courts and other bodies.

Sudhir K. Sinha: The former CP, Vadodara city, from June 2003, was appointed CP, Surat city, in February 2005, a post that many consider the most "profitable" one in the Gujarat police. Sinha was rewarded for his services in turning the key prosecution witness in the Best Bakery case, Zahira Shaikh, hostile, an event that occurred during his tenure as CP, Vadodara city.  

DG Vanzara: Appointed DIG, Anti-Terrorism Squad, in July 2005, Vanzara’s appointment was effected by downgrading the post from the level of IGP to DIGP. He was rewarded for ‘eliminating’ several Muslims in so-called police encounters during his tenure as DCP, Ahmedabad Crime Branch, from May 2002 to July 2005. Vanzara is currently in jail for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
 
Subservience of the IPS association 
  1. The terror instilled in the minds of the Gujarat bureaucracy is evident in the fact that the IPS association’s Gujarat unit did not dare to convene a meeting until about three years after the genocide. A meeting of the IPS association’s Gujarat unit was finally convened in August 2005 with an aim to install a pro-government group of officers as office bearers. A campaign was launched to install DG Vanzara as secretary (the main functionary in the association) without holding any elections at all. Fortunately, however, elections were held and DIGP Satish Verma defeated Vanzara by a margin of 13 votes (Verma won 31 votes while Vanzara won 18).   
     
  2. The Gujarat police force has about 8,000 vacancies at the constabulary level and about 950 vacancies at the level of police sub-inspector (PSI). These vacancies are in crucial functional posts. The inadequacy of trained and skilled human resources has had damaging effects on the efficiency, dedication and professionalism of the Gujarat police even as it undermines the quality of service delivered to the people. Overworked and under tremendous stress, the policemen at the constabulary and PSI level take the line of least resistance in matters of policing vis-à-vis the interests of the ruling BJP. Submitting to illegal directives from leaders of the ruling party is the only way they can survive.
     
  3. As part of a so-called economy measure, the state government has introduced a new cadre of "Lok Rakshaks" under which persons are hired for policing (eventually to replace the constabulary) at a meagre Rs 2,500 per month. A group of senior citizens headed by former DGP, PB Malia, has filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court asking that the scheme be declared illegal.
Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, State Complicity 3
Truth and the Nanavati-Shah Commission

Courtesy: Javed Raja, Indian Express

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.

The first affidavit, filed in July 2002, documents the assiduous attempts by the State Intelligence Bureau 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’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.


Courtesy: AP

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 LIB 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 officers 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 (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.

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 ADGP Sreekumar’s assessment of the situation

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 dealing firmly with these developments.

It has 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; see accompanying article, "Badge of Honour") 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 being 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 due 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.


Sreekumar 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. So an officer who disobeyed a verbal order which covertly demanded illegal action could well be doing his duty


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, he said, be supported by a detailed drill on actions that needed 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 following 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 commission’s 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 24, 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 observes that newspaper reports conveyed the impression that Sreekumar was pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu. Sreekumar replies 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 replies 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. PC Pande, in fact, told the Nanavati-Shah 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 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 first affidavit was 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, 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. So 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 has stepped up its offensive and 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. As we go to press, RB Sreekumar was served a non-bailable warrant by an acquiescent court in Kutch. Fortunately, however, he was granted bail by a 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.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, State Complicity 4
Salute to a serving officer
 
The extent of state complicity in planning and executing the genocide in Gujarat has been exposed by the courageous and persistent struggle by victim survivors backed by citizens’ legal rights groups and reinforced by the overwhelming official data that was placed in the public domain. Two policemen stand out for performing this invaluable service, RB Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma. The state has attempted to teach the first a lesson, unsuccessful so far due to the man’s forbearance, sense of humour and courage. CC salutes the second while recording in detail his significant contribution to the pursuit of truth.

Rahul Sharma



Showing rare courage, Rahul Sharma, then superintendent of police, Bhavnagar (currently with the CBI), led his men from the front to prevent an attack on a boarding school that housed more than 400 Muslim children on March 1, 2002. Needless to say, he was transferred out of Bhavnagar soon thereafter. Sharma filed an affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission in July 2002 and testified before the commission in October 2004.

His affidavit narrates the tale of collusion between sections of the law and order machinery and communal elements from the ruling BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. He annexes a letter that he had written to the then state DGP, K. Chakravarti, on March 24, 2002. This relates to an incident that took place in Bhavnagar on March 23, 2002 when a local madrassa was under attack by a mob, following which 21 accused were arrested by the police.

"Following the arrest of the 21 accused in connection with the offence, about 200 women went to the police station that very evening along with the local leaders demanding that the accused be presented before the magistrate immediately and well before the 24 hours that the police could keep them in custody. The city DySP and the PI (police inspector) of ‘A’ division police station assured the leaders and the womenfolk that they would be presented before the magistrate on the same day."

Sharma remarks that there was something peculiar about the entire incident. A day before (i.e. on March 22, 2002) an unfounded rumour that some Hindu children had been kidnapped by a Muslim from the school had caused tension that led to all business establishments being closed down. The next day, on March 23, as things began to return to normal, a sudden incident disrupted the tenuous calm. Sharma says he was convinced the incident "was pre-planned and premeditated". He says in his letter that he also feared that these antisocial elements could be operating at the behest of some political masters who had assured them of all legal aid, including an early release from custody. Sharma felt "it was a well thought of plan to keep the communal issue alive till such time elections were to be announced". (On March 21, a BJP leader told Sharma that elections were now a "near certainty".)

In his letter to the DGP, Sharma goes on to firmly state that "a message should not be conveyed to the public in general that you can indulge in rioting, arson and stone pelting and can get away with it if you know someone well enough in the government, or, worse still, it you are acting at the behest of those persons. Such an impression about the police would be catastrophic for the district. In Bhavnagar, till date, there is no charge of a partisan role being played by the police."

Sharma put his foot down and insisted that the accused would have to spend a day in the lock-up. Again, he was approached by "some prominent political figures urging me (Sharma) to assist in securing an early bail for the accused". Sharma did not oblige.

The affidavit puts down in detail the repeated attempts made by politically powerful persons to attack and burn down the Akwada Madressa in Bhavnagar and also to attack other Muslim dominated areas of the city from March 1, 2002 onwards. Sharma states clearly that if necessary action had not been taken and adequate use of force not been deployed by him and his men, the number of deaths would have been enormous and "innocent people would have lost their lives".

Concerned with placing all the facts before the commission, Sharma has enclosed, with his affidavit, a list of persons who died during the communal incidents, a list of persons who died or were injured in police firing, detailed reports and records of police firings and records of messages received and sent by wireless. Put together these contain a minefield of information on the extent to which the political class and sections of the bureaucracy and the police went in their attempts to subvert the law and enact the genocide.

In his deposition before the commission, Sharma states (as he did earlier in his affidavit) that he had recommended action against the Sandesh newspaper for publication of inflammatory material on February 28, 2002. He also stated that he had ordered the arrest of Kishore Bhatt, Bhavnagar’s Shiv Sena chief, who was among those who made inflammatory speeches in Bhavnagar. For his courage and for being true to his professional calling, Sharma was transferred out of Bhavnagar to Ahmedabad city, as DCP (control room).

In his new post he was entrusted with the work of assisting in the investigations being conducted by the crime branch of the Ahmedabad police commissionerate. He was specifically asked by PC Pande, then police commissioner (CP) of Ahmedabad, to assist in the investigation of Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society cases which were being handled by SS Chudasama, then assistant commissioner of police (ACP) in the Ahmedabad Crime Branch. (Chudasama, incidentally, is one of the policemen who have been implicated in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kauserbi encounter cases.) Sharma states that in all these sensitive cases, "more and more political leaders were being involved". It was in the course of these investigations that the joint CP (JCP) (crime branch), PP Pandey, had ordered investigations into the telephone records.

Sharma then told the commission that on the night of May 27/28, 2002 some accused involved in the Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society incidents were arrested. By now, KR Kaushik had been brought in as CP, Ahmedabad. Sharma was not kept informed of the arrests, to which he objected. Thereafter, Kaushik issued instructions to PP Pandey that Sharma should be kept informed. Neither Kaushik nor Sharma were happy with the first charge sheet that was filed in the Gulberg Society case on June 3, 2002 and the CP communicated this to Pandey immediately.

The very next day, on June 4, Pandey called Sharma for a meeting. He then called for the Naroda Patiya case papers. Sharma was shown all the investigation papers and the JCP asked him to assess whether the investigation was being conducted properly. Initially Sharma said he needed time to make an assessment but Pandey insisted he should do it right away. According to the charge sheet, the violence in Naroda took place "because one person ran over a person of another community by a truck, whole mob got provoked and thereafter serious incidents had happened". (The charge sheet filed in the Gulberg Society case claimed that the gruesome massacre was precipitated by Ahsan Jaffri’s firing on the mob that had collected outside.) This did not seem convincing to Rahul Sharma.

He stated on oath: "There was serious difference of opinion between me and Mr Pandey and other investigating officers i.e. Mr Vanzara and Mr Chudasama and the discussion had lasted for about two hours… I had told them that since they were the investigating officers and Mr Pandey was superior, it was for them to decide what to do. Whatever difference I had was put in writing by me and handed over to Mr Kaushik by way of a letter dated June 4, 2002." Sharma produced this letter before the commission.

Police Commissioner Kaushik, who was not satisfied with the charge sheet that had been filed, called Sharma about 10 or 15 days later. He told Sharma to scrutinise the case papers of both cases thoroughly and point out the discrepancies to him. Kaushik instructed Pandey to send the case papers of these two cases to his office. After Pandey had brought the case papers and produced them before Kaushik, photocopies were prepared and they were handed over to Sharma.

“A message should not be conveyed to the public in general that you can indulge in rioting, arson and stone pelting and can get away with it if you know someone well enough in the government, or, worse still, it you are acting at the behest of those persons” – Rahul Sharma

Sharma then makes some startling assessments about the case papers. He says he noticed that the FIR and the charge sheet were mutually inconsistent. This was true of both the Gulberg massacre case as well as the Naroda Patiya and Gaon carnage cases. Sharma states on oath that in his assessment the firing by (Ahsan) Jaffri was not the cause for the subsequent attack on residents of Gulberg Society. In his assessment of the Naroda Patiya case, the incident with the truck was not the reason for the violence that followed. Sharma says that his assessment was based on a close reading of the FIRs and the case papers that were supplied to him.

On July 5, 2002, Sharma was once again transferred because, no doubt, of his honesty and candour. He could not therefore communicate this assessment to the then CP, KR Kaushik.

Rahul Sharma’s tale is one of guarded honesty before the commission.

Dial M for murder

In October 2004, when Sharma appeared before the Nanavati-Shah Commission and submitted two CDs with more than five lakh entries of calls made to and from the mobile phones of Gujarat’s policemen, this blew the lid off one more facet of state complicity. Despite this staggering evidence, two-and-a-half-years later, neither the Nanavati-Shah Commission, nor the Gujarat High Court, nor the apex court has ordered any suo motu investigation into these revelations. Why is the Indian system so reluctant, or lackadaisical, to pinpoint the guilty?

The CDs contain records of all cellphone calls made in Ahmedabad over the first five days of the genocide when a city racked by violence, witnessed some of the worst massacres. Until October 2004, these telephone records lay with the Gujarat police.

Jaideep Patel, general secretary, Gujarat VHP

Jaideep Patel is a pathologist by profession. His name appeared in 14 FIRs filed immediately after the Naroda massacre. He was seen by eyewitnesses, leading and instructing mobs to attack, rape, kill and burn. When these FIRs were clubbed with dozens of others – an act carried out by Ahmedabad’s notorious crime branch, under officers Tarun Barot and DG Vanzara – Patel’s name, as also that of the BJP MLA and co-accused, Maya Kodnani, mysteriously disappeared.

The evidence contained in the CD could prove a nightmare for Jaideep Patel. They contain records of all cellphone calls made in Ahmedabad from February 25, 2002 to March 4. The records begin two days before the horrific attack on the Sabarmati Express and include the five dreadful days that saw the worst communal carnage in recent history.

Investigations carried out first by The Indian Express and recently by NGOs in Gujarat and outside show that Patel was in touch with the key riot accused, top police officers, including the police commissioner, top government officials, and even the chief minister’s office while Naroda burned. These CDs, obtained by the crime branch of the Ahmedabad police as far back as April 2004, now sit with the Nanavati-Shah Commission. Although these are records of calls made, not transcripts of actual conversations, they reveal:
  • How the riot accused were in constant touch with politicians, police officers and government officials. All at a time when the city and the state were burning, as the Narendra Modi government looked the other way and the opposition’s Congress party slumbered.
  • Using cellphone tower locations, the data also provides information on the physical locations of both the caller and the recipient.

