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Sabrang
Sabrang

Reward and punishment

01 Jul 2007


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 In early 2005 Sreekumar was superseded for promotion to the post of DGP, Gujarat, a decision that he challenged before the Central Administrative Tribunal.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

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

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Sabrang

Commission and omission

01 Jul 2007
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
 

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
 

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Sabrang

Badge of honour

01 Jul 2007

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

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

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Sabrang

Discriminatory justice

01 Jul 2007
 

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

 

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

 

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Sabrang

Deconstructing Godhra

01 Jul 2007

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

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

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Shadows and silences

01 Jun 2007
It was a deluge of reactions from the Gujarati writers who felt it necessary to defend the Gujarati cultural and social space as tolerant and inclusive, contrary to Devy’s assertion. Both do not surprise, they are rather predictable, for there are two world views at play here. And as in rest of Gujarat, even in her literature, there is no meeting ground for them. And these raise some questions about Gujarati literature and her mainstream litterateurs.

While working on a research project, I had to read history of Gujarati literature. Like any non-Gujarati speaking, Gujarat domicile student, I opted for the standard books, and it was a Sahitya Akademi publication that Mansukhlal Jhaveri authored, History of Gujarati Literature, that was one such. I also checked on similar books, quite a few in Gujarati, for the history of Gujarati journalism. Though the purpose at the time was to deal with my ignorance, two things struck me after a preliminary read on the subject.

First is the singular absence of any Muslim writer in the list of history of Gujarati literature. Similarly, barring a couple of names like that of Haji Mohammed Allarakha Shivji, or now, Amin Qureshi, Yasin Dalal or previously, the Matari brothers, there are very few Muslim names to be found even among prominent Gujarati journalists.

Second, with the exception of more recent times and that too for those with some activist sensibilities, there is a singular absence of tribals, Dalits or Christians making it to the ranks of mainstream Gujarati columnists, senior journalists, writers or poets, This is in no way suggests that there are no significant Dalit, Christian, Muslims or other writers, poets, or even journalists in the state. Neither is this to emphasise their religious or ethnic identity, as a senior writer and poet once pointed out, it being contrary, and perhaps insulting to their creative sensibilities.

But literature does draw inspiration, as well as reflection, from a writer or poet’s background, environment and social realities. This then makes it stranger still because Muslims in the state have Gujarati, not Urdu, as their mother tongue, as do Dalits, tribals and others though dialects might differ. While the absence of literacy amongst tribals and Dalits in the early period of Gujarati journalism and even its literature can explain the lack of their ‘mainstream contribution’, it does not stand as a valid reason for the Muslims in the state, for they have not been "poor" or "backward" traditionally as in other parts of India.

As a lay reader I could interpret my findings in only two ways. Either that Muslims and the rest actually did not participate or make any significant contribution to Gujarati literature. Or their contribution does not fit the parameters or literary/journalistic standards of the time or that of the elite. If the former is true, the present scenario is easier to understand as it only highlights the historic isolation or rather lack of social exchange between the two major communities in the state.

The second scenario is more interesting. While not adept at commenting on literary nuances of Gujarati or for that matter any language, I am basing my comments on the basis of popular contributions made by writers in different languages. And then, this is how I understand the absence or lack of a Kazi Nazrul Islam maybe or even a Vaikom Mohammed Bashir in Gujarat. Even as I write this, I admit that I take no cognisance of the folk literature or forms, the oral traditions, the Persian/Arabic influence, the most notable being that of the constantly evolving Gujarati ghazal form.

The questions therefore: Is it that there has been a conscious/unconscious non-acknowledgement of those who did not come from the social elite – that is the Vaishya/Brahmin/ Bania-Jain or now the Patels – by the dominant Gujarati literary clique? Or why is it that other sections of society have not been able to evolve in terms of popularly accepted literature? How is it that the ghazal format in Gujarati poetry found popularity? Who forms the standards of "acceptable" merit in Gujarati literature and what are they? How inclusive or exclusive are the formal bodies of literature, poetry, and who patronises them in Gujarat?

Why does Gujarati literature, barring few exceptions, not reflect the social realities of the time? Barring very few exceptions, where are the woes of partition, where is the literature that might have been inspired by Chhapaniyo Dukal (the drought of 1956), or even the riotous decades of the seventies and eighties in Ahmedabad and Vadodara? Where is the fiction or poetry that has gripped a common Gujarati as does a Manto, Premchand or even, say, a PL Deshpande? True, as Gujaratis we have our KM Munshi, whose blend and interpretation of history and folk interpretation has never faced the rigour of academic criticism. We have our Saraswati Chandra, we have our Sat Pagla Akash Ma (Seven Steps to the Universe).

But where can one read about undivided Gujarat, and of Karachi, more specifically, Kutch, as you can in Punjabi and Bengali literature? Why are the Gujarati mainstream literary elite so cagey of talking about contemporary times and social realities? Why does the rhyme-metre, the classical tradition drawn from religion and history, matter more than the evolved experimental format? In this context, writer Rajendra Shah’s disdainful reply to questions about his lack of response to the 2002 violence and even the razing of Wali Gujarati’s tomb (who, incidentally, is considered the father of modern Urdu poetry), is understandable. It did shake Mahasweta Devi to a response, but not Gujarati writers.

(Excerpts from Ayesha Khan’s research. The writer is a former journalist with The Indian Express, Vadodara.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 5

Shadows and silences

It was a deluge of reactions from the Gujarati writers who felt it necessary to defend the Gujarati cultural and social space as tolerant and inclusive, contrary to Devy’s assertion. Both do not surprise, they are rather predictable, for there are two world views at play here. And as in rest of Gujarat, even in her literature, there is no meeting ground for them. And these raise some questions about Gujarati literature and her mainstream litterateurs.

While working on a research project, I had to read history of Gujarati literature. Like any non-Gujarati speaking, Gujarat domicile student, I opted for the standard books, and it was a Sahitya Akademi publication that Mansukhlal Jhaveri authored, History of Gujarati Literature, that was one such. I also checked on similar books, quite a few in Gujarati, for the history of Gujarati journalism. Though the purpose at the time was to deal with my ignorance, two things struck me after a preliminary read on the subject.

First is the singular absence of any Muslim writer in the list of history of Gujarati literature. Similarly, barring a couple of names like that of Haji Mohammed Allarakha Shivji, or now, Amin Qureshi, Yasin Dalal or previously, the Matari brothers, there are very few Muslim names to be found even among prominent Gujarati journalists.

Second, with the exception of more recent times and that too for those with some activist sensibilities, there is a singular absence of tribals, Dalits or Christians making it to the ranks of mainstream Gujarati columnists, senior journalists, writers or poets, This is in no way suggests that there are no significant Dalit, Christian, Muslims or other writers, poets, or even journalists in the state. Neither is this to emphasise their religious or ethnic identity, as a senior writer and poet once pointed out, it being contrary, and perhaps insulting to their creative sensibilities.

But literature does draw inspiration, as well as reflection, from a writer or poet’s background, environment and social realities. This then makes it stranger still because Muslims in the state have Gujarati, not Urdu, as their mother tongue, as do Dalits, tribals and others though dialects might differ. While the absence of literacy amongst tribals and Dalits in the early period of Gujarati journalism and even its literature can explain the lack of their ‘mainstream contribution’, it does not stand as a valid reason for the Muslims in the state, for they have not been "poor" or "backward" traditionally as in other parts of India.