Records show that Patel, a resident of Naroda, was in Naroda when the massacre began. He then left for Bapunagar, which also witnessed killings, to return to Naroda after a while. Patel was in touch with other riot accused, Babu Bajrangi, Ashok Govind Patel, Bipin Patel and local BJP MLA, Maya Kodnani.

Excerpts from the cellphone records of Jaideep Patel

February 27, 2002

Sabarmati Express attacked at 8.05 a.m. Bandh called by VHP that evening. BJP backs the bandh. Patel is in touch with senior police officials, his VHP colleagues in Delhi, state minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, Gujarat BJP president, Rajendrasinh Rana.

• 11.09 a.m.: Patel leaves the city for Godhra.

• 12.48 p.m.: Patel is in Godhra. One of the first persons he speaks to is the Ahmedabad DCP (zone V), RJ Savani, who calls him at 1.05 p.m.

• 2.29 p.m.: Patel receives a call from a Delhi number and speaks for 215 seconds. The number is registered in the name of Bharatiya Sanskriti Pratishthan, Sector-6, RK Puram, New Delhi, the VHP headquarters.

• 3.30 p.m.: Patel calls state Gujarat BJP president, Rajendrasinh Rana, and speaks for 267 seconds. At 4 p.m. the VHP calls for a Gujarat bandh the next day. The BJP quickly declares its support.

• 5.00 p.m.: Patel receives a call from Bharatiya Sanskriti Pratishthan, New Delhi, and speaks for 357 seconds.

• 5.07 p.m.: Patel again receives a call from this Delhi institution.

• 5.14 p.m.: DCP Savani calls Patel and speaks for 117 seconds.

• 5.17 p.m.: DCP Savani again calls Patel.

• 8.03 p.m.: Patel receives a call from state minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, and speaks for 159 seconds.

• 8.39 p.m.: Patel calls Zadaphiya.

• 9.13 p.m.: Patel calls Zadaphiya again, this time for just 3 seconds.

• 9.16 p.m.: DCP Savani calls Patel and speaks for 138 seconds.

• 9.20 p.m.: Patel again calls Zadaphiya and speaks for 186 seconds.

• After 11.58 p.m.: Patel leaves Godhra for Ahmedabad with the bodies of 58 persons who were killed in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express.

February 28, 2002

Ahmedabad erupts. Naroda Patiya is the scene of the worst massacre. Patel is in touch with the Naroda corporator minutes before the massacre begins.

• 2.34 a.m.: Patel enters Ahmedabad with 58 bodies of the Godhra victims, heads for Sola Civil Hospital.

• 9.17 a.m.: Patel calls the state health minister, Ashok Bhatt, and 10 minutes later, leaves for Naroda.

• 10.11 a.m.: Patel reaches Naroda and at 10.52 a.m. calls one Ashok Govind Patel of Naroda and speaks to him for 80 seconds.

(Ashok Govind Patel, who was in constant contact with Jaideep Patel through that period, is a BJP corporator from Naroda and an accused in the killing of eight persons in Naroda on February 28, 2002. He is also a co-accused in the case in which Jaideep Patel was named as an accused, one that was later closed by the crime branch.)

• 11.05 a.m.: Patel receives a call from a cellphone that was allegedly being used by the prime accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre, Babu Bajrangi.

(The phone is registered in the name of one Priyanka Mahendra Pandya, B/3 Pragat Ghanshyam Society, Ranip. Records reveal that the phone had been carried to Godhra the previous day and was located in the Naroda area from the morning of February 28, 2002 until 8.28 p.m. that night. When The Sunday Express, contacted Mahendra Pandya, father of Priyanka Pandya, he said: "I have been using this cell number for more than a year. Three years ago, it was with Babubhai (Babu Bajrangi)."



According to the police FIR, the attacks in Naroda Patiya began at 11 a.m. and went on until 8 p.m.

• 11.12 a.m.: Ashok Patel calls Patel again.

• 11.21 a.m.: Jaideep Patel leaves for Bapunagar area. This was one of the areas in the city that witnessed unprecedented violence. The maximum number of deaths in private firing was reported from this area. The area fell under DCP Savani’s jurisdiction.

• 11.32 a.m.: Patel reaches Bapunagar and calls Zadaphiya.

• 11.37 a.m.: Key accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre, Bipin Panchal alias Bipin Auto, calls Patel and speaks for 62 seconds.

• 11.40 a.m.: Patel calls DCP (zone IV) PB Gondia, under whose jurisdiction Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society fall, and speaks for 85 seconds. Seventy persons, including ex-Congress MP Ahsan Jaffri, were killed in Gulberg.

• 11.52 a.m.: Patel again calls DCP Gondia and this time speaks for 106 seconds.

• 11.55 a.m.: Patel calls Ashok Patel and speaks for 63 seconds.

• 12.01 p.m.: Ashok Patel calls back.

• 12.07 p.m.: Patel calls Ashok Patel and speaks for 71 seconds.

• 12.10 p.m.: Patel calls Naroda BJP MLA, Maya Kodnani, and speaks for 79 seconds.

• 12.20 p.m.: Patel calls DCP Gondia and speaks for 42 seconds.

• 12.25 p.m.: Patel returns to Naroda.

• 12.39 p.m.: Patel returns to Bapunagar area.

• 12.57 p.m.: Patel receives call from the cellphone being used by Babu Bajrangi.

• 1.00 p.m.: Bipin Panchal calls Patel and speaks for 86 seconds.

• 1.17 p.m.: Bajrangi calls again.

• 1.19 p.m.: Bipin Panchal calls.

• 1.23 p.m.: Bipin Panchal calls again.

• 1.43 p.m.: Bipin Panchal calls again and speaks for 72 seconds.

• 3.25 p.m.: Patel receives a call from the chief minister’s office and speaks for 141 seconds.

• 7.20 p.m.: Patel receives a call from a cellphone registered in the name of Sanjay Bhavsar of the general administration department, government of Gujarat, and speaks for 102 seconds.

• 7.24 p.m.: Bhavsar calls again.

• 7.28 p.m.: Patel calls Bhavsar.

• 7.31 p.m.: For the first time in the day, Patel calls the CP, Ahmedabad, PC Pande, and speaks for 47 seconds.

• 8.29 p.m.: Patel returns to Naroda area.

• 9.11 p.m.: Patel receives a call from Tanmay Mehta, personal assistant (PA) to the chief minister. The conversation lasts 209 seconds.

• 11.32 p.m.: State BJP president, Rajendrasinh Rana, calls Patel and speaks for 13 seconds.

By midnight, senior police officers, including the JCP, MK Tandon, had reached Naroda Patiya. The massacre over, survivors were being moved to hospitals and relief camps hastily set up by the Muslim community at Shah Alam and Dariya Khan Gummat. Meanwhile, another massacre had also taken place in Gulberg Society. Union defence minister, George Fernandes, arrives in town. The death toll in Ahmedabad alone was 125 and counting.



Certain key questions arise:
  • Why was the home minister, Gordhan Zadaphiya, in touch with Jaideep Patel?
  • Why did the chief minister’s office contact Jaideep Patel?
  • Did the crime branch study the cellphone records before closing the case against Patel?
  • Will the review panel, set up at the behest of the Supreme Court, look into these records while scrutinising the 2,100 closed riot cases?

Maya Kodnani, BJP MLA, Naroda

Kodnani is a practising gynaecologist whose clinic is barely a kilometre from the site of the Naroda Patiya massacre. The BJP MLA from Naroda, Kodnani was also named in an FIR and her name was subsequently dropped as an accused when the FIRs were illegally clubbed. She was seen by eyewitnesses, leading and instructing mobs to attack, rape, kill and burn.

A study of Kodnani’s cellphone, which is still in use, reveals that like fellow accused and VHP leader Jaideep Patel, the BJP leader too had been camping in the Naroda area until the evening of February 28, 2002, and was in close contact with those accused in the massacre, police officers, top politicians and VHP leaders, including the brother of VHP international general secretary, Praveen Togadia, and other accused from the area.

The attacks in Naroda began at 11 a.m. and went on until 8 p.m.

Excerpts from the cellphone records of Maya Kodnani

February 28, 2002

• 7.53 a.m.: Kodnani leaves her residence for Gandhinagar.

• 9.57 a.m.: Kodnani returns from Gandhinagar and heads straight for Sola Civil Hospital.

• 10.37 a.m.: Kodnani calls the office of the ACP (G Division), MT Rana, under whose jurisdiction Naroda and Meghaninagar fall.

• 10.39 a.m.: Kodnani calls the official cellphone of the DCP (zone IV), PB Gondia, Rana’s immediate boss.

• 11.23 a.m.: Kodnani leaves Sola Civil Hospital.

• 11.55 a.m.: Kodnani is in Shahibaug area (where she lives) when she receives a call from Dinesh Togadia, brother of VHP leader, Praveen Togadia, and speaks for 128 seconds.

• 12.10 p.m.: VHP general secretary, Jaideep Patel calls Kodnani. Patel was also named as an accused in the Naroda massacre until the case was closed by the police.

• 12.21 p.m.: Kodnani receives a call from Nimesh Patel, a resident of Saijapur Bogha area, adjoining the Naroda Patiya locality. Patel is one of those accused in the killing of eight persons at Naroda village. After the call, Kodnani heads towards Naroda.

• 12.37 p.m.: Kodnani reaches Naroda.

• 12.40 p.m.: Nimesh Patel calls Kodnani.

• 2.10 p.m.: Kodnani receives a call from Sri Swami Vivekanand Karnavati Charitable Trust, Maninagar, and speaks for 134 seconds.

• 2.33 p.m.: Kodnani receives a call from the official residence of state education minister, Anandiben Patel, in Gandhinagar.

• 2.53 p.m.: Kodnani receives a call from the office of the chief whip of the BJP legislative party.

• 3.31 p.m.: Kodnani receives a call from Ashok Govind Patel of Naroda and speaks for 91 seconds. As mentioned earlier, the BJP corporator, Ashok Patel, was a co-accused in the same case as Jaideep Patel.

• 4.09 p.m.: Kodnani leaves Naroda area and heads for Shahibaug.

A study of Kodnani’s cellphone, which is still in use, reveals that like fellow accused and VHP leader Jaideep Patel, the BJP leader too had been camping in the Naroda area until the evening of February 28, 2002, and was in close contact with those accused in the massacre

• 4.52 p.m.: Kodnani calls the DCP (zone V), RJ Savani, under whose jurisdiction widespread violence was reported from Bapunagar, Odhav, Amraiwadi and Hatkeshwar areas.

• 4.53 p.m.: Kodnani calls DCP (zone VI), BS Jebalia, under whose jurisdiction riots were reported from Vatwa, Danilimda and Kagdapith areas.

• 4.55 p.m.: Kodnani calls the ACP (sector I), Shivanand Jha, whose jurisdiction encompasses the western areas of the city, the worst affected areas within his jurisdiction being Paldi, Vejalpur and Navrangpura.

• 5.01 p.m.: Kodnani receives a call from Delhi.

• 5.46 p.m.: State BJP president, Rajendrasinh Rana calls Kodnani.

• 7.03 p.m.: Nimesh Patel calls Kodnani.

According to the police FIR of the Naroda Patiya massacre and the Naroda killings, the attacks started at 11 a.m. and went on till 8 p.m.

Gulberg Society, Chamanpura, Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad

At about 7 a.m. on February 28, 2002, a mob started to attack the predominantly minority inhabited Gulberg Society, barely a few kilometres from the police commissionerate. The onslaught lasted over nine hours during which about 70 persons were massacred and 15 women were gang-raped. Former parliamentarian from the Congress party, Ahsan Jaffri, was among those killed. Jaffri made over 200 calls to top leaders, seeking help. No one responded. The then CP, Ahmedabad, PC Pande visited Jaffri at around 10.30 a.m. and convinced him not to seek refuge elsewhere along with the 70 other Muslims who had sought shelter in his home. The attack intensified after Pande had left.

As DCP (zone IV), PB Gondia was the DCP in charge of both areas – Meghaninagar and Naroda – which together marked the most horrific day in the post-Godhra violence. Gondia’s cellphone records show that he spent a lot of time in areas outside his jurisdiction which reported little violence. They also show that he was in constant touch with the riot accused, including Nimesh Patel, who is accused in the Naroda killings. He was also in touch with accused, Jaideep Patel, VHP’s Gujarat general secretary and local BJP MLA, Maya Kodnani, and state revenue minister, Haren Pandya.

Excerpts from the cellphone records of DCP PB Gondia

February 28, 2002

• 10.39 a.m.: Just as DCP PB Gondia, reaches Naroda area, he receives a call from Naroda BJP MLA, Maya Kodnani. The call lasts 57 seconds.