As a lay reader I could interpret my findings in only two ways. Either that Muslims and the rest actually did not participate or make any significant contribution to Gujarati literature. Or their contribution does not fit the parameters or literary/journalistic standards of the time or that of the elite. If the former is true, the present scenario is easier to understand as it only highlights the historic isolation or rather lack of social exchange between the two major communities in the state.

The second scenario is more interesting. While not adept at commenting on literary nuances of Gujarati or for that matter any language, I am basing my comments on the basis of popular contributions made by writers in different languages. And then, this is how I understand the absence or lack of a Kazi Nazrul Islam maybe or even a Vaikom Mohammed Bashir in Gujarat. Even as I write this, I admit that I take no cognisance of the folk literature or forms, the oral traditions, the Persian/Arabic influence, the most notable being that of the constantly evolving Gujarati ghazal form.

The questions therefore: Is it that there has been a conscious/unconscious non-acknowledgement of those who did not come from the social elite – that is the Vaishya/Brahmin/ Bania-Jain or now the Patels – by the dominant Gujarati literary clique? Or why is it that other sections of society have not been able to evolve in terms of popularly accepted literature? How is it that the ghazal format in Gujarati poetry found popularity? Who forms the standards of "acceptable" merit in Gujarati literature and what are they? How inclusive or exclusive are the formal bodies of literature, poetry, and who patronises them in Gujarat?

Why does Gujarati literature, barring few exceptions, not reflect the social realities of the time? Barring very few exceptions, where are the woes of partition, where is the literature that might have been inspired by Chhapaniyo Dukal (the drought of 1956), or even the riotous decades of the seventies and eighties in Ahmedabad and Vadodara? Where is the fiction or poetry that has gripped a common Gujarati as does a Manto, Premchand or even, say, a PL Deshpande? True, as Gujaratis we have our KM Munshi, whose blend and interpretation of history and folk interpretation has never faced the rigour of academic criticism. We have our Saraswati Chandra, we have our Sat Pagla Akash Ma (Seven Steps to the Universe).

But where can one read about undivided Gujarat, and of Karachi, more specifically, Kutch, as you can in Punjabi and Bengali literature? Why are the Gujarati mainstream literary elite so cagey of talking about contemporary times and social realities? Why does the rhyme-metre, the classical tradition drawn from religion and history, matter more than the evolved experimental format? In this context, writer Rajendra Shah’s disdainful reply to questions about his lack of response to the 2002 violence and even the razing of Wali Gujarati’s tomb (who, incidentally, is considered the father of modern Urdu poetry), is understandable. It did shake Mahasweta Devi to a response, but not Gujarati writers.

(Excerpts from Ayesha Khan’s research. The writer is a former journalist with The Indian Express, Vadodara.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 5

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Hating Muslims is a natural thing in Gujarat

01 Jun 2007

 
Gujarat has become an intolerable place; at least that is how I find it. Today, there are very few people I can talk to in Gujarat because they simply do not understand basic things or don’t want to, I can make myself a very comfortable citizen of Vadodara. But the problem is, I cannot talk to the people of this city; it is like walking in the desert; I find the popular myth of Gujaratis being peace-loving people impossible to believe. How could all the riots, so many of them since 1969, have happened if this were true? I have thought about this deeply and my sense is that violence is an attribute of their acquisitive nature, Gujaratis are extremely acquisitive people. They will do anything to acquire. The most decent people here, people I would otherwise respect, would do anything to get a visa to the United States, even resort to cheating and dishonesty. They are hungry to acquire. Even Gujarati devotion is about acquiring. They have an exchange relationship with God – I give you devotion, you give me riches.

The Muslim hatred practised here is not conscious or learnt. It is just somehow normal, as nature would have meant it to be. There is no bitterness of partition here, as is the case with Punjab. There is only the deep, almost genetic, knowledge of Somnath and the invasions and an accumulation of prejudices. Then there is a huge void in their memory until Gandhi arrives.

I often wonder how it must feel to be a Muslim in Gujarat. I shudder to think what it must require to live at the wrong end of so much hatred, contempt and threat. Do they have a strategy of reaction?
Is something in the process of evolving?


Gandhi, I have to say, is not a popular man in Gujarat; they merely pay him lip service. You do not become a bad man in Gujarat if you hate Muslims, you are normal. Decent people hate Muslims. And it is not a city phenomenon alone; this is true of villages as well. If a Muslim is traumatised, it is a normal thing. Just to give a sense of how Gujarati Hindus relate to Muslims, I will come to the Narmada issue. Gujarat is extremely pro-dam and, therefore, extremely anti-Medha Patkar. Gujaratis will call all pro-Medha people Muslims. Intolerance in Gujarat is unanimous. If Muslims are hated, entire Gujarat will hate them. If Medha is seen as an ‘enemy’, all of Gujarat will look at her as an enemy. In that sense, Gujarat has treated Medha as much as an ‘enemy’ or a ‘fundamentalist’ as Muslims are treated. The minds have got locked here. The culture of disagreement and dissent is pervasively shunned. This is so even when Gujarat is not a feudal state in terms of its economic make-up.

Some years ago, Habib Tanvir wanted to come and stay and work in Vadodara. He did not find a house for six months. Eventually, he went back. Some of us tried to find him a place to stay but nobody was willing (to give him accommodation). My own landlord at the time, a perfectly decent man otherwise, refused. Rauf Valiullah, an honest and purposeful Congress MP (member of parliament) was killed by gangsters in the centre of Ahmedabad a few years ago. Not even the Congress party made a noise about it. I think because Rauf was a Muslim. There was no sense of loss or outrage when Ahsan Jaffri was killed. There is no political or ideological divide in Gujarat on the Muslim question; even the Congress hates Muslims.

I have a young Muslim associate who has been pursuing postgraduate studies. After the 2002 violence, I suddenly noticed that he was having a problem trying to form his sentences while speaking. He used to write clearly but I saw that his writing too was breaking up. In fact, he wasn’t able to write. This was a typical case of aphasia, which is a condition of loss of speech and articulation caused by external trauma. Gujarat is probably the only state that has a sizeable Muslim population but no Urdu paper. I wonder if there is something to it, a state of collective aphasia. I often wonder how it must feel to be a Muslim in Gujarat. I shudder to think what it must require to live at the wrong end of so much hatred, contempt and threat. Do they have a strategy of reaction? Is something in the process of evolving? I do not know. n

— Tehelka News, Vol.3 May 20, 2006

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007  Year 13  No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 4

Hating Muslims is a natural thing in Gujarat


 
Gujarat has become an intolerable place; at least that is how I find it. Today, there are very few people I can talk to in Gujarat because they simply do not understand basic things or don’t want to, I can make myself a very comfortable citizen of Vadodara. But the problem is, I cannot talk to the people of this city; it is like walking in the desert; I find the popular myth of Gujaratis being peace-loving people impossible to believe. How could all the riots, so many of them since 1969, have happened if this were true? I have thought about this deeply and my sense is that violence is an attribute of their acquisitive nature, Gujaratis are extremely acquisitive people. They will do anything to acquire. The most decent people here, people I would otherwise respect, would do anything to get a visa to the United States, even resort to cheating and dishonesty. They are hungry to acquire. Even Gujarati devotion is about acquiring. They have an exchange relationship with God – I give you devotion, you give me riches.

The Muslim hatred practised here is not conscious or learnt. It is just somehow normal, as nature would have meant it to be. There is no bitterness of partition here, as is the case with Punjab. There is only the deep, almost genetic, knowledge of Somnath and the invasions and an accumulation of prejudices. Then there is a huge void in their memory until Gandhi arrives.

I often wonder how it must feel to be a Muslim in Gujarat. I shudder to think what it must require to live at the wrong end of so much hatred, contempt and threat. Do they have a strategy of reaction?
Is something in the process of evolving?


Gandhi, I have to say, is not a popular man in Gujarat; they merely pay him lip service. You do not become a bad man in Gujarat if you hate Muslims, you are normal. Decent people hate Muslims. And it is not a city phenomenon alone; this is true of villages as well. If a Muslim is traumatised, it is a normal thing. Just to give a sense of how Gujarati Hindus relate to Muslims, I will come to the Narmada issue. Gujarat is extremely pro-dam and, therefore, extremely anti-Medha Patkar. Gujaratis will call all pro-Medha people Muslims. Intolerance in Gujarat is unanimous. If Muslims are hated, entire Gujarat will hate them. If Medha is seen as an ‘enemy’, all of Gujarat will look at her as an enemy. In that sense, Gujarat has treated Medha as much as an ‘enemy’ or a ‘fundamentalist’ as Muslims are treated. The minds have got locked here. The culture of disagreement and dissent is pervasively shunned. This is so even when Gujarat is not a feudal state in terms of its economic make-up.

Some years ago, Habib Tanvir wanted to come and stay and work in Vadodara. He did not find a house for six months. Eventually, he went back. Some of us tried to find him a place to stay but nobody was willing (to give him accommodation). My own landlord at the time, a perfectly decent man otherwise, refused. Rauf Valiullah, an honest and purposeful Congress MP (member of parliament) was killed by gangsters in the centre of Ahmedabad a few years ago. Not even the Congress party made a noise about it. I think because Rauf was a Muslim. There was no sense of loss or outrage when Ahsan Jaffri was killed. There is no political or ideological divide in Gujarat on the Muslim question; even the Congress hates Muslims.

I have a young Muslim associate who has been pursuing postgraduate studies. After the 2002 violence, I suddenly noticed that he was having a problem trying to form his sentences while speaking. He used to write clearly but I saw that his writing too was breaking up. In fact, he wasn’t able to write. This was a typical case of aphasia, which is a condition of loss of speech and articulation caused by external trauma. Gujarat is probably the only state that has a sizeable Muslim population but no Urdu paper. I wonder if there is something to it, a state of collective aphasia. I often wonder how it must feel to be a Muslim in Gujarat. I shudder to think what it must require to live at the wrong end of so much hatred, contempt and threat. Do they have a strategy of reaction? Is something in the process of evolving? I do not know. n

— Tehelka News, Vol.3 May 20, 2006

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007  Year 13  No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 4

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Sabrang

Cultural fascism

01 Jun 2007
On May 1 and 2, 2006 the illegal attack on a dargah in Vadodara city by well known rowdies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal (BD) created communal tension. The torching alive of young Rafik Vohra on the second day showed us that hate that is still simmering thanks to some political outfits in Gujarat. The timely intervention by the union home ministry after Rafik Vohra had been attacked helped contain the situation.

But as the controversy detailed below shows, deep-rooted intolerance has now become legitimate in Modi’s vibrant Gujarat. On May 20, 2006, Dr Ganesh Devy expressed his views in Tehelka on the prevalent atmosphere in the state. His words created a literary storm with Gujarati writers of repute hurling personal abuse and even venom. In his article, tracing the source of the growing violence in Gujarat, Ganesh Devy told Tehelka that there was a relationship between a society’s acquisitive tendency and the emergence of violence. He also talked about the role of the ‘decent’ people in breeding hatred.

Dr Devy founded the Bhasha Tribal Academy in Tejgadh, 92 km from Vadodara. He was instrumental in publishing Dhol, a magazine brought out simultaneously in ten tribal languages. Through his writing, he explains to non-tribals why we should get rid of our obsession with the mission of bringing tribals into the mainstream.

Ironically, though Tehelka is not read widely in Gujarat, alert eyes were quick to remedy this. Photocopies of the piece were circulated and nearly everybody who is anybody in Gujarati literature reacted angrily to Devy’s comments. Articles that appeared in newspapers and writers made statements demanding that Devy tender a public apology. Angry and vicious views expressed by litterateurs Shirish Panchal, Ranjana Argade and Sitanshu Yashashchandra confirmed what Devy had been brave enough to say.

An imminent meet of the Gujarat Sahitya Academy was scheduled to be held at the Tejgadh institute. Following the outbreak of intolerance, Dr Devy was threatened; apologise or the venue would be shifted. Finally, the meeting was held at Mandvi in Kutch. Author and activist Mahasweta Devi declined to attend the meet at the new venue. Devy wanted to avoid any campaign in his solidarity. He, like many others, leads a precarious life in Gujarat.

June 2002: At a meeting at the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad in Ahmedabad in June 2002, ostensibly to discuss the aftermath of the genocide, speaker after speaker sang praises of the tolerance religion preaches but none wanted to support a proposal for the restoration of Sufi poet, Wali Dakhani or Wali Gujarati’s tomb, flattened in the dark hours of the night on March 1, 2002 by bulldozers of the Congress-dominated Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Suddenly, rationalist writers began claiming that the tomb was an encroachment and angry voices asked those who had made the proposal whether they were concerned about earthquake victims or only the delay of relief to Muslims. The faces of the very people who had been singing paeans to tolerance were now distorted by hatred.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 3

Cultural fascism

On May 1 and 2, 2006 the illegal attack on a dargah in Vadodara city by well known rowdies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal (BD) created communal tension. The torching alive of young Rafik Vohra on the second day showed us that hate that is still simmering thanks to some political outfits in Gujarat. The timely intervention by the union home ministry after Rafik Vohra had been attacked helped contain the situation.

But as the controversy detailed below shows, deep-rooted intolerance has now become legitimate in Modi’s vibrant Gujarat. On May 20, 2006, Dr Ganesh Devy expressed his views in Tehelka on the prevalent atmosphere in the state. His words created a literary storm with Gujarati writers of repute hurling personal abuse and even venom. In his article, tracing the source of the growing violence in Gujarat, Ganesh Devy told Tehelka that there was a relationship between a society’s acquisitive tendency and the emergence of violence. He also talked about the role of the ‘decent’ people in breeding hatred.

Dr Devy founded the Bhasha Tribal Academy in Tejgadh, 92 km from Vadodara. He was instrumental in publishing Dhol, a magazine brought out simultaneously in ten tribal languages. Through his writing, he explains to non-tribals why we should get rid of our obsession with the mission of bringing tribals into the mainstream.

Ironically, though Tehelka is not read widely in Gujarat, alert eyes were quick to remedy this. Photocopies of the piece were circulated and nearly everybody who is anybody in Gujarati literature reacted angrily to Devy’s comments. Articles that appeared in newspapers and writers made statements demanding that Devy tender a public apology. Angry and vicious views expressed by litterateurs Shirish Panchal, Ranjana Argade and Sitanshu Yashashchandra confirmed what Devy had been brave enough to say.

An imminent meet of the Gujarat Sahitya Academy was scheduled to be held at the Tejgadh institute. Following the outbreak of intolerance, Dr Devy was threatened; apologise or the venue would be shifted. Finally, the meeting was held at Mandvi in Kutch. Author and activist Mahasweta Devi declined to attend the meet at the new venue. Devy wanted to avoid any campaign in his solidarity. He, like many others, leads a precarious life in Gujarat.