• 11.05 a.m.: Gondia calls the JCP, MK Tandon’s office.

• 11.40 a.m.: Gondia, who is in Thakkarnagar, near Naroda, receives a call from VHP general secretary, Jaideep Patel – who was accused of leading a mob in Naroda – and speaks for 86 seconds.

• 11.52 a.m.: Jaideep Patel calls again. They speak for 107 seconds.

• 11.56 a.m.: Gondia calls Tandon and immediately moves to Naroda area.

• 12.20 p.m.: Jaideep Patel calls Gondia and speaks to him for 42 seconds.

• 12.35 p.m.: Gondia is in Meghaninagar area (Gulberg Society) and returns to Naroda by 12.53 p.m.

• 12.59 p.m.: Gondia calls the city police control room.

• Gondia remains in Naroda area till 1.44 p.m. At 1.53 p.m. he is in Meghaninagar area but leaves immediately and returns to Naroda. On the way, at 1.57 p.m., he receives a call from Tandon.

• 2.13 p.m.: Gondia is again in Meghaninagar area from where he calls Nimesh Patel, an accused in the Naroda village killings. Fifteen minutes later Gondia is in Naroda.

• 2.46 p.m.: Gondia returns to Meghaninagar and calls ACP MT Rana. Within five minutes, he leaves for the police commissionerate and reaches there by 2.55 p.m.

• 3.01 p.m.: Nimesh Patel calls Gondia.

• 3.11 p.m.: Gondia has left the police commissionerate and heads for Revdi Bazaar, an area which does not fall under his jurisdiction, where little violence has been reported.

• 3.16 p.m.: Gondia receives calls from the CP, PC Pande.

• Gondia remains at Revdi Bazaar until 4.03 p.m. and at 4.12 reaches Meghaninagar area.

• 5.05 p.m.: Gondia receives a call from the residence of Naroda BJP MLA, Maya Kodnani. The call lasts 81 seconds. Gondia is in Meghaninagar area.

• 5.15 p.m.: ACP Rana calls Gondia and speaks to him for 101 seconds.

• 5.24 p.m. and 5.29 p.m.: Gondia receives calls from the official residence of the revenue minister, Haren Pandya.

• 6.55 p.m.: Nimesh Patel calls Gondia.

• 10.06 p.m.: Gondia goes to Naroda area.

• 10.10 p.m.: Nimesh Patel calls Gondia.

State role

Cellphone records fill in the missing blanks. They show that the Ahmedabad police commissioner, PC Pande received several calls from the chief minister’s office throughout the day and in the hours leading up to their meeting. Who kept calling? Narendra Modi’s PA, Tanmay Mehta, and Modi’s additional principal secretary, Anil Mukim.

Excerpts from the cellphone records of the CP, Ahmedabad, PC Pande

February 27, 2002

• 8.53 a.m. (within an hour of the Godhra train arson): Pande, who is at his residence, receives a call from the state minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya.

• 11.05 a.m.: Pande is at his office and receives a call from the DGP, K. Chakravarti.

• 11.38 a.m.: Chakravarti calls again.

• 12.48 p.m.: Chakravarti calls again.

• 1.08 p.m.: Pande calls the Ahmedabad district collector, K. Srinivas.

• 1.53 p.m.: Zadaphiya calls Pande and speaks for 109 seconds.

• 2.59 p.m.: Pande receives a call from Tanmay Mehta, Narendra Modi’s PA.

• 3.35 p.m.: Pande receives a call from the chief minister’s additional principal secretary, Anil Mukim.

• 3.36 p.m.: Pande receives a call from Mehta. Half a minute later, Mukim calls again.

• 3.40 p.m.: Zadaphiya calls Pande.

• 3.50 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande.

• 5.02 p.m.: Pande receives a call from Mukim. He returns the call after a minute.

• 5.28 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande and speaks for 107 seconds.

• 6.03 p.m.: Pande receives a call from Mumbai and speaks for 154 seconds.

• 7.09 p.m.: Pande calls Mukim and speaks for 83 seconds.

• At 7.48 p.m. and 8.14 p.m.: Pande receives two calls from K. Srinivas.

• 8.26 p.m.: Pande receives a call from Sanjay Bhavsar, officer on special duty (OSD) to the chief minister.

• 9.13. p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande and speaks for 52 seconds.

• 9.18 p.m. and 9.19 p.m.: Pande receives calls from Zadaphiya.

• 9.42 p.m.: Pande has left the city for Gandhinagar and is half way there.

February 28, 2002

• 12.35 a.m.: Pande returns from Gandhinagar and heads straight for his office. He stays there until about one a.m.

• 8.12 a.m.: Pande is back in office and receives a call from Chakravarti.

• 8.50 a.m.: Pande calls Chakravarti.

• 9.30 a.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande and speaks for 126 seconds.

• 9.44 a.m.: Pande receives a call from the JCP (sector II), MK Tandon. Three minutes later, Pande is on his way to Sola Civil Hospital.

• 10.56 a.m.: Pande returns to the police commissionerate.

• 11.05 a.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande. By this time mobs have taken to the streets. According to police records, the attack on Gulberg Society began at 7 a.m. while in Naroda Patiya it began at 11 a.m.

• 11.31 a.m.: Pande receives a call from Zadaphiya’s office.

• 11.40 a.m.: Tanmay Mehta, Narendra Modi’s PA, calls Pande.

• 11.43 a.m.: Pande receives a call from Tandon, who has already reached Meghaninagar area (where Gulberg Society is located).

• 11.56 a.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande.

• 12.06 p.m.: Pande calls Tandon and speaks for 75 seconds. Three minutes after this call, Tandon leaves Meghaninagar.

• 12.37 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande. By this time curfew has been imposed in the city.

• 1.21 p.m.: Mehta calls Pande.

• 1.22 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande.

• 1.45 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande and speaks for 116 seconds.

• 1.56 p.m.: Pande receives a call from the office of state minister for water supply, Narottam Patel, and speaks for 125 seconds.

• 2.02 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande and speaks for 125 seconds.

• 2.12 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande.

• 2.25 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande.

• 2.53 p.m.: Zadaphiya calls Pande.

• 3.09 p.m.: Pande receives a call from city MLA and state health minister, Ashok Bhatt.

• 3.16 p.m.: Pande calls the DCP (zone IV), PB Gondia, under whose jurisdiction the Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya localities fall.

• 3.22 p.m.: Pande receives a call from city MLA and state energy minister, Kaushik Patel, and speaks for 60 seconds.

• 3.38 p.m.: Mehta calls Pande.

• 3.54 p.m.: Pande calls Gondia.

• 3.57 p.m.: Mehta calls Pande.

• 3.59 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande. Minutes later, Chakravarti is at Pande’s office.

• 5.16 p.m.: Pande receives a call from Zadaphiya, who has just left the police commissionerate.

• 5.17 p.m.: Pande receives a call from a cellphone registered in the name of AP Patel, general administration department, government of Gujarat.

• 5.50 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande.

• 6.31 p.m.: Pande receives a call from the official residence of Ashok Bhatt and speaks for 232 seconds.

• 6.51 p.m.: Pande receives a call from Chakravarti, who is by then at Gandhinagar.

• 7.09 p.m.: Pande reaches Meghaninagar area.

• 7.11 p.m.: Zadaphiya calls Pande.

• 7.26 p.m.: Mehta calls Pande.

• 7.31 p.m.: Pande receives a call from VHP leader and riot accused, Jaideep Patel. Pande leaves Meghaninagar area and goes back to his office.

• 8.52 p.m.: Pande calls Chakravarti and speaks for 110 seconds.

• 9.03 p.m.: Pande calls Anil Mukim, the chief minister’s additional principal secretary, and speaks for 229 seconds.

• 9.14 p.m.: Mukim calls Pande.

• 9.18 p.m.: Pande calls Chakravarti and speaks for 334 seconds.

• 10.27 p.m.: Mehta calls Pande.

Pande’s memory loss before the commission

Deposing before the Nanavati-Shah Commission on August 18, 2004, former CP, Ahmedabad city, PC Pande said he only heard about the Naroda Patiya violence at 9.30 p.m. on February 28, 2002, when "I received information that some persons had been killed there". And it was only when he went there at around 10 or 11 p.m. that he realised the "gravity" of the situation.

However, by 9.30 p.m., the Naroda massacre was long over. Eighty-three persons had already been killed and Pande’s cellphone records show that right through the afternoon, from 2.30 to 9 p.m., he was, in fact, in regular touch with two police officers in charge of the areas under which both Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society fall.

During the last half hour of the massacre at Naroda, Pande even received a call from VHP state general secretary and riot accused, Jaideep Patel. Nevertheless, in his deposition before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, Pande said that he had not been "receiving any information regarding the serious incidents which followed after 2.30 p.m.".

Another point on which Pande claimed memory loss was the meeting called by the chief minister, Narendra Modi, on the night of the Godhra arson, hours after the VHP and the BJP had declared a bandh for the next day.

Lies before the commission

Joint CP (sector II), Ahmedabad, MK Tandon, who was in charge of areas that saw the worst two massacres, told the Nanavati-Shah Commission that he only heard about the attack on Gulberg Society at 2 p.m. on February 28. This was a massacre in which 70 people were killed, many of them burnt alive, including former Congress MP, Ahsan Jaffri. "I was not present when the mob was being dispersed as I had gone near the Gulberg Society at about 10.45 a.m. and then had gone to Naroda. I was in Naroda at about 12 p.m.," he deposed.

However, records of Tandon’s official cellphone reveal that between 11.34 a.m. and 12.09 p.m., he was in the Meghaninagar area (where Gulberg Society is).

From Meghaninagar, records show, he called up the DCP in charge of the area and the CP, PC Pande. (The attacks on Gulberg Society began at about 7 a.m. on February 28. Top police officers maintain however that they began much later, at about 10.30 that morning.)

He also told the commission that he only heard about the Naroda Patiya massacre at 9.30 p.m. "I do not know when the mob entered this Muslim locality and I also do not know if the police officials present on the spot tried to contact me during this time. I think that during this time, the telephone lines were jammed. I first came to know about this incident (Naroda Patiya) at 9.30 p.m. when I was in the Gulberg Society and immediately rushed there," he said.

But his cellphone details reveal that he was constantly in touch with the police officers who were in direct charge of the riot hit areas, and the police control room called him at least four times between 1.24 p.m. and 3.01 p.m.

Excerpts from the cellphone records of JCP (sector II) MK Tandon

February 27, 2002

• 9.50 a.m.: Tandon receives a call from the police control room.

• 10.05 a.m.: Tandon calls the police control room.

• 10.08 a.m.: Tandon again calls the police control room.

• 10.09 a.m.: Tandon calls the DCP (zone IV), PB Gondia. Immediately, he receives a call from the DCP (zone V), RJ Savani.

• 10.11 a.m.: Tandon receives a call from the DCP (zone VI), BS Jebalia.

• 10.12 a.m.: Savani calls Tandon.

• 10.17 a.m.: ACP MT Rana calls Tandon.

• 11.31 a.m.: Tandon reaches the commissionerate and calls Savani and speaks for 70 seconds.

• 11.56 a.m.: Savani calls Tandon and speaks for 160 seconds.

• 12.16 p.m.: Savani calls Tandon again.

• 12.57 p.m.: Tandon calls Jebalia.

• 12.58 p.m.: Tandon calls Savani and speaks for 128 seconds.

• 2.59 p.m.: Savani calls Tandon.

• 3.18 p.m.: Tandon calls Jebalia.

• 3.49 p.m.: Tandon again calls Jebalia and speaks for 84 seconds. Minutes later, Tandon leaves the commissionerate and goes to Revdi Bazaar, a communally sensitive area.

• 4.02 p.m.: Jebalia calls Tandon.

• 4.22 p.m.: Jebalia calls Tandon.

• 4.25 p.m.: Tandon calls Savani. Tandon goes to the New Cloth Market where the office of the DCP (zone VI) (BS Jebalia) is also situated.

• 4.39 p.m.: Tandon calls Savani.

• 5.20 p.m.: Tandon calls the CP, PC Pande and speaks for 104 seconds. Tandon leaves and heads towards Bapunagar and Naroda areas.

• 5.49 p.m.: Tandon calls Savani.

• 5.57 p.m.: Tandon receives a call from the police control room.

• 6.05 p.m.: Rana calls Tandon. Tandon is in Rakhial area.

• 6.46 p.m.: Tandon reaches Bapunagar and receives a call from Rana.

• 6.59 p.m.: Tandon reaches the Naroda area and calls Gondia.

• 7.17 p.m.: Tandon returns to the commissionerate.