June 2002: At a meeting at the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad in Ahmedabad in June 2002, ostensibly to discuss the aftermath of the genocide, speaker after speaker sang praises of the tolerance religion preaches but none wanted to support a proposal for the restoration of Sufi poet, Wali Dakhani or Wali Gujarati’s tomb, flattened in the dark hours of the night on March 1, 2002 by bulldozers of the Congress-dominated Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Suddenly, rationalist writers began claiming that the tomb was an encroachment and angry voices asked those who had made the proposal whether they were concerned about earthquake victims or only the delay of relief to Muslims. The faces of the very people who had been singing paeans to tolerance were now distorted by hatred.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 3

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Pockets of resistance

01 Jun 2007
The Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) in Vadodara, Gujarat, is amongst the top universities in the country with a global reputation. MSU’s Fine Arts College is reputed nationally and internationally for upholding the highest standards of creative and critical practice. It is also reputed for its commitment to the freedom of expression. Last month, however, this prestigious institute hit the headlines as one more target of police-supported Hindutva hooligans in Modi state where the rule of law is an alien concept.

On May 9, 2007 the saffron brigade, led by an advocate, Niraj Jain, stormed the university premises. The cause of their misplaced rage was a painting by Chandra Mohan, a student from the graphics department of the fine arts college in Vadodara, which was part of a collection of students’ paintings displayed for assessment by examiners for a master’s degree in fine arts. Mohan’s painting, depicting nude figures with some religious motifs, allegedly hurt "Hindu religious sentiments". This was enough for the self-appointed moral police to barge into the campus, disrupt the annual examinations in progress and beat Mohan up.

What is even more shocking is the role of the police. Instead of taking action against the lawbreakers, the police promptly arrested the unfortunate student and charged him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (section 153 – Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc, section 114 – Abettor present when offence is committed, section 295 A – Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs). They opposed his being given bail and had him locked up in Vadodara’s Central Jail for five days. As if that was not enough, the vice chancellor (VC) of MSU, Dr Manoj Soni, was party to the ugly episode. Instead of upholding the dignity of his university, speaking up for Chandra Mohan and demanding police action against Niraj Jain and his hoodlums, Soni chose to suspend the dean of the fine arts faculty, Prof Shivaji Panikkar.

Freedom of the arts and literature are vital in any democracy. There may be divergent views on this sensitive issue. Accredited artists of high calibre, refinement and culture are those fit to comment on works of art. What constitutes beauty and what is obscenity cannot be decided by a self-constituted moral brigade. The way the exhibition was displayed by students of the fine arts faculty establishes that it was clearly meant for academic evaluation in the annual examination.

The exhibition was ransacked by the saffron brigade with the help of the police armed with a magistrate’s order. Such an action within the precincts of an academic institution of high repute, under the nose of the VC and the university’s administrative authority, is unthinkable. Right-thinking persons across the country have been appalled by this fascist act and have come out openly in solidarity with the protesting students and faculty of the MSU. Within Gujarat and, in particular, amongst teachers and students of MSU, the latest incident is being seen as part of a concerted attempt by the sangh parivar to subvert the autonomy of institutes of higher learning and to bring them under saffron sway.

The process, started when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed power in the state some 10 years ago, only accelerated after the 2002 carnage. Though a similar communalisation of the campus has been under way in other universities in Gujarat, a vibrant struggle has emerged within the MSU to challenge it. Against all odds, both teachers and students at MSU are resisting the nefarious plan to destroy their powers of resistance and to trample on the autonomy of MSU and thus pave the way for absolute control of the university by the Hindutva brigade.

In a way, this phenomenon is part of the two-decade old effort by different political parties across the country to undermine the autonomy of universities following the National Policy of Education, 1986 coupled with directives of GATT and the WTO. Be it the Congress party in states where they are in power, or the CPI (M)-led Left government in West Bengal and Kerala, most political parties, ‘national’ or ‘regional’, are uncomfortable with genuine autonomy for universities.

Far from being the exception, the previous National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre and the Modi-led BJP government in Gujarat have aggressively intensified the process. They have not only appointed puppets as vice chancellors but taken the exercise many steps further by actively choosing those committed to the sangh parivar’s hate politics for these critical and prestigious posts.

The result of such blatant attempts at academic control by politicians and political parties has resulted in syllabi being redesigned with a view to shun the rational and scientific outlook and doctor young minds. In a nutshell, the democratisation of education has been severely arrested.

The unchallenged practice by all political parties to control institutions has made the BJP’s job even easier. Whenever it comes to power the BJP uses these unhealthy precedents, albeit more aggressively. Wherever it is in control of state governments, the sangh parivar, in its bid to universalise Hindutva ideology, is going for all out saffronisation even as it destroys the very fabric of democratic, secular and scientific education.

 

Pre-planned vandalism of May 2007

The marauders chose examination time for their assault on the Fine Arts College with the objective of rousing communal passions in Vadodara. The faculty was targeted because its students and teachers had dared to stand up to the puppet vice chancellor, Manoj Soni. The backdrop to the incident was the earlier uncalled for thrashing of a student from the arts faculty by a security guard at the instance of a hostel warden. Strong protests from students of the faculty, backed by their dean, Prof Shivaji Panikkar, left the atmosphere within MSU smouldering. Clearly the VC is out to teach this independent faculty a lesson.

 

Systematic saffronisation

Following the 2002 carnage, the MSU was brought totally under the control of the BJP and its mentor group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In 2003 the University Syndicate, the highest decision-making body which formulates rules and regulations in the university, was completely in the grip of the sangh parivar. For the first time in the history of MSU, there was no voice of dissent at any of the syndicate meetings. Many non-academics and persons of low calibre were made senate members by the Gujarat government. The academic year 2003-04 sounded the death knell for MSU as various anti-student, anti-education measures were taken by university authorities.

Only those with unflinching loyalty to sangh ideology could climb the ladder of academic success. After the 2002 carnage, most of the VCs appointed to various universities in Gujarat owed their allegiance to the ruling party. The current VC, Dr Soni was rewarded with this post for praising Modi and eulogising the carnage. The university magazine of the arts faculty was not allowed to publish a resolution condemning the communal carnage. Nor was there was any official condemnation on the murderous attack on Prof Jussar Bandukwala, a senior faculty member of the MSU, during the 2002 violence.

The atmosphere of free debate, discussion and democratic dissent has been vitiated by the saffron brigade for some time now. In 2003, activists of the BJP’s youth wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), destroyed placards against the US invasion of Iraq put up by the all-India Democratic Students’ Organisation (DSO). In September 2002, RSS syndicate members and ABVP activists stalled a seminar sponsored by the University Grants Commission and organised by the department of history, where Islamic scholar, Asghar Ali Engineer, was scheduled to be the main speaker.

In 2003, DSO was denied permission to organise a cultural festival in the fine arts faculty hall even though non-university related organisations, including religious bodies, are regularly permitted to hold their functions there. The DSO was being thwarted because it had led two successful student agitations resulting in the emergence of a genuine students’ movement in MSU.

The ‘hostel movement’ in 2004 was a big blow to saffron forces. In June 2004, when students were leaving after exams were over, the University Syndicate arbitrarily decided to close down two boys’ hostels: Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) Hall and Manubhai Mehta (MM) Hall. It also introduced some major changes in the hostel administration, including the centralisation of power in the hands of the chief warden. Being a residential university, MSU has 12 boys’ hostels and four girls’ hostels. These hostels can accommodate only 3,500 students, which is inadequate for the existing strength of students.

DSO launched a movement against the closure of the hostels. The authorities had to give in to students’ demands after students’ gheraoed the VC for about eight hours on August 15, 2004. This was the first time in years that the BJP/RSS syndicate was compelled to bend before a democratic movement.

Intrusion of intolerance

This meeting of the executive council of Jadavpur University notes with deep concern and shock the recent events at the MS University of Baroda which included the arrest of a student without any FIR or warrant, disruption of regular academic activities by police and hooligans, the suspension of the dean of the faculty of fine arts by the vice chancellor.

This meeting strongly condemns the intrusion of intolerance in one of the most important institutes of the teaching of the arts in India, in the name of protecting some misguided notion of tradition. We record our support of the courageous stand of the dean of the faculty of fine arts, Professor Shivaji Panikkar.

We condemn this and other similar events, which have tried to vitiate the traditions of plurality, enquiry and experimentation on academic campuses in India. We urge all academics, students, artists and intellectuals to take an active role in ensuring that certain fundamentalist individuals and groups
do not succeed in their efforts to stifle values enshrined in democratic, artistic, academic and constitutional systems.

— Text of a resolution adopted by the executive council of Jadavpur University at a meeting held on May 16, 2007

Condemn repression

The closure of the exhibition of students’ paintings in the fine arts department of MS University, Baroda, by so-called activists and the university authorities is highly condemnable. A university is the promoter and torch bearer of freedom of thought and expression. The vice chancellor of the university has committed dereliction of his primary duty. India, all through the ages, has been nurturing divergence of ideas, faith and actions. The actions of these so-called Hindu activists are truly un-Indian. I express my solidarity and support to the group which is spearheading the protest. Let us keep on protesting till the authorities rescind their heinous actions.

— MS Thimmappa, Former vice chancellor, Bangalore University

www.fineartsfaculty.blogspot.com

 

MSU under Soni

MSU’s current VC, Manoj Soni, is a former student of the university. Previously a reader in the political science department of Sardar Patel University, Anand, he took over as VC of MSU on April 17, 2005. What surprised many was the appointment of such an inexperienced person to manage such a prestigious institution. Ironically, he would have been content with the post of reader in the political science department at MSU.

Soni’s proximity to Modi was one of the factors responsible in catapulting him to the top post. He is understood to be the brain behind the draft of the Common University Act, an enactment intended to destroy the autonomy of universities. He is the youngest VC that MSU has had. While the BJP/RSS lobby loves him, those who oppose the Common University Act see him as a man specially brought in by the Modi government to prepare the ground for the implementation of the Common University Act.

After taking over as VC in April 2005, Soni briefly tried to cultivate the image of a popular student-friendly VC. But the pretence did not last long. Barely three months later, he sat on hunger strike in the company of BJP/RSS leaders opposing a students’ agitation. What came as a shock to many in the MSU was the brutal use of force against agitating students on July 18, 2005 in the VC’s presence. Instead of intervening, Dr Soni said, "They were shouting for justice, and justice has been given to them."

The Common University Act (CUA) was a draconian move by the state government to bring all universities in the state under tighter political and bureaucratic government control. A successful agitation launched jointly by teachers and students prevented the Act’s implementation. However, Soni is already imposing provisions of the CUA indirectly – by victimising students, punishing members of the teaching faculty and interfering in the day-to-day academic affairs of various faculties. He is trampling on academic freedom and the autonomy of the university, blatantly trying to let university affairs be run from Gandhinagar. This was evident during the recent incident at the fine arts faculty of MSU and especially given the antecedents of many who stormed its gates.

The student community has played an important role in various movements to safeguard university autonomy and oppose the anti-education polices of university authorities and the state government. To gag this rising students’ voice, MSU authorities banned the students’ election in 2005-06. A Students’ Action Committee then launched a movement against this step. Elections were held a year later, in 2006, in an extremely tense and repressive atmosphere.

That year, the VC’s anti-student attitude was once again on display, this time during the agitation for admissions to the master of arts’ history course when some female students lay down in protest outside the VC’s office. Instead of hearing their pleas, Soni simply walked over the agitating students! Ultimately, the protest movement succeeded but the VC’s arrogance shocked all right-thinking persons in Vadodara.

As with students, so with the teaching staff. University teachers are routinely tempted by the lure of postings, promotions and positions if they toe the saffron line. Hostel wardens are also selected on the basis of their pro-RSS leanings. RSS shakhas (branch meetings) are freely allowed on the university campus.

A woman teacher in the home science faculty was denied a promotion because of the growing communalism in MSU’s administration. She has since filed a case in the Gujarat High court stating that because she, a Hindu, is married to a Muslim, she was made a victim of communal bias. Prof Bharat Mehta, a reader in the department of Gujarati literature, has also been denied promotion because of his secular credentials. Mehta has screened films on the Gujarat carnage and been active in debunking saffron propaganda about the Godhra incident and the post-Godhra genocide.

Today the autonomy of MSU is in grave danger. The VC, Soni, is out to saffronise it. The saffron brigade wants to generate a controversy around Chandra Mohan’s paintings and never mind the question of artistic freedom. "Hurting religious sentiments" is but a clever ploy used to divert attention from their true object: the issue of autonomy. Arousing people’s religious passions would of course fulfil a dual purpose and reap rich political dividends before assembly elections in the state.

Hence all efforts need to be concentrated on supporting the struggle by students and teachers to ensure the autonomy of MSU. The saffron brigade and the ABVP are out to confuse and divide the university’s students. While Congress (I)’s student wing, the National Students Union of India, is also playing a short-sighted and divisive role.
 

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 1

 

 

Pockets of resistance

The Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU) in Vadodara, Gujarat, is amongst the top universities in the country with a global reputation. MSU’s Fine Arts College is reputed nationally and internationally for upholding the highest standards of creative and critical practice. It is also reputed for its commitment to the freedom of expression. Last month, however, this prestigious institute hit the headlines as one more target of police-supported Hindutva hooligans in Modi state where the rule of law is an alien concept.

On May 9, 2007 the saffron brigade, led by an advocate, Niraj Jain, stormed the university premises. The cause of their misplaced rage was a painting by Chandra Mohan, a student from the graphics department of the fine arts college in Vadodara, which was part of a collection of students’ paintings displayed for assessment by examiners for a master’s degree in fine arts. Mohan’s painting, depicting nude figures with some religious motifs, allegedly hurt "Hindu religious sentiments". This was enough for the self-appointed moral police to barge into the campus, disrupt the annual examinations in progress and beat Mohan up.

What is even more shocking is the role of the police. Instead of taking action against the lawbreakers, the police promptly arrested the unfortunate student and charged him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (section 153 – Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc, section 114 – Abettor present when offence is committed, section 295 A – Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs). They opposed his being given bail and had him locked up in Vadodara’s Central Jail for five days. As if that was not enough, the vice chancellor (VC) of MSU, Dr Manoj Soni, was party to the ugly episode. Instead of upholding the dignity of his university, speaking up for Chandra Mohan and demanding police action against Niraj Jain and his hoodlums, Soni chose to suspend the dean of the fine arts faculty, Prof Shivaji Panikkar.

Freedom of the arts and literature are vital in any democracy. There may be divergent views on this sensitive issue. Accredited artists of high calibre, refinement and culture are those fit to comment on works of art. What constitutes beauty and what is obscenity cannot be decided by a self-constituted moral brigade. The way the exhibition was displayed by students of the fine arts faculty establishes that it was clearly meant for academic evaluation in the annual examination.