• 8.42 p.m.: Tandon calls Savani and speaks for 232 seconds.

• 8.55 p.m.: Savani calls Tandon.

• 9.34 p.m.: Savani calls Tandon and speaks for 481 seconds.

• 10.32 p.m.: Savani calls Tandon and speaks for 100 seconds.

February 28, 2002

• 12.00 a.m.: Savani calls Tandon. Tandon immediately calls up then state minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, and speaks for 133 seconds.

• Three minutes later, Savani calls Tandon and speaks for 96 seconds.

• 6.49 a.m.: Tandon receives a call from Delhi and speaks for 126 seconds.

• An hour later, Tandon speaks to his three DCPs, Gondia, Savani and Jebalia, at length.

• Between 9.20 a.m. and 9.36 a.m. Tandon speaks at length with Savani and Jebalia and then speaks to the CP, PC Pande.

• 11.20 a.m.: Tandon calls ACP MT Rana of Meghaninagar and Naroda areas.

• 11.34 a.m.: Tandon reaches Meghaninagar (where Gulberg Society is) and calls Gondia, under whose jurisdiction both the areas fall. Ten minutes later, he calls the CP and then makes two successive calls to the city police control room.

• 12.06 p.m.: Pande calls Tandon. Three minutes later Tandon leaves Meghaninagar area.

• 12.11 p.m.: Tandon reaches Naroda area.

DCP PB Gondia was in charge of both areas – Meghaninagar and Naroda – which together marked the most horrific day in the post-Godhra violence. Gondia’s cellphone records show that he spent a lot of time in areas outside his jurisdiction which reported little violence. They also show that he was in constant touch with the riot accused

• Between 12.14 p.m. and 12.18 p.m. Tandon makes three calls to Pande. At 12.26 p.m. he makes one call to the police control room.

• 12.33 p.m.: Savani calls Tandon, after which Tandon leaves Naroda.

• 12.37 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande.

• 12.41 p.m.: Tandon calls Rana. Tandon is travelling through Bapunagar, Rakhial, and reaches Relief Road at 1.56 p.m. Tandon remains in the Relief Road and Revdi Bazaar areas until about 4 p.m.

• While Tandon is not in any of the riot hit areas within his jurisdiction, his cellphone details reveal he was constantly in touch with the DCPs, Gondia, Savani and Jebalia, the police control room, the CP, PC Pande and the city mayor, Himmatsinh Patel, during this time. The police control room called him at least four times between 1.24 p.m. and 3.01 p.m.

• 4.12 p.m.: Tandon reaches the police commissionerate.

• 4.28 p.m.: Tandon reaches Meghaninagar area (Gulberg Society).

• 10.14 p.m.: Tandon visits Naroda area and leaves by 11.03 p.m.

Meanwhile, what did the police do when Jaffri was desperate for help?

Excerpts of the cellphone records of officers Pande, Tandon and Gondia have been deliberately repeated below to demonstrate how the calls made and received by them dovetail with those of other officers during the specific period when Ahsan Jaffri was so desperately seeking police assistance.

DGP K. Chakravarti:


• 11.56 p.m.: Chakravarti calls the CP, PC Pande, and speaks for 56 seconds.

• 12.18 p.m.: Chakravarti is in Gandhinagar; receives a call from the Ahmedabad district collector, K. Srinivas, and speaks for 59 seconds.

• 1.06 p.m.: Srinivas calls Chakravarti.

• 1.43 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande and speaks for 116 seconds.

• 1.48 p.m.: Chakravarti receives a call from Badruddin Sheikh (Congress leader and then chairperson, standing committee, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation) and speaks for 91 seconds.

• 2.01 p.m.: Sheikh calls Chakravarti again.

• 2.12 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande and speaks for 49 seconds.

• 3.50 p.m.: Chakravarti reaches the city and calls his office in Gandhinagar. (Jaffri is suspected to be dead by this time.)

• 3.51 p.m.: Chakravarti receives a call from the ADGP (law & order) and speaks for 132 seconds.

• 3.55 p.m.: Chakravarti reaches Shahibaug and calls Pande.

CP, PC Pande

• 11.56 p.m.: DGP Chakravarti calls Pande.

• 12.06 p.m.: Pande calls JCP MK Tandon and speaks for 75 seconds.

• 12.37 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande. By this time, curfew has been imposed in the city.

• 1.21 p.m.: Tanmay Mehta, Modi’s PA, calls Pande.

• 1.22 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande again.

• 1.45 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande again and speaks for 116 seconds.

• 2.02 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande for the third time and speaks for 125 seconds.

• 2.12 p.m.: Chakravarti calls Pande for the third time.

• 2.25 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande again.

• 2.53 p.m.: Pande receives a call from state minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya.

• 3.09 p.m.: Pande receives a call from the state health minister, Ashok Bhatt.

• 3.16 p.m.: Pande calls the DCP (zone IV), PB Gondia, under whose jurisdiction the Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya localities fall.

• 3.38 p.m.: Mehta calls Pande.

• 3.54 p.m.: Pande calls Gondia.

• 3.57 p.m.: Mehta calls Pande again.

• 3.59 p.m.: Pande receives a fourth call from Chakravarti, who reaches Pande’s office minutes later.

Deposing before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, Pande said Jaffri was killed between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Joint CP MK Tandon

• 11.58 a.m.: Tandon calls police control room and speaks for 68 seconds. Has reached Meghaninagar, where Gulberg Society is, at 11.34 a.m.

• 12.06 p.m.: Pande receives a call from the CP, PC Pande. Three minutes later, Tandon leaves Meghaninagar area.

• 12.11 p.m.: Tandon reaches Naroda area.

• 12.14-12.18 p.m.: Makes three calls to Pande and one to the police control room at 12.26 p.m.

• 12.33 p.m.: Tandon leaves Naroda.

• 12.37 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande.

• 12.41 p.m.: Tandon reaches Bapunagar and calls ACP MT Rana, under whose jurisdiction Meghaninagar and Naroda fall.

• 1.06 p.m.: Tandon calls DCP PB Gondia and speaks for 60 seconds. He is then in Rakhial.

• 1.11 p.m.: Tandon calls the city mayor, Himmatsinh Patel, and speaks for 78 seconds.

• 1.22 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande and speaks for 54 seconds.

• 1.24 p.m.: Tandon receives a call from the police control room.

• 1.51 p.m.: Tandon reaches Revdi Bazaar and Relief Road.

• 1.57 p.m.: Tandon calls Gondia and speaks for 98 seconds.

• 1.59 p.m.: Tandon receives another call from the police control room.

• 2.02 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande and speaks for 124 seconds.

• 2.25 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande and speaks for 51 seconds.

• 2.52 p.m.: Tandon calls Himmatsinh Patel and speaks for 145 seconds.

• 2.57 p.m.: Tandon receives a third call from the police control room.

• 3.01 p.m.: Tandon receives a fourth call from the police control room.

• 3.30 p.m.: Tandon calls Pande and speaks for 72 seconds.

• 3.39 p.m.: Tandon receives a fifth call from the police control room.

• 3.40 p.m.: Tandon calls his office number at the police commissionerate.

• 4.12 p.m.: Tandon reaches the commissionerate.

• 4.28 p.m.: Tandon reaches Meghaninagar area.

DCP PB Gondia

• 11.52 a.m.: Gondia receives a call from VHP general secretary and riot accused, Jaideep Patel, and speaks for 107 seconds.

• 11.56 a.m.: Gondia calls JCP MK Tandon, moves to Naroda area.

• 12.20 p.m.: Jaideep Patel calls again and speaks for 42 seconds.

• 12.35 p.m.: Gondia is in Meghaninagar area, returns to Naroda by 12.53 p.m.

• 12.59 p.m.: Gondia calls the police control room.

• Gondia remains in Naroda area till 1.44 p.m.

At 1.53 p.m. Gondia is in Meghaninagar but returns to Naroda almost immediately. On the way, at 1.57 p.m., he receives a call from Tandon.

• 2.13 p.m.: Gondia is back in Meghaninagar from where he calls Nimesh Patel, an accused in the Naroda killings. Fifteen minutes later, Gondia is in Naroda.

• 2.46 p.m.: Gondia returns to Meghaninagar, calls ACP Rana. Within five minutes, he leaves for the police commissionerate, reaches by 2.55 p.m.

• 3.01 p.m.: Nimesh Patel calls Gondia.

• 3.11 p.m.: Leaves the police commissionerate but heads for Revdi Bazaar from where little violence has been reported.

• 3.16 p.m.: Gondia receives a call from the CP, PC Pande.

• Gondia remains at Revdi Bazaar till 4.03 and at 4.12 p.m. reaches Meghaninagar area.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, State Complicity 5
Reporting Gujarat

 
The aftermath of the genocide in Gujarat has had a tremendous impact on the role of media persons. The mainstream media, often accused of ignoring the fallout of tragedies, has in this more than in other cases, pursued the story, often at risk of isolation, intimidation and threat.


At what individual and organisational cost? Media groups, ever mindful of advertisement revenue, remain supinely dependent on the moolah rolling in. Hence Modi’s steamrolling efforts to promote a vision of normalcy – the aggressive advertisement of a ‘vibrant Gujarat’ campaign at the taxpayer’s cost – aided by the big guns of industry. But this has been resisted by resilient men and women in the media, reporting on state crimes.

Even the central government controlled Swagat magazine (January 2007) published by Indian Airlines and brought out by the Media Transasia group, carrying a message from a smiling civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, in its opening pages, gave ‘impressive Gujarat statistics’ a glowing certificate. It made no mention whatsoever of the growing suicides among the state’s urban business classes, the agricultural crisis, and other issues, let alone life for 10 per cent of Gujarat’s population, its Muslims, after the genocide.

But what of the individuals that make up the media’s larger whole? Reporters and correspondents, editors and subeditors, who have, sometimes at great risk, continued with free, fair and fearless coverage in Gujarat?

CC salutes the journalists who keep Indian democracy alive and breathing even when national human rights institutions and courts slip into arrogant slumber. We bring you their voices, their opinions, their life experiences. For obvious reasons, we protect their anonymity.

"There is never any scope for argument or debate in Gujarat"

The support I received both from my newspaper and also my colleagues, as a woman reporting on issues of the day, in 2002 and thereafter, has been rewarding. My family, too, has been very supportive, unusually so. So I did not have to face the struggles a woman has to within the home. During the worst period of 2002, my family let me move out of the house, and subtly, my colleagues protected me. A small thing, my identity card and purse were taken away from the very first day, and everywhere I went, a colleague accompanied me.

Now, there are two ways you can look at this, this removal of my identity and personal protection. I looked at it positively. This attempt to make me incognito in a small town like Vadodara where I had grown up, studied, etc, and where a lot of the people knew me. I received strange feelers, assurances from some local BJP leaders about my safety. It was bizarre…These same people who knew the circumstances under which my whole family was forced into a distress sale of our home of many years in a cosmopolitan area and our move to a Muslim locality in May 2002, were still inquiring after my personal safety.

An office jeep picked up my family and helped them move away. I couldn’t be with them. They knew I was safe. Fed up with living like that, living out of a knapsack for a week or more, I chopped off my long hair. During those days I wouldn’t give out my visiting card to anyone. Was hiding my identity cheating?

At that point it was survival. The anger and fear hit me about six months later. In the immediate aftermath, reporting under my byline or a shared byline, the nitty-gritty of being a journalist consumed me. A little later, my objectivity suddenly became a question, professionally, because of my religious identity. A couple of stories soured my ties with professional colleagues. One about a murder in Vadodara district which led to a boycott of the minority community. Suddenly the local media fraternity and the Vadodara collector were upset and even tried to tell me to stop doing such stories because of my ‘objectivity’! Now, that hurt.

In one sense I’ve lived with being a suspect since I was a kid, since college when cricket matches would be played or I would be picked upon during a college debate simply because I was a Muslim. I knew how to give it back. I, unfortunately, was not, am not, a shy person and picked fights. Having been a suspect for a large part of my 35 years, it is something that I, unfortunately, have to live with. But not in my profession – or so I thought.

Originally from Maharashtra, I did my postgraduation from Pune. But I was born and brought up in Vadodara. There is communal prejudice in both states but it is very different, the manner in which prejudice is handled, the manner in which issues are tackled. For example, in Maharashtra, a person with an RSS bent will have no pretences, like it or not, it will be up front. It prepares you to handle it. In college at Nashik I had a pracharak (RSS propagator) for a classmate, with whom I had loud disagreements and arguments. But once the argument was over we would walk together to the chai ki kitli (tea kettle) and canteen and eat and snack together. In Gujarat, the prejudice will never be spelt out. My neighbours in Ellora Park were very nice to us, we grew up there, but they didn’t stand up for us. We had to move out to Binanagar in the midst of the violence. There is never any scope for argument or debate in Gujarat.