The exhibition was ransacked by the saffron brigade with the help of the police armed with a magistrate’s order. Such an action within the precincts of an academic institution of high repute, under the nose of the VC and the university’s administrative authority, is unthinkable. Right-thinking persons across the country have been appalled by this fascist act and have come out openly in solidarity with the protesting students and faculty of the MSU. Within Gujarat and, in particular, amongst teachers and students of MSU, the latest incident is being seen as part of a concerted attempt by the sangh parivar to subvert the autonomy of institutes of higher learning and to bring them under saffron sway.

The process, started when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) assumed power in the state some 10 years ago, only accelerated after the 2002 carnage. Though a similar communalisation of the campus has been under way in other universities in Gujarat, a vibrant struggle has emerged within the MSU to challenge it. Against all odds, both teachers and students at MSU are resisting the nefarious plan to destroy their powers of resistance and to trample on the autonomy of MSU and thus pave the way for absolute control of the university by the Hindutva brigade.

In a way, this phenomenon is part of the two-decade old effort by different political parties across the country to undermine the autonomy of universities following the National Policy of Education, 1986 coupled with directives of GATT and the WTO. Be it the Congress party in states where they are in power, or the CPI (M)-led Left government in West Bengal and Kerala, most political parties, ‘national’ or ‘regional’, are uncomfortable with genuine autonomy for universities.

Far from being the exception, the previous National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre and the Modi-led BJP government in Gujarat have aggressively intensified the process. They have not only appointed puppets as vice chancellors but taken the exercise many steps further by actively choosing those committed to the sangh parivar’s hate politics for these critical and prestigious posts.

The result of such blatant attempts at academic control by politicians and political parties has resulted in syllabi being redesigned with a view to shun the rational and scientific outlook and doctor young minds. In a nutshell, the democratisation of education has been severely arrested.

The unchallenged practice by all political parties to control institutions has made the BJP’s job even easier. Whenever it comes to power the BJP uses these unhealthy precedents, albeit more aggressively. Wherever it is in control of state governments, the sangh parivar, in its bid to universalise Hindutva ideology, is going for all out saffronisation even as it destroys the very fabric of democratic, secular and scientific education.

 

Pre-planned vandalism of May 2007

The marauders chose examination time for their assault on the Fine Arts College with the objective of rousing communal passions in Vadodara. The faculty was targeted because its students and teachers had dared to stand up to the puppet vice chancellor, Manoj Soni. The backdrop to the incident was the earlier uncalled for thrashing of a student from the arts faculty by a security guard at the instance of a hostel warden. Strong protests from students of the faculty, backed by their dean, Prof Shivaji Panikkar, left the atmosphere within MSU smouldering. Clearly the VC is out to teach this independent faculty a lesson.

 

Systematic saffronisation

Following the 2002 carnage, the MSU was brought totally under the control of the BJP and its mentor group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In 2003 the University Syndicate, the highest decision-making body which formulates rules and regulations in the university, was completely in the grip of the sangh parivar. For the first time in the history of MSU, there was no voice of dissent at any of the syndicate meetings. Many non-academics and persons of low calibre were made senate members by the Gujarat government. The academic year 2003-04 sounded the death knell for MSU as various anti-student, anti-education measures were taken by university authorities.

Only those with unflinching loyalty to sangh ideology could climb the ladder of academic success. After the 2002 carnage, most of the VCs appointed to various universities in Gujarat owed their allegiance to the ruling party. The current VC, Dr Soni was rewarded with this post for praising Modi and eulogising the carnage. The university magazine of the arts faculty was not allowed to publish a resolution condemning the communal carnage. Nor was there was any official condemnation on the murderous attack on Prof Jussar Bandukwala, a senior faculty member of the MSU, during the 2002 violence.

The atmosphere of free debate, discussion and democratic dissent has been vitiated by the saffron brigade for some time now. In 2003, activists of the BJP’s youth wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), destroyed placards against the US invasion of Iraq put up by the all-India Democratic Students’ Organisation (DSO). In September 2002, RSS syndicate members and ABVP activists stalled a seminar sponsored by the University Grants Commission and organised by the department of history, where Islamic scholar, Asghar Ali Engineer, was scheduled to be the main speaker.

In 2003, DSO was denied permission to organise a cultural festival in the fine arts faculty hall even though non-university related organisations, including religious bodies, are regularly permitted to hold their functions there. The DSO was being thwarted because it had led two successful student agitations resulting in the emergence of a genuine students’ movement in MSU.

The ‘hostel movement’ in 2004 was a big blow to saffron forces. In June 2004, when students were leaving after exams were over, the University Syndicate arbitrarily decided to close down two boys’ hostels: Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) Hall and Manubhai Mehta (MM) Hall. It also introduced some major changes in the hostel administration, including the centralisation of power in the hands of the chief warden. Being a residential university, MSU has 12 boys’ hostels and four girls’ hostels. These hostels can accommodate only 3,500 students, which is inadequate for the existing strength of students.

DSO launched a movement against the closure of the hostels. The authorities had to give in to students’ demands after students’ gheraoed the VC for about eight hours on August 15, 2004. This was the first time in years that the BJP/RSS syndicate was compelled to bend before a democratic movement.

Intrusion of intolerance

This meeting of the executive council of Jadavpur University notes with deep concern and shock the recent events at the MS University of Baroda which included the arrest of a student without any FIR or warrant, disruption of regular academic activities by police and hooligans, the suspension of the dean of the faculty of fine arts by the vice chancellor.

This meeting strongly condemns the intrusion of intolerance in one of the most important institutes of the teaching of the arts in India, in the name of protecting some misguided notion of tradition. We record our support of the courageous stand of the dean of the faculty of fine arts, Professor Shivaji Panikkar.

We condemn this and other similar events, which have tried to vitiate the traditions of plurality, enquiry and experimentation on academic campuses in India. We urge all academics, students, artists and intellectuals to take an active role in ensuring that certain fundamentalist individuals and groups
do not succeed in their efforts to stifle values enshrined in democratic, artistic, academic and constitutional systems.

— Text of a resolution adopted by the executive council of Jadavpur University at a meeting held on May 16, 2007

Condemn repression

The closure of the exhibition of students’ paintings in the fine arts department of MS University, Baroda, by so-called activists and the university authorities is highly condemnable. A university is the promoter and torch bearer of freedom of thought and expression. The vice chancellor of the university has committed dereliction of his primary duty. India, all through the ages, has been nurturing divergence of ideas, faith and actions. The actions of these so-called Hindu activists are truly un-Indian. I express my solidarity and support to the group which is spearheading the protest. Let us keep on protesting till the authorities rescind their heinous actions.

— MS Thimmappa, Former vice chancellor, Bangalore University

www.fineartsfaculty.blogspot.com

 

MSU under Soni

MSU’s current VC, Manoj Soni, is a former student of the university. Previously a reader in the political science department of Sardar Patel University, Anand, he took over as VC of MSU on April 17, 2005. What surprised many was the appointment of such an inexperienced person to manage such a prestigious institution. Ironically, he would have been content with the post of reader in the political science department at MSU.

Soni’s proximity to Modi was one of the factors responsible in catapulting him to the top post. He is understood to be the brain behind the draft of the Common University Act, an enactment intended to destroy the autonomy of universities. He is the youngest VC that MSU has had. While the BJP/RSS lobby loves him, those who oppose the Common University Act see him as a man specially brought in by the Modi government to prepare the ground for the implementation of the Common University Act.

After taking over as VC in April 2005, Soni briefly tried to cultivate the image of a popular student-friendly VC. But the pretence did not last long. Barely three months later, he sat on hunger strike in the company of BJP/RSS leaders opposing a students’ agitation. What came as a shock to many in the MSU was the brutal use of force against agitating students on July 18, 2005 in the VC’s presence. Instead of intervening, Dr Soni said, "They were shouting for justice, and justice has been given to them."