One learns to live by these norms and realities. In retrospect, I did feel anger and fear but I felt I could handle it because no one came and threatened me. It was my city, the city where I was born, went to college, stood for student council elections and so on. In a sense I also confuse the locals a bit because I don’t fit into the stereotype of either the Gujarati Muslim or the migrant UP Muslim.

Personal relationships were sacrificed by the wayside in the flames of the genocide. Persons dear to you stop talking to you overnight. But then, I say, compared to what happened to others, this was too small a price.

One of my closest relationships died an abrupt death. A very precious relationship broke up when a person I loved, whom I had grown up with, suddenly couldn’t handle my being a Muslim, after 2002. This is what 2002 did and what 2002 brought. It wasn’t safe to be seen with a Muslim, and some just couldn’t handle the pressure. People were being killed, so there was no point in getting angry about this. So I gave up a relationship that had meant a lot to me ever since I was a child. My mother was also upset that I had to give it up. I had to pay a very heavy price for this break. I have no energy to try something like this again. I simply do not have it in me to take that emotional risk.

More than anything else, I feel scarred and unsure of myself as a woman. In Gujarat if you are a Muslim, people forget you are a woman. If I were to be raped it is not because I am a woman but because I am a Muslim. My femininity has been torn from me. I feel my feminine side broken from inside by the outside.

On the other hand, there is pressure from within the Muslim community. After 2002, marrying a non-Muslim was out of the question. Hell would have broken loose. I wouldn’t want to do something like that. It takes attention away from what the community needs, education, etc. I have younger siblings. So far my community admires me and supports me. My family and all of us need and feel this support. We are seen to be ‘decent Muslim girls’. If I were to take any step that would disturb that, my family and I would have to pay the price.

So at the moment I don’t have the energy for a personal relationship. I cannot trust a non-Muslim, or any man. And I’m not at all sure that a Muslim man will accept me as I am. He would not be comfortable with me as I am, a thinking woman whose profession means she has to fraternise with other men, who works odd hours, etc. So while the possibility of an intimate relationship with a non-Muslim man has been given up, with Muslim men there is this fundamental problem. I feel too tired to negotiate this politics of identity.

It is the innocence of your everyday life that has been taken away. Even today when I go to my old neighbourhood, post office, bank, laundrywala, I come back very upset, very disturbed. Then I tell myself, listen, you saw, first-hand, what had happened to women, children, men. The killings, the rapes… at least we are better off than that.

Now, five years after living in a rented house, we are building our home again, afresh. My brother is moving on… my family and I made it a point to see that while he was finishing his studies he spent three months with close non-Muslim friends. He is young so we didn’t want him to live in fear of the non-Muslim after what had happened, what he had seen in Vadodara.

In between, I visited the UK for a three-month period and had a chance to see how the Indian Muslim community in the UK lives. It was an eye-opener for me. I felt better and good in India, even in Vadodara.

Things are too conservative there… I had to face questions like, "How can a Muslim girl move around unescorted, without the hijab?" No one, not even my mother, asks me these questions here, nor does she herself live like that. Muslims there live in some other world; it is a bit frightening. In India I can fight back, I can cry. The system, or someone, will respond. But in the UK, you are being torn apart by two worlds. As a Muslim, this is still the best place for me.

"The stereotypes and prejudices run much deeper here"

What are the pressures and dangers of reporting on Gujarat?


Pressures and dangers are there only if you allow them to affect you and your work. From February 2002 till date, we at the TOI haven’t allowed our reporting to get blunted. Once those in power realise we can’t be browbeaten, and nor are we open to negotiation on reporting the truth, they start looking elsewhere for support.  

How easy or difficult is it to negotiate spaces in Gujarat given the kind of administration and government there is?

It is challenging, though easy at times. Given the autocratic nature of those at the top levels of the present government, you do find bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and even competing journalists who are more than willing to share information which would embarrass the government. Our best sources remain the dissenters within the administration and there is a whole army of them despite the fear psychosis around otherwise preventing leaking information to the media.  

Could you give some examples?

Entry to even accredited journalists to the Sachivalaya has been restricted. Entry to the Police Bhavan was banned for many weeks. The daily bus service for journalists from Gandhinagar is now restricted. Ministers cannot speak to the press without permission from the chief minister! Bureaucrats give information but don’t want their names in newspapers. Earlier, chief ministers had weekly press meets. With Modi, these are very rare.

What are the pressures or dangers felt by a working journalist in a decision making position from both state and non-state actors?

Tolerance of criticism among high-ranking politicians is the lowest in the present regime in Gujarat. If you are seen as being even mildly critical of the government’s policies, your access can get curbed. But as a journalist, you can’t allow your decision making to get clouded by these concerns. 

How do you compare Gujarat with the rest of the country?

That Gujaratis are a "mild community" is a deception. The prejudices run much deeper here, at least as far as other communities are concerned. In other states/cities, it is still possible to find Hindus and Muslims living together in a neighbourhood, same buildings. Not in Gujarat. There is not much exchange between communities even on occasions like Diwali or Id. The younger generation is growing up in isolation, without any appreciation of the others’ culture, religion. This mixing is not there even in some schools. That does not augur well for the future. The only hope is that Gujaratis do not want anything to come in the way of economic prosperity. There is a realisation that communal violence does retard the progress of the state.

 Could you elaborate?

The stereotypes and prejudices run much deeper here. Atrocities under centuries of Muslim rule and invasions from the north-west have been selectively documented by historians. These are passed on to the next generation not only by word of mouth but also in the form of published literature. The deep divide comes not only because of different faiths but also because of eating habits, as Gujarat is the cradle for vegetarianism. It is therefore much easier for politicians to exploit these sentiments. While intolerance is all pervasive, authoritarianism is a trait peculiar to Narendra Modi because it helps him nurture that carefully cultivated he-man image. 

"They tire you psychologically and drain you professionally" 

Manifold pressures


 The Gujarat government is infamous for gagging the press. It particularly hates any and everyone with secular credentials. The pressure, to be a working journalist and also be secular, is even greater for vernacular journalists. To brand all of them as a loud vernacular voice would be an injustice because these journos do have a voice, an ideology and a conscience that sometimes gets killed because they work for small managements. The pressures are manifold.

Number one is there is no free flow of information. In the name of security, access to information and people is curtailed. It becomes difficult to get the truth. Once you get the truth and the truth is what the government does not like, there are sophisticated government methods to distort the truth. In the case of Sohrabuddin (Sheikh), the media took the initiative. However everyone knows of how media reports were denied.

Dangers? Ceaseless amounts of defamation and criminal cases. In the past there were cases but most of them were not criminal offences. Now the trend is, file a criminal offence. The journalist gets tired going to the lower courts. They make you stand with criminals. They treat you like shit. The level of judiciary and its competence in Gujarat is a known story (and scandal). For one story…there would be complaints, criminal offences filed from four different places. They tire you psychologically and drain you professionally. I have about half a dozen of them going on at various lower courts at this point of time against the stories I have written.

Dissemination of false information is an important portfolio of the Gujarat government. First the government never lied. Now they never tell you the truth. So as you chase the truth, the pressure is to "toe the government line".

Phone tapping, anonymous dirty calls, pressure to influence your bosses, your peer, mud-slinging (typical RSS style), character assassination… there is a constant insecurity, a fear. Freedom of the press is an alien term. Often, the reporter may expose the best story but the management or the boss is "bought over". Lured by government ads, by private SEZ projects…an endless list. In the end, the journo ends up frustrated.


Selling one’s soul

Negotiation simply means a deal. A deal where you sell your soul. There are cases of reporters being obliged with bungalows, dealerships for siblings or jobs in some public sector undertaking (PSU). The government simply wants to gag all critical voices. Editorial policies are to emanate from the chief minister’s office…

 Personal attacks

Attempts to influence? By invoking religion and the son of soil factor in the main… Are you a Hindu, a Gujarati? How can you be anti-Hindu? You are a coward (at a time when the Gujarat Samachar was totally Modi-ised… articles with names criticising convent educated Gujaratis who have been educated abroad and have now gone ‘astray’ and ‘are following western culture’, apart from being ‘pseudo secular’, abounded. By naming you, they tarnished your image and branded you. In Gujarat, unlike in Mumbai or in Delhi, which are larger and with a degree of professionalism, there is some anonymity... in Gujarat you cannot separate the personal from the professional. The "branding" affects you everywhere.
 
‘Managing’ journalists

I have worked in Mumbai, in London and the USA too. In all these other places, if you are right, the government is magnanimous enough to appreciate and acknowledge this. You feel a part of an overall system. There is a certain satisfaction of doing the right thing; here you know you are going to be in deep trouble. There will be attempts to gag you, starting from Arun Jaitley’s level to Surendra Patel’s level. "Managing journalists" is an art that the BJP has mastered. When they are not able to manage journos with integrity, these journalists become ‘pseudo secular’ who are not ‘well-wishers of Gujarat.’

Under constant threat

Gujarat’s communalism is more neopolitical in nature than social. At the moment, there is no ideology involved. Editorial courage and independence are under constant threat. Modi has this particular quality where he can convert criticism into a public movement. He would demean the journalist instead of his journalistic work and publicly pronounce the person or that particular media house or channel a villain.

For small and medium newspapers, withholding of ads is a regular feature. The new media policy of the Gujarat government is skewed. The Jansatta’s Rajkot edition has been closed down because of massive ad cuts that make it difficult for operations. Government advertisements are important for any normal, small or medium sized newspaper’s survival and revenue.

Efforts are made by those in power at times, sometimes via the journos and sometimes at management level, for a complete news blackout. For instance, how many people have read about corruption charges against Modi (though this is now expected to blow up in the next two weeks), home minister Amit Shah’s murky deals, Surendra Patel’s obsession with a builder lobby? These are all examples of news blackout. 

At the moment there is a temporary unintentional pause in the government’s relentless campaign to muzzle the press but that is because the government is too busy sorting out its own rebels. Soon we will see several media houses and journos ganging up with the government. These self-proclaimed saviours from the media will, in the months to come, stoke up hatred against all whom Modi dubs ‘pseudo secular.’

(As told to Communalism Combat.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, Voices 1
Modi and Mahabharata

Narendra Modi: Bloodthirst
 
The term society envisages collective community living of human beings. The origin of society preceded the emergence of the state and its limbs of legislature, executive and judiciary. It was to actualise the aspirations of society that the state was created.

Society is defined in the Random House Dictionary of English Language as "a highly structured system of human organisation for large-scale community living that normally furnishes protection, continuity, security and a national identity". The state’s emergence ended the prevalent jungle law, or matsya nyaya, of the strong dominating the weak. The state endeavours for the creation and maintenance of secure conditions for community living that enables each person in society to be at his best self for the benefit of all.

India’s democratic polity, constituted and sustained by the Constitution, seeks to concretise the vision of Indian citizens – we the people – as expressed in the Preamble. Jurists unanimously confirm that the concepts of sovereignty, national integrity, democracy, socialism and secularism embody the unalterable basic foundations of the Constitution. Ultimately, individual citizens, as members of Indian society, are the custodians of these statutorily designed imperatives for the health and vibrancy of the nation.

A government assuming power on electoral mandate has no legal, political or moral sanction to violate, subvert or alter the intrinsic and elementary constitutional principles that encapsulate the quintessential and long cherished values of Indian people. Society, being the reservoir of voters, has to be ever vigilant to check and contain deviations, aberrations and violations from the laid down framework by organs of the government intoxicated with power obtained through the ballot box or otherwise.

An alert and agile society performs its role of watchdog through an array of institutions, formal or amorphous, traditional or ad hoc, long-standing or temporary. Societal response, often diverse or even confrontationist to governmental action or events, expresses itself through identities like media, NGOs, conscious citizens’ forums, bodies of class, region, gender, professionals, caste, etc.

A performing and lively democracy needs the services of the upright bureaucrat, the social activist, the bold dissenter, the courageous media person, and so on. Such persons often play the role of the protester and the whistle-blower with a loftier vision than the self-contained power hungry politician successfully manipulating sentiments of short-sighted voters.

The response of segments of Gujarat society to the Godhra incident and the subsequent universally condemned anti-minority violence falls into three distinct patterns in tune with their real or contrived vested interests and spheres of influence.

The protracted Gujarat riots in 2002 are comparable to the disrobing of Maharani Draupadi at the very altar of justice viz. the royal courts of the Kauravas, meant for the redressal of subjects’ grievances and the delivery of justice. Here, the holy maiden of the rule of law, the dearest daughter of the Constitution of India, has undergone and is still suffering prolonged molestation since 2002, as hundreds of citizens became prey to the depredations of armed mobs and subsequently have been experiencing near total apathy from organs of the criminal justice system.