The Common University Act (CUA) was a draconian move by the state government to bring all universities in the state under tighter political and bureaucratic government control. A successful agitation launched jointly by teachers and students prevented the Act’s implementation. However, Soni is already imposing provisions of the CUA indirectly – by victimising students, punishing members of the teaching faculty and interfering in the day-to-day academic affairs of various faculties. He is trampling on academic freedom and the autonomy of the university, blatantly trying to let university affairs be run from Gandhinagar. This was evident during the recent incident at the fine arts faculty of MSU and especially given the antecedents of many who stormed its gates.

The student community has played an important role in various movements to safeguard university autonomy and oppose the anti-education polices of university authorities and the state government. To gag this rising students’ voice, MSU authorities banned the students’ election in 2005-06. A Students’ Action Committee then launched a movement against this step. Elections were held a year later, in 2006, in an extremely tense and repressive atmosphere.

That year, the VC’s anti-student attitude was once again on display, this time during the agitation for admissions to the master of arts’ history course when some female students lay down in protest outside the VC’s office. Instead of hearing their pleas, Soni simply walked over the agitating students! Ultimately, the protest movement succeeded but the VC’s arrogance shocked all right-thinking persons in Vadodara.

As with students, so with the teaching staff. University teachers are routinely tempted by the lure of postings, promotions and positions if they toe the saffron line. Hostel wardens are also selected on the basis of their pro-RSS leanings. RSS shakhas (branch meetings) are freely allowed on the university campus.

A woman teacher in the home science faculty was denied a promotion because of the growing communalism in MSU’s administration. She has since filed a case in the Gujarat High court stating that because she, a Hindu, is married to a Muslim, she was made a victim of communal bias. Prof Bharat Mehta, a reader in the department of Gujarati literature, has also been denied promotion because of his secular credentials. Mehta has screened films on the Gujarat carnage and been active in debunking saffron propaganda about the Godhra incident and the post-Godhra genocide.

Today the autonomy of MSU is in grave danger. The VC, Soni, is out to saffronise it. The saffron brigade wants to generate a controversy around Chandra Mohan’s paintings and never mind the question of artistic freedom. "Hurting religious sentiments" is but a clever ploy used to divert attention from their true object: the issue of autonomy. Arousing people’s religious passions would of course fulfil a dual purpose and reap rich political dividends before assembly elections in the state.

Hence all efforts need to be concentrated on supporting the struggle by students and teachers to ensure the autonomy of MSU. The saffron brigade and the ABVP are out to confuse and divide the university’s students. While Congress (I)’s student wing, the National Students Union of India, is also playing a short-sighted and divisive role.
 

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Hindu Taliban 1

 

 

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Sabrang

The charge sheet

01 Jun 2007
On June 8, 2006, Zakiya Jaffri, widow of the late member of parliament, Ahsan Jaffri, sought to register a first information report (FIR) against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others, including cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats and policemen, under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Needless to say, the Gujarat police had failed to register such an FIR though cognisable offences have been made out therein. Therefore, on March 1, 2007 the complainant and Citizens for Justice and Peace jointly filed a writ petition in the Gujarat High Court asking the court to issue orders so that such an FIR may be registered. Moreover, given the state complicity at the highest level, they have demanded that the entire investigation is handed over to an independent agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

We list below the details of the criminal charges made out in the complaint and the petition. Due to constraints of space, some of these charges have been condensed here. Full details can be accessed at www.cjponline.org.

Details of offences with applicable sections of law

1. Criminal conspiracy and abetment to commit multiple offences of murder (Section 120 B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) read with (r/w) Section 114 (Abettor present when offence is committed) r/w Section 302 (Punishment for murder), Indian Penal Code (IPC)).

2. Furnishing false information (Section 177, IPC).

3. False statement made in declaration, which is by law receivable as evidence (Section 199, IPC).

4. Punishment for false evidence (Section 193, IPC r/w Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952).

5. Giving false information about an offence committed (Section 203, IPC).

6. Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class (Section 295, IPC); Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs (Section 295 A, IPC).

7. Uttering, words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings (Section 298, IPC).

8. Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions (Section 186, IPC).

9. Omission to assist a public servant when bound by law to give assistance (Section 187, IPC).

10. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (Section 153 A, IPC).

11. Criminal intimidation (Section 506, IPC).

12. Mischief causing damage to public property (Section 3, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984).

13. Public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person (Section 166, IPC).

 

Accused No. 1: Narendra D. Modi, in 2002 and currently Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Evidence in support of the charges

1. Instructions to the director general of police (DGP), the chief secretary and other senior officials to give vent to the Hindu anger against minority Muslims in the wake of the Godhra incident. Meeting held in Gandhinagar on the evening of February 27, 2002, as testified in Affidavit No. 4 dated October 27, 2005 of additional director general of police (ADGP), RB Sreekumar, before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

2. The chief minister (CM)’s decision to bring dead bodies of those killed in the Godhra train fire to Ahmedabad and parade them in Ahmedabad city, as testified by Ashok Narayan, former addl. chief secretary, home department, in his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

3. Numerous illegal instructions given verbally to officials as detailed in Affidavit No. 3 dated April 9, 2005 of RB Sreekumar before the Nanavati-Shah Commission (Annexure F).

4. Evidence contained in Crime Against Humanity, Concerned Citizens Tribunal report, Gujarat 2002, by a panel of judges, Justices VR Krishna Iyer, PB Sawant and others, which included testimonies of officials and a cabinet minister of the state of Gujarat.

5. Positioning cabinet ministers, IK Jadeja and Ashok Bhatt, in the DGP’s office and Ahmedabad city control room respectively. DGP Chakravarti was critical of the minister, IK Jadeja, remaining in his office, as testified by RB Sreekumar in para 85 of his fourth affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

6. Transfer of officers from field executive posts in the thick of the riots in 2002 despite the DGP’s objections (as per media reports), to facilitate placement of those who were willing to subvert the system for political and electoral benefits.

7. Rewarding of senior officials with undue benefits even while their conduct is under scrutiny at the Nanavati-Shah Commission. The latest instance was the six-month extension as state vigilance commissioner awarded to Ashok Narayan, who has already completed two years in the above post-retirement placement. The orders were issued on July 28, 2006.

8. No follow-up action on the reports sent by RB Sreekumar on April 24, 2002, June 15, 2002, August 20, 2002 and August 28, 2002 about the administration’s anti-minority stance. Copies of these reports are appended in Affidavit No. 2 dated October 6, 2004 of RB Sreekumar before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

9. Indictment by the Supreme Court about the injustices carried out against the minority community and riot victims in the investigation of riot cases in respect of 1) the Bilkees Bano case, 2) the Best Bakery case.

10. Partisan investigations betraying prejudice against riot victims belonging to the minority community, as indicated by Rahul Sharma, the then superintendent of police (SP), Bhavnagar district, and now SP (CBI), Gandhinagar, during his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

11. The CM, Narendra Modi, did not visit the riot affected areas during the initial days of the violence though he visited the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002 itself.

12. The press statement by Narendra Modi that the reaction against the Muslim community was the operation of Newton’s law of action and reaction.

13. No direction from Narendra Modi to Hindu organisations against the observance of a bandh on February 28, 2002. (In 1997 and subsequently, the Kerala High Court has declared forced bandhs illegal; the 1997 verdict was even upheld by the Supreme Court.)