The much published pictures of a “Vibrant Gujarat” and the reality of thousands of its citizens dwelling in pathetic conditions are as sickening as they are contradictory. Do these images paint pictures of stagnancy and destabilisation or that of dynamic advancement?

A faint silver living to the cloud of abnormal societal callousness is visible in the sterling performance by a handful of bureaucrats (all of them had to face and continue to face the wrath of the powers that be), the media (particularly the English press) and a few courageous social activists and lawyers. Referring to these well meaning champions of humanism and sanity, Prof Shiv Vishvanathan, in his essay titled "The Wages of Dissent", (Seminar, Monthly, January 2007) observed, "Each through his/her performance transformed Modi’s regime into a mosaic of unsettled and unsettling questions. Each of these encounters with a Zahira Shaikh, Teesta Setalvad, Cedric Prakash, Mukul Sinha, was stark, public and commanded huge audiences."

Next, one can find another category of people from the bureaucracy, police, professionals, etc, who ignored the call of their conscience and duty and acted like Duryodhana and his cohorts, who though aware of righteousness did not remain sincere to it. Instead, they pursued evil despite full knowledge of its consequence – "Gnanami Dharmam na cha me Pravruthi, Gnanami Adharmam na cha me Nivruthi" ("I was aware of righteousness but did nothing in pursuit of it; I knew about evil, still did not abstain from it"). They facilitated the masterly manipulation of public opinion and generation of apathy by the powers that be towards riot victims among the bulk of the electorate for achieving political mobilisation of the majority community and consequential electoral dividends in the 2002 assembly polls.

A third group of citizens took the posture of Maharathis like Bhishma, Draunacharya, Kulguru Krupacharya, Vidura, etc. They allowed the disrobing of Draupadi lest their judicious intervention result in the loss of their position, chairs and aristocratic privileges. The ongoing sacrilegious insensitivity and criminal negligence to the just and minimum needs of the riot affected is the net outcome of such an attitude.

The 2002 riots have many disquieting unparalleled and unprecedented features:
  • A seemingly well-planned strategy and ground level tactics were set in motion after the gruesome, inhuman Godhra train fire incident, to incite communal sentiments among those belonging to the majority community with the obvious intention of political mobilisation and electoral advantage. This was achieved through rumours and motivated media projections about the non-existent current atrocities on the majority community, whisper campaigns through word of mouth and the circulation of handbills and pamphlets. To illustrate, the story of breasts of Hindu women being cut and thrown, temple desecration by descendants of Aurangzeb, etc. (No police or governmental action has been taken against the perpetrators of these falsehoods so far.)
  • Non-initiation of statutorily stipulated measures contained in the Riot Schemes and particularly in the 1997 order of the then director general of police, KV Joseph. Titled, "Instructions to deal with Communal Riots (Strategy and Approach)", it was circulated to all superintendents and commissioners of police. These measures should have been promptly taken from the afternoon of February 27, 2002 onwards. To illustrate, there was no arrest of those figuring in police records as persons to be taken into custody in the event of any communal tension.
  • Parading of the dead bodies of Godhra fire victims, including those unidentified and even those belonging to places outside Ahmedabad, through communally sensitive areas of Ahmedabad city, resulting in the ignition of high voltage hatred against the minority community.
  • There were media reports that no effective action was initiated by the authorities in the early hours of the bandh day, February 28, 2002, when miscreants started indulging in petty crimes like burning of tyres on the roads, forcible closure of shops, etc, largely to test the mood and approach of the police. Hence the slogan: "Yeh andar ki baat hai, Police hamare saath hai" ("The inside story is, The police are with us in this").
  • The 2002 Gujarat violence was assailed by national leaders of all political dispensations, including the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • Delay in the imposition of curfew in certain sensitive areas and slackness in the enforcement of curfew resulted in crowds committing wanton crimes against minorities. For example, the Best Bakery in Vadodara was burnt during curfew hours.
  • No videography of the riots was recorded by the authorities despite regulations to this effect. It is ironical that the electronic media could easily record and telecast the riots while the authorities could not collect evidence through electronic gadgets.
  • Prime Minister Vajpayee, in a public speech in Gujarat, directed the state government to perform its assigned duties – Raj Dharma. Never before in the history of independent India has the country’s prime minister been forced to issue such public instructions to any state government.
  • The response to complaints by riot victims was deplorably irresponsible and often even hostile. This stratagem of functionaries of the criminal justice system manifested itself in the form of:

a. Refusal to register cases by riot victims against supporters of communal organisations.

b. Minimisation of intensity of offences.

c. Treating different offences as single transactions.

d. Refusal to take the accused on remand for recovery of looted property.

e. Not opposing, effectively, the bail applications of the accused persons.

f. Appointments of even office bearers of communal organisations as public prosecutors, etc.

It is relevant to note that these major lapses and such motivated dereliction of legally entrusted duties by the bureaucracy prompted the Supreme Court of India to pass severe strictures against state government officials in the Best Bakery case and other related litigations. Secondly, the apex court ordered the reinvestigation of two riot related cases and their trial was transferred to Maharashtra. Thirdly, in a rare move, the Supreme Court ordered the reopening and reinvestigation of around 2,000 Gujarat riot cases, which the police had already closed. Fourthly, many petitions of the riot victims, such as the Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society cases, are still before the courts.

It should be noted that there were no such instances of a loss of confidence in the state administration system expressed through litigations after the 1969 and 1984 riots in Gujarat.

Nearly 1,000 localities, from rural and urban areas, were affected by communal clashes in 2002. Survivors/victims from most of these places were forced to migrate and stay in relief camps. Nearly all those migrants lost their movable and immovable properties. Almost 1,20,000 people had to dwell in congested relief camps in subhuman conditions for over six to eight months – refugees in one’s own motherland.

The bulk of the floating population from other states, people belonging to the minority community, had left the state during the riots. There is no reliable data on them. Similarly, no clear information is forthcoming on the number of missing persons.

On June 6, 2007, The Times of India, quoting a source from the Supreme Court, reported that even today about 30,000 refugees are forced to live in despicable conditions.

The much published pictures of a "Vibrant Gujarat" and the reality of thousands of its citizens dwelling in pathetic conditions are as sickening as they are contradictory. Do these images paint pictures of stagnancy and destabilisation or that of dynamic advancement?

Citizens of Gujarat must ask themselves why the recreation of the pre-riot atmosphere, ensuring smooth intercommunity living, is being blocked in the state. Is it due to a lack of resources or, in fact, the absence of political will and commitment to cater to the basic needs of the victims?

What civil society can do

Social groups, educational institutions, religious bodies, NGOs, conscious citizens and others can easily take up the issues impeding normalisation of the situation in nearly 1,000 localities affected by communal violence. A lot needs to be done to ensure the security of victims and the restoration of their vocations and professions to achieve durable rehabilitation. Restoration of immovable property to legal owners, resuscitation of trade and business, adequate provisions for empowerment of orphans and widows, creation of educational facilities, and so on.

Secondly, the reconstruction of major shrines and monuments destroyed or damaged during the violence, such as the tomb of Wali Gujarati, is long pending.

Communalists engage in a relentless indoctrination drive. Pseudo-religious organisations inculcate exclusivism and sectarianism in the minds of their followers. The afflicted then spring into violent action against their "rival community" on any trivial issue. After all, for a communalist, "their God is our Devil".

Special efforts to stress that humanism and meditative spiritualism constitute the core values and soul of all religions are the need of the times. Otherwise, unscrupulous politicians, bent on securing power at any cost, will continue to adopt competitive communalism as a means and vehicle to advance their political careers.

At special gatherings, in educational institutions and religious congregations, programmes need to be started to stress religious tolerance. The writings of Mahatma Gandhi, the famous study on religions by Bharat Ratna, Bhagavan Das, titled Essential Unity of All Religions, lectures by Swami Ranganathananda, etc, can all be used as source material. This project can be called Sarva Dharma Mool Adarsh Prachar (Understanding the Tenets of All Religions).

Programmes must be planned for the joint celebration of different religious festivals through participation by all in processions, congregations. These could be called Sarva Dharma Utsav (Festival of All Religions).

At the grass root level, in villages and in urban localities, visits could be arranged to familiarise people with each other’s religious shrines in the neighbourhood. For example, school students of an area could be encouraged to visit and study the significance – scriptural, spiritual, architectural – of a local shrine. This can be called Sarva Dharma Pavitra Sthan Darshan (Pilgrimage of All Religions).

Godless atheistic secularism alone cannot effectively counter the rising tide of communalism in the country.

Well-planned projects need to be designed and implemented so as to enhance intercommunity cooperation in all dimensions of human activity – economic, cultural, religious and social.

An ancient Sanskrit text, Nitisara, classifies all human beings into two categories: wise men and fools. Wise men are those who spend their leisure time in the study of science and the appreciation of arts and literature. Fools, on the other hand, utilise their free hours for pursuit of addictions, quarrels and sleep.

"Kavya sastravinodana
Kala Gacchati Dheematam
Vyasanana cha Moorkhanam
Nidraya Kalahena cha
."

(Poetic compositions and shastras do serve,
As recreations for the wise to pass their time
The foolish ones spend their time in vices diverse
In idle sleep or in quarrels.)

Ramakrishna Paramahans once compared a person engaged in communal fights to a dog trapped in a hall of mirrors. The dog will bark to death at his own image reflected in each mirror. The Vedantic principle of each person being a fragment of the same universal divinity – God – is the moral of Ramakrishna’s parable, an elucidation of the vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the entire world is a family) principle.

A short story by Krishan Chander titled A Donkey’s Autobiography (Ek Gadhe ki Sarguzasht) describes a donkey telling a group of Hindu and Muslim communalists who asked him to specify his religion that, born as a donkey, he is neither a Hindu nor a Muslim, he is just a donkey. Let us learn from this donkey. 

(Text of a speech delivered by RB Sreekumar at a recent meeting of Nishan-e-Samvidhan, an Ahmedabad based citizens’ group.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, Voices 3
The fight continues


I actually believed that after the first flush of activity things would pack up. So there was a great sense of satisfaction when as an advocate I experienced, in matter after matter, legal action groups like Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) persisting with their work even today. Even after such a long time and with many ups and downs, especially for social activists, the fight continues.

I would particularly like to mention that CJP has looked after countless victims and witnesses all over the state and undertaken legal interventions in scores of cases. And it has been there right from the start. It was in March 2002 that CJP began its legal interventions, first with its writ petition on behalf of the relief camps running in the city and state. Thereafter it has intervened in dozens of matters related to the victims and complaints of the mass carnage. There were also compensation claim cases, hate speech cases and many others.

The relief camp matter came up before the court in April 2002. The petition sought basic amenities from the state for the hapless residents of relief camps who were internally displaced refugees and to whom the state had turned a deaf ear. (Relief camps in Gujarat were all run privately by individuals and groups belonging to the Muslim community. The state of Gujarat did not operate a single relief camp for victims of the genocidal violence.)

The court made a verbal request to the public prosecutor (PP), state of Gujarat, asking him to agree to make a voluntary statement increasing the per day expenses for each resident (from Rs six to Rs eight) and improving the water supply, the provision for bathrooms and so on. The atmosphere in court was especially hostile at the time. Almost every lawyer present in court was hoping, willing the court to simply dismiss the petition. On the other hand, those representing the relief camps – senior counsel, Aspi Chinoy from Mumbai, and I – expected the court to issue firm orders and directions rather than to "request the state government to agree to oblige the poor displaced victims" by giving them the basic amenities that are their due as citizens of this country.

There was immense pressure on all of us as a team. As I stood in the courtroom, and as relief camp managers and the CJP secretary (Teesta Setalvad) arrived, the place filled up not just with lawyers but also intimidatory crowds. In the Gujarat High Court sick notes from all lawyers are generally accepted as a matter of course and without much ado. On one occasion during the hearing, I was quite unwell – a result, I believe, of the constant tension, the pressures of work and the many sleepless nights. I was running a high fever and had no option but to file a sick note. So on the day the matter was to be heard I sent my junior, Anil Verma, to the court, requesting an adjournment. The court responded angrily (a sharp contrast to its amenability and courtesy towards the state of Gujarat) and passed an order stating that all petitioners would thereafter have to remain personally present in court each time the matter was to be heard. Now, the relief camp managers were also performing a sterling service for the community, providing food, water and shelter to victims while the whole of Gujarat was burning. But thanks to the court’s attitude, the relief camp managers had to interrupt their activities and be personally present in court. In the end the state was "obliged" to provide more bathrooms, toilets and quality food to the riot victims.

Another case that stands out was the one related to an incident in Abasana in rural Ahmedabad where six members belonging to the Muslim minority had been killed – an offence registered at the Daithroj police station. Three of the accused had approached the high court for bail. I appeared on behalf of the complainant and filed an affidavit by the complainant witness narrating the role of each of the accused. Some of the accused had used a sharp metal weapon (dhariya) to cause injuries to a victim, an injury that resulted in a fracture of the skull. The deceased victim was then thrown into a fire by other accused. In the post-mortem notes, the cause of death was shown as ‘burning’ although column 17 of the post-mortem report did indicate a fracture to the skull of the deceased victim.

I had opposed bail for these accused as well. However, the defence lawyer argued for bail for the accused persons who had brutally assaulted the deceased on the grounds that the skull fracture was not the cause of death. I then requested a stay on the order granting bail for four weeks so that we could approach the Supreme Court. The court referred the question to the PP (in itself a highly questionable practice) whereupon the PP advised the court that the order should not be stayed and thus my request for a stay was denied. The court then asked me if any conditions needed to be imposed on the accused. I stated that the order should constrain the accused into staying outside rural Ahmedabad until the trial was over. Once again the court referred to the PP who refused to accept these conditions saying that all the accused persons should not have to suffer such hardship. Ultimately, all the accused were constrained into staying outside Abasana for four to six months.

In its judgement the high court also recorded that it was the complainant who had not insisted on a reasoned order (one that provided a detailed explanation of the rationale behind its decision). However, while hearing the complainant’s case for cancellation of bail, the Supreme Court took the view that the high court must record a detailed reasoned order. Following the Supreme Court judgement, the high court should have cancelled the bail granted to the accused. However, due to the long time lag, bail was not cancelled. For a substantial period of time during which the trial was being heard, the accused roamed free. It appears that during this time the witnesses had been won over by the accused persons who were allowed out on bail and they had then turned hostile. The delay in the trial forced them to bow to the influence of the accused.

There is another case related to 2002 that has been pending since December 16 that year. The petitioner, Abdul Hakim Khan, had filed a complaint at the Satellite police station, Ahmedabad, seeking registration of offences against the newspaper, Sandesh, under sections 153 A and 153 B of the IPC for publishing false and provocative reports on February 28 and March 1, 2002. The reports in question were extremely inflammatory and the police should themselves have registered a complaint against the newspaper concerned. Since the police did not, a private complaint was filed under Section 200 of the CrPC. The magistrate concerned dismissed the private complaint on the grounds that state government sanction was necessary for permission to prosecute. So the complainant applied to the state government seeking such sanction. As expected, the state government did not heed the representation and ultimately the complainant had to file a petition in the Gujarat High Court on December 16, 2002 when the petition was admitted and posted for "final hearing without any returnable date". Five years have passed and so far the matter has not been heard. It is still pending before the court and I am not sure when or if it will ever be heard. If, say, the matter were heard in 2008 or 2009, this would be six or eight years after the offence was committed. Where would the trial be then?

The relief camp matter came up before the court in April 2002. The atmosphere in court was especially hostile at the time. Almost every lawyer present in court was hoping, willing the court to simply dismiss the petition

Another case filed by a victim, Abdul Rasool D. Aljuwalla, in 2002 sought directions from the high court to allow all six co-petitioners possession of their shops. The petitioners all had shops in Raigad village, Sabarkantha district. They had been dispossessed of these on February 28, 2002. Like others in Raigad, they were forced to leave their village and could not go back because of the ongoing violence. When they did attempt to return about 10-15 days later, they found that their landlords had taken over the shops and even looted their wares. The FIR listed offences under sections 435, 436 and 390 of the IPC for looting, dacoity and rioting. As in so many other cases, the writ petition was "admitted" and is still awaiting final hearing, five and a half years later. The landlords have already rented the shops out to other people thereby making the victims’ task, the retrieval of their shops, difficult if not impossible. As far as the trial goes, the sessions court has acquitted the accused for want of evidence. The complainants i.e. the victims filed a revision application in the matter but the high court dismissed this on the ground that a revision application had less scope, as "evidence cannot be re-appreciated". The case can now be reopened only if an appeal is filed by the state of Gujarat but this, predictably, is yet to happen.

There are also individual petitions where petitioners have sought adequate compensation from the state of Gujarat. One such petition supported by CJP was filed on March 28, 2003 by Patni Arvind and others asking for compensation from the Ahmedabad district collector. Other matters that CJP has supported include a petition filed by Abdul Hamid Abdul Inamdar on July 30, 2003 seeking compensation for victims of mass violence in Ahmedabad district and a writ petition filed by Ilyasbhai Khan Khatri on September 20, 2003, seeking compensation for loss of property. All these petitions are pending final disposal with no specified date of hearing being ordered. Given the backlog of cases, these matters will have to wait 10 years or more, testing the petitioners’ tenacity and courage. The matters all pertain to the pathetic sums of compensation (Rs 1,000-15,000) paid to victims whose losses, in fact, run into lakhs.

Another major public interest litigation (PIL) filed by CJP relates to expansion of the compensation scheme. This matter has also been repeatedly delayed by the state government (with the court’s compliance) even as petitioners and their advocates remained present and ready.

Rubina Salimbhai Ghanchi filed a petition in July 2003 asking for the appointment of a special PP in place of Arvind Pandya at the Gujarat High Court. Pandya is an advocate of some notoriety, known to be close to the chief minister, Narendra Modi, and is the state government’s counsel before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. The matter was disposed of when Pandya himself withdrew from the case in question. There were also other petitioners seeking the arrest of absconding accused in some cases that achieved limited success. It was only after the court issued notice to senior police officers that the police were forced to arrest some of the accused.

In a case filed some time in 2005 the petitioner was Zahir Bashir Shaikh whose mother was killed in reckless police firing. The petition challenged the role of the investigating and prosecuting agencies. According to the prosecution’s case in the trial, there were incidents of stone pelting whereupon the police constable opened fire and one such bullet hit the petitioner’s mother. The petitioner argued that no stones were found or recovered from the street where his mother had been killed. Shaikh alleged that the police constable deliberately fired at the Muslim house because miscreants had set fire to the policeman’s shop. After the constable got off duty he came to Shaikh’s locality and, using his private revolver, fired at Shaikh’s mother. The police tried to shield the constable by filing a false complaint stating that after five or six incidents of stone pelting, the police had no option but to fire. It was only later on (following the state of Gujarat’s own affidavit) that the petitioner learnt that the firing was a private firing, that the constable’s shop had been burnt and that he was not on duty when the firing took place. Again, the matter was admitted and has been posted for final hearing.

My most telling experience was however during the Best Bakery case appeal in December 2003. The matter was first listed before justices KR Vyas and AL Dave but the bench declined to hear the matter. We were then told that another two-member bench was assigned to the case but they also declined to hear the matter. Ultimately, the matter came up before justices BJ Sethna and JR Vohra. The witness, Sairabano (sister of key witness, Zahira Shaikh), had filed a revision petition challenging the order of acquittal (of the accused) before the high court even as the state government had to file a criminal appeal against the same acquittal under pressure from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had also passed strictures about the state of Gujarat’s lacklustre attitude towards justice. There was about a 17-day delay in filing the revision application so when the matter was finally heard, the revision application and the application for condoning the delay were heard together. The court rejected our revision application and directed me, appearing for the witness, to assist the PP in the state’s appeal.

Thereafter the appeal was heard in an extremely hostile atmosphere. The courtroom was packed with supporters of the accused and possibly none, or few, in that hostile and crowded courtroom wanted the state’s appeal to be allowed. I submitted my written arguments on behalf of the witness. The court, however, refused to accept these. I also filed an affidavit by the witness, Sairabano, and as is common procedure in the high court, this was served to the accused and the prosecution five days earlier. It was submitted through the computer at about 4.10 p.m. on December 12, 2003. I also obtained a status report recording the submitted affidavit as item 16. At the time, the appeal was still being heard on a day-to-day basis.

However, the court did not accept the witness’ affidavit and it was returned as per court directions. Entries on the computer were deleted and the status report now showed item 16 as "missing". The operative part of the judgement in the state’s appeal, confirming the acquittal, was pronounced on December 26, 2003 while the detailed judgement followed after the winter vacation on January 12, 2004. When courts reopened I was surprised to find that written arguments on behalf of the accused and those by the PP had been submitted and accepted for consideration after the court had decided on the matter. This by the same court that had rejected written arguments on behalf of the witness, Sairabano! Not only was the atmosphere fraught and hostile, these developments were deeply shocking.

Much of what took place within the courts was reflected at social functions within the legal fraternity. During this period judges were even heard commenting that some lawyers and activists were only trying to rake up old issues to keep them alive and defame Gujarat’s image in the world.

More recently, events in the court during the hearing of the Pandharwada mass graves case are worth a mention. Here we were asking for a transfer of the whole investigation to the CBI. During the course of the hearing in the high court, at one stage even counsel for the CBI made hostile remarks about the co-petitioners, CJP. There were humiliating comments from the court as well, suggesting that the petitioners’ legal interventions were motivated by personal gain.

Notwithstanding the many stumbling blocks, I still believe that if we work, as we must, with full faith and honesty, it can be a truly rewarding experience. Even so, the continuing hostility makes this a frightening exercise. There will be moments when we are disheartened. And there have been many such moments. At one stage during a crucial matter a government pleader attempted to browbeat me, saying that if I carried on like this prosecutors would be instructed to oppose me in all my regular matters as well. But I refused to give in. I have done my job with great satisfaction.

Recently we filed a petition asking that an FIR be registered against the chief minister and 62 others on charges that include criminal conspiracy, mass murder, manslaughter and intimidation (the PIL filed by Zakiya Jaffri and CJP). Some lawyers telephoned me to say that my role in the proceedings, where senior policemen and bureaucrats were also accused, was a recipe for disaster. I would be making formidable enemies.

These are but cheap threats to block the sterling work being done by organisations like CJP.

(As told to Communalism Combat.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, Voices 2
Hungry heart
March 19, 2007

To,
The honourable Supreme Court of India,

Subject: Non-implementation of food schemes in the relief colonies of people displaced in Gujarat by the disturbances of 2002.

The commissioners of the Supreme Court had received disturbing information about acute food and livelihood distress of people who were internally displaced by the disturbances in Gujarat. They were informed that many families continued to live in relief colonies in very difficult conditions with acute problems of food and livelihood security. It was brought to our notice that the directions of the honourable Supreme Court of India (in CWP 196/2001) on the food and employment schemes, including the ICDS, MDMS, PDS, NREGA, Antyodaya and Annapurna Yojana, NOAPS, NFBS and NMBS, were being violated.

Since we are mandated by the honourable Supreme Court to monitor all the food and employment schemes in Writ 196/2001, we subsequently wrote to the government of Gujarat requesting them to look into the matter and ensure that food schemes were implemented by the government of Gujarat as per the directions of the honourable court in Writ 196/2001.

The government of Gujarat responded back to us that there were no relief colonies of people displaced by the violence of 2002 in Gujarat.

Shortly thereafter, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) deputed three members to visit the state from October 13 to 17, 2006 and they went to 17 relief colonies. Their report is annexed in Annexure 3. They observed the difficulties that were faced by the residents of these colonies and the non-implementation of state programmes. In relation to livelihoods and food schemes, the commission made the following observations:

"The residents were frustrated by their inability to earn their own livelihood and to support themselves in the manner to which they were accustomed. Before the violence many of these people were small self-employed traders, artisans or industrialists. The violence put an end to their means of livelihood since their old clients were unwilling to use their services. The impression the team received is that very few of them were employed in service. In the new environment, they are unable to resume their earlier professions and because of this they find it difficult to survive."

They add, "NCM members examined the homes in several rehabilitation colonies and found evidence of abject poverty. With some exceptions, the houses contained little except for bedding and kitchen utensils. Despite these signs of poverty, the NCM found that many residents did not have ration cards. Even when ration cards were issued, most of the residents were given above the poverty line (APL) ration cards instead of below the poverty line (BPL) ration cards. This makes a big difference because BPL ration card holders are entitled to get food grains, cereals, kerosene and other basic consumer items at subsidised rates. Indeed, in several camps, especially in rural areas, the women without exception had just one major demand: they wanted BPL ration cards to be issued to them."

The report of the NCM clearly established that the government of Gujarat had misrepresented the situation to the commissioners of the honourable court by denying the existence of these colonies. It also established prima facie evidence of the fact that the directions of the honourable Supreme Court with regard to food and employment schemes were being violated.

My colleagues further completed a full survey of the state and found similar conditions in 81 such relief colonies across the state of Gujarat. The report of this investigation (guided by senior academic, Dr Ghanshyam Shah, and state adviser, Dr Indira Hirway) is appended in Annexure 4. It found 4,545 families comprising around 30,000 persons still living in very difficult conditions in 81 relief colonies.

The study found that none of the colonies had been set up or assisted by the state government. Only five of the 81 colonies had government or government recognised schools and only four served midday meals to the children. Only five had ICDS centres, of which four served supplementary nutrition to the children, and one to nursing and expectant mothers. Only three had PDS shops and only 725 out of 4,545 families were recognised as BPL although their intense poverty as internally displaced persons facing economic boycott was acute. People who had APL cards are reluctant to apply for a transfer of the card because they fear that this may be cancelled.

It is therefore proposed that the following steps are immediately undertaken to ensure state accountability for the food and livelihood rights of its citizens who remain internally displaced nearly five years after the 2002 incidents.

1. Contempt of court notices are issued to the chief secretary and other officials of the government of Gujarat for misrepresenting facts and furnishing incomplete and inaccurate information to the commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court.

2. All families who continue to live in relief colonies must be given Antyodaya cards as internally displaced persons who lost all their belongings, face fear and economic boycott, and are too afraid to return to their original homes.

3. Primary schools with midday meals should be opened in all 81 relief colonies immediately and in any case before the next financial year. The location of the school should be such that it is accessible not only to the residents of the camp but to the surrounding host communities, to promote integration.

4. All 81 colonies should have fully functioning ICDS centres, with the entire contingent of nutrition and health services, within two months.

5. PDS shops should be opened in all colonies where these are not available within a distance of three kilometres.

6. There should be a drive within three months to ensure that all eligible persons for NOAPS and widows pensions receive these.

7. Job cards under NREGA should be issued in all NREGA districts to all residents of relief colonies who are desirous of these.

8. The chief secretary should personally certify that all these steps have been undertaken in an affidavit to the Supreme Court within three months of the passage of the order.

Dr NC Saxena
Commissioner of the Supreme Court

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, For The Record 1
Need of the hour

Displaced victims of Ode

Report of the National Commission for Minorities’ visit to Gujarat, October 13-17, 2006

On August 29, 2006, complaints from social activists were received by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on the plight of persons displaced as a result of communal violence in 2002. They pointed out that more than 5,000 Muslim families in Gujarat are staying in makeshift colonies in four districts of Gujarat. In view of the tense situation in their original place of residence, these people are unable to return. In the absence of basic amenities like safe drinking water, drainage, health education, etc, the condition of those living in these colonies is pitiable. They therefore requested the NCM to make a first-hand assessment of the entire issue by visiting the camps and to issue suitable directives to the government on the basis of their findings.

The matter was considered at a formal meeting of the commission held on September 7, 2006. At this meeting, it was decided that a three-member team, consisting of the vice chairman and two members, would visit Gujarat for this purpose over a period of three days (in the case of the vice chairman and member one) and five days (in the case of member two). The team visited a large number of camps. Member two visited 17 colonies in the districts of Panchmahal, Dahod, Sabarkantha and the city of Ahmedabad while the vice chairman and member one visited colonies in Ahmedabad and Sabarkantha. The team had an opportunity to interact with members of civil society, NGOs, groups involved in rehabilitation and with inhabitants of camps as well as those who had suffered as a result of the riots. On the third day the team had a long meeting with officials of the state government led by the chief secretary and finished up with a session with the chief minister of Gujarat. The main findings of the team are summarised below:

Observation, complaints and demands of residents of rehabilitation colonies

1. During its visit to the rehabilitation colonies, the NCM team was accompanied by district collectors in each of the four districts as well as by local government officials concerned with development, including district development officers (DDOs), taluka development officers (TDOs), officials of the revenue department, including talatis and mamlatdars, and by officials of the municipal authorities in nagar palika areas and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The NCM team found that these colonies have come into existence after the violence of 2002. They house people who, prior to the riots, had lived elsewhere. Several colonies were found to be housing people who are witnesses in major legal cases.

2. The NCM team noted with concern that not a single colony was constructed by the state government, nor was any land allotted by the state government. All the colonies were built on land purchased at commercial rates primarily by a range of Muslim organisations and NGOs, including the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, Islamic Relief Committee, Gujarat Sarvojanik Relief Committee, etc. During the tour of the camps, members observed that residents were denied the most rudimentary civic amenities. They are deprived of potable water, sanitary facilities, street lights, schools and primary health care centres. The poor condition of the approach roads was repeatedly highlighted and the team heard reports of how in the absence of such roads even adolescent boys were drowned in the water that had collected near the village after the monsoon when the roads are submerged under several feet of water. The accumulated garbage, the slush and the puddles of water are a source of debilitating diseases, including some infectious ones.

3. The residents were frustrated by their inability to earn their own livelihood and to support themselves in the manner to which they were accustomed. Before the violence many of these people were small self-employed traders, artisans or industrialists. The violence put an end to their means of livelihood since their old clients were unwilling to use their services. The impression the team received is that very few of them were employed in service. In the new environment, they are unable to resume their earlier professions and because of this they find it difficult to survive.

4. NCM members examined the homes in several rehabilitation colonies and found evidence of abject poverty. With some exceptions, the houses contained little except for bedding and kitchen utensils. Despite these signs of poverty, the NCM found that many residents did not have ration cards. Even when ration cards were issued, most of the residents were given above the poverty line (APL) ration cards instead of below the poverty line (BPL) ration cards. This makes a big difference because BPL ration card holders are entitled to get food grains, cereals, kerosene and other basic consumer items at subsidised rates. Indeed, in several camps, especially in rural areas, the women without exception had just one major demand: they wanted BPL ration cards to be issued to them.

5. Interaction with members of civil society, NGOs and those affected by the riots threw up several problems. Residents complained about the atmosphere of insecurity in which they had to live. The team received several complaints about the hostile attitude of the police towards the residents of these colonies or their representatives who have taken up their problems with relevant authorities. In addition to the palpable sense of insecurity in which most of the victims continue to live, there were several complaints that compensation given for the extensive losses suffered by riot victims was completely inadequate. The team was told that the state government has restricted compensation in respect of damage to houses to a maximum of Rs 10, 000. Other complaints referred to the absence of suitable rehabilitation facilities since the state government concentrated only on immediate relief. Since the remit of the team was to look into issues of rehabilitation, we concentrated more closely on these.

The state government should prepare a special economic package for those displaced by the violence with a special focus on livelihood issues. For the self-employed, special efforts should be made to provide inputs like easy credit, raw material and marketing assistance

6. During interaction with the state government we raised the question of the sum of Rs 19.10 crore that had been returned by the government of Gujarat to the government of India since it had not been utilised. Government officials explained that there were no further demands under the particular heads under which these grants had been advanced by the Centre. As a result, auditors had pointed out to the ministries concerned in the government of India that the money should be returned if it could not be utilised for the purpose for which it was intended. The NCM team pointed out that if more people were covered under the relevant schemes it would be possible to utilise the entire amount allotted. In the course of our visits to the camps we found several people who are in need of funds under different schemes. If the state government was able to identify such people and extend the benefits of the scheme to them they would be able to utilise the entire money allotted.

7. The team noted with concern that the state was not in the forefront of the move to provide rehabilitation to those who could not return to their homes after the riots. As pointed out elsewhere, the state government has not been involved in constructing houses for the violence affected thus leaving the rehabilitation process to private organisations. If these private organisations were NGOs whose brief was to serve the riot affected that would still be appropriate. But this is not so. Some of the organisations that are active in the field are not purely philanthropic or service oriented. This space that should have been occupied by the state is now being held by bodies which have a definite agenda of their own. The implications that this has for the severity and well-being of civil society as a whole are extremely serious.

8. The NCM team received repeated demands by the victims as well as NGOs for a policy package that would be applicable to all displaced persons. In our view, the time has come to look at this question very seriously. Riots, disturbances or other calamities occur at regular intervals. If, as a result of such occurrences, people are displaced and are unable to return to their usual places of residence, some responsibility for their welfare must devolve on the state.

Main findings

Having visited several camp sites and interacted with members of civil society, victims and activists in the field, and government officials, the NCM came to the following conclusions:

1. The NCM found overwhelming evidence that there continue to be large numbers of internally displaced Muslim families in Gujarat who are living in subhuman conditions in colonies constructed entirely by NGOs.

2. They are not there by choice but because they are unable to return to their original place of habitation.

3. There has been no support from the state to compensate them for their loss of habitual place of residence and normal livelihood or provide basic services and livelihood options to allow them to live with dignity in their present location.

4. There has been no attempt to secure a safe environment or facilitate their return to their homes.

5. Local Muslim organisers who have tried to procure some rights and entitlements for these displaced survivors have found themselves the targets of threat and harassment by the local police.

6. Far from admitting that the inmates were in fact ‘internally displaced persons’, the authorities argued that they have chosen to willingly remain in the camps even after some of their family members had returned to their original habitation where they continued to live and ply their trades in absolute security. The NCM team found such reasoning to be erroneous. It noted that the residents of these colonies fear to return to the places they had fled partly because they have nothing left back home to return to and partly because many of them are eyewitnesses to murders, arson and looting during the communal violence.

Recommendations

The NCM would like to make three sets of recommendations to the state government and central government to improve the lot of residents of the makeshift camps: (1) Basic amenities and livelihood issues; (2) Central government economic package; (3) National policies on rehabilitation of internally displaced due to violence.

1. Basic amenities and livelihood in the rehabilitation colonies

Basic amenities must be provided in the camps of displaced victims. These would cover provision of safe drinking water, street lights, approach roads, etc. This should be done by the state government.

The government of India should agree that for a period of five years or until they continue to live in camps, whichever is earlier, all the inhabitants of such camps should be given BPL ration cards without going through the formalities laid down by the government for the issue of such cards. Similarly, widows should be allowed to claim their pension even if they have not applied within two years or even if they have sons above the age of 18.

The state government should prepare a special economic package for those displaced by the violence with a special focus on livelihood issues. For the self-employed, special efforts should be made to provide inputs like easy credit, raw material and marketing assistance. We strongly believe that this is a vital element in the rehabilitation scenario and that for it to be successfully implemented NGOs should be involved in it.

Wherever possible the state should take advantage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme to cover able-bodied people in these camps and give them employment.

The government of India should return the amount of Rs 19.10 crore given back by the government of Gujarat. The state government should be asked to cover more beneficiaries under the schemes in an attempt to utilise the entire sum.

There should be a monitoring committee, consisting of representatives of the state government and civil society, which will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the schemes described above are properly implemented.

2. A special economic package for rehabilitation of internally displaced Muslim families in Gujarat

There is an urgent need for the central government to design and implement an immediate special economic package for the rehabilitation of internally displaced Muslim families in Gujarat. The package must include a set of inputs that would address the totality of livelihood concerns. In particular, attention must be paid to the availability of credit, raw material and marketing support, where necessary, with the help of NGOs.

3. A national policy on internal displacement due to violence

There is a need to design a national policy on internal displacement due to violence. Populations displaced due to sectarian, ethnic or communal violence should not be left to suffer for years together due to the lack of a policy and a justiciable framework for entitlements.

The preamble of the new Draft National Rehabilitation Policy 2006 (NRP 2006), which incorporates recommendations made by the National Advisory Council, provides a precedent and sensitive understanding of how displacement due to any reason affects people. It describes displacement in the following terms, "…displacement of people, depriving them of their land, livelihood and shelter, restricting their access to traditional resource bases and uprooting them from their socio-cultural environment. These have traumatic psychological and socio-cultural consequences on the displaced population…" However, the NRP 2006 pertains only to planned displacement due to development imperatives. When displacement takes place due to mass violence, entailing loss of life, property, family and loved ones, and a total destruction of the fabric of the socio-economic and cultural community, then the rehabilitation of the internally displaced population calls for a new framework of understanding.

When displacement takes place under conditions of fear and under constant direct threat in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution (guaranteeing the protection of life and personal liberty), the trauma and the conditions under which survivors face the future is considerably worsened. Further, when the threat of violence is perceived to be continuing (as it currently is in the state of Gujarat), in the absence of justice, and in a situation of discrimination and exclusion, the protection of people’s constitutional rights can only be sought through a national policy which clearly lays out a non-negotiable framework of entitlements. Any national policy on internal displacement due to violence must be designed to include provisions for immediate compensation and rehabilitation. A national policy on internal displacement due to violence must further take into account the displaced populations’ aspirations to ‘return to their home’ and make provisions to facilitate the return, if it is possible under conditions of safety and security, and to restore the displaced families to their original conditions of living.

A national policy on internal displacement due to violence must also lay down specified time frames for the implementation of a rehabilitation plan, and include an effective grievances redressal and monitoring mechanism.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2007 Year 13    No.124, Genocide's Aftermath Part II, For The Record 2