14. Delay in the requisition and deployment of the army although anti-minority violence had broken out on the afternoon of February 27, 2002 itself, in the cities of Vadodara, Ahmedabad, etc.

15. Appointment of pro-VHP advocates as public prosecutors in riot cases though as home minister (cabinet rank) the CM had the necessary means at his disposal to verify the credentials and integrity of these advocates.

16. Refusal to transfer officers from the grass root level, as per the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB)’s recommendation, until the arrival of KPS Gill as security adviser to the CM in May 2002. Gill ensured the above transfers and this led to a dramatic improvement in the situation, as indicated in RB Sreekumar’s second affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

17. No action taken against the print media carrying communally inflammatory reports although the SIB and some field officers had recommended such action, as noted in Affidavit No. 1 of RB Sreekumar dated July 6, 2002 and during his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission on August 31, 2004. (It is the state home department that is empowered to give clearance for initiating action against the print media.)

18. The state home department provided misleading reports about normalcy in the state to the Chief Election Commission (CEC) so as to ensure early assembly elections. The home department’s assessment was adjudged as false by the CEC in its open order dated August 16, 2002. As per the register recording verbal instructions from higher echelons of government (the CM and others) maintained by RB Sreekumar, in his third affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission it is noted that he was directed by home department officials to give favourable reports about the law and order situation so as to facilitate the holding of early elections.

19. State secretary, home department, GC Murmu, was presumably specially assigned to tutor, cajole and even intimidate officials deposing before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, to prevent them from telling the truth and harming the interests of the CM and the ruling party, as noted in RB Sreekumar’s third affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

20. GC Murmu’s mission was to try and ensure that officials did not file affidavits relating to the second term of reference of the Nanavati-Shah Commission, in particular, the role of the CM and other ministers in the riots.

21. Initiating no action against senior police officers, whose work is administered by the home department, for their grave dereliction of duty in the supervision of the investigation of serious offences as envisaged in Rules 24, 134, 135 and 240 of the Gujarat Police Manual-Vol. III, as noted in para 94 of RB Sreekumar’s fourth affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

22. Did not initiate departmental action against the then SP of Dahod district, SP Jadeja, for his gross misconduct and negligence during investigations into the Bilkees Bano case despite recommendations to that effect by the CBI which reinvestigated the case as per the directions of the Supreme Court.

23. Investigating officers in the Naroda Patiya and the Gulberg Society cases did not investigate the compact disc (CD) containing records of important telephone calls made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and police officers during the riots. Rahul Sharma, SP (CBI), had submitted this CD to the Nanavati-Shah Commission in 2004. In May 2007 the commission ordered an inquiry into this matter, as per media reports.

24. A situation conducive to the rehabilitation of riot victims has not been created, contrary to the claims made by the state administration in its reports to the National Human Rights Commission. Instead, riot victims were pressurised into compromising with the perpetrators of the violence as a condition precedent for their safe return to their homes and their rehabilitation.

25. Police inaction on investigating the roots and extent of the criminal conspiracy, linked to their participation in it.

26. No minutes or written notes of the meetings held by the CM and senior bureaucrats were issued, and instructions were mainly conveyed on the telephone. The non-issuance of such minutes/notes served the twin objectives of 1) Field officers carrying out the conspiracy of a pogrom against the minority and 2) Avoidance of subsequent monitoring of actions by jurisdictional officers in the field.

27. No action has been taken against officers like K. Chakravarti, then DGP; PC Pande, then commissioner of police (CP), Ahmedabad city; Ashok Narayan, then addl. chief secretary, and a large number of senior government functionaries who filed incomplete, inaccurate, vague and inadequate affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. Virtually no officer provided important documents relevant to the terms of reference of the commission as exhibits either in affidavits or during their cross-examination.

28. Slack review of post-riot cases, a review ordered by the Supreme Court in 2004. This was achieved by entrusting the work to those senior officers who were willing or constrained to act according to the political interests of the CM and the BJP.

29. Nepotism practised in postings, transfers, promotions, etc despite mounting vacancies in police departments so as to facilitate the ongoing subversion of the criminal justice system.

30. The fact that the main victims of the riots were Muslims, and the violence and police firing were targeted predominantly at the Muslim community will establish that rioters, the administration, cohorts of the ruling party (BJP), were working in collaboration to achieve the vile objectives of the CM. Statistics in this respect may be seen in RB Sreekumar’s second affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, particularly in para 3 of Appendix V therein.

The nature of offences detailed and the quantum of evidence delineated above categorically establish that the accused No. 1, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had violated and has been violating his oath of allegiance to the Constitution of India. Further, through a series of preconceived, and pre-planned illegal actions, he carried out and has been pursuing actions challenging, violating and subverting the letter, spirit and ethos of the Constitution. This sinister design has been implemented by means of the malevolent use of the human and material resources under his command, by virtue of his position as chief minister. Activists, collaborators and supporters of the ruling party – BJP – and its feeder and sister organisations have been motivated, equipped and directed by the accused for the perpetration of crimes as listed above. In other words, the accused has been waging a war against the true sovereignty of the Indian nation, "We, the people", as etched in the first line of the Preamble to the Constitution of India. The deliberate acts of omission and commission by the accused, individually and through his active collaborators in the state administration and the BJP’s party bodies, violate the basic and inviolable structure of Indian polity as envisioned in the preamble to the Constitution.

From this perspective, the accused had and has been committing seditious acts, which had and will have a divisive, degenerative and debilitative impact on Indian society and on the unity and integrity of the Indian nation in the long term.

Acc. No. 2: Ashok Bhatt, in 2002, Minister for Health, currently Minister for Law and Justice, Health and Family Welfare, Legislative & Parliamentary Affairs, NGOs, etc.

Acc. No. 3: Indravijaysinh K. Jadeja, in 2002, Minister for Urban Development, currently Minister for Roads & Buildings, Capital Projects, Urban Development and Urban Housing.

Acc. No. 4: Prabhatsinh P. Chauhan, in 2002, Minister for Transport, currently Minister (MoS) for Tribal Development and MLA from Kalol, Gandhinagar district.

Acc. No. 5: Gordhan Zadaphiya, in 2002 an MLA and Minister for Home, currently an MLA from Rakhial, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 6: Ranjitsingh N. Chawda, in 2002 an MLA and Minister for Cottage Industries and Shri Vajpayee Swarojgar Yojna.

Acc. No. 7: Kaushikkumar J. Patel, in 2002, Minister for Energy and MLA from Shahpur, Ahmedabad, currently Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management.

Acc. No. 8: CD Patel, in 2002 an MLA from Petlad, Anand district, currently Minister (MoS) for Tourism, Holy Places & Pilgrimage Development (Ind. Charge), etc.

Acc. No. 9: Nitin R. Patel, in 2002 an MLA from Kadi, Mehsana and Minister for Finance.

Acc. No. 10: Amit A. Shah, currently Minister (MoS) for Home, Police Housing, Border Security, Jails, Prohibition, Excise (Ind. Charge) and Transport, and MLA from Sarkhej, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 11: Anil T. Patel, (of the Apollo Group) currently Minister (MoS) for Civil Aviation, Cottage and Salt Industry (Ind. Charge), Industry, Mines and Minerals, and MLA from Mehsana.

Acc. No. 12: Narayan L. Patel, in 2002, Minister for Transport (Ind. Charge), currently an MLA from Unjha, Mehsana district.

Acc. No. 13: Kalu H. Maliwad, in 2002 an MLA from Lunawada, former taluka Panchayat Pramukh, currently an MLA from Lunawada, Panchmahal district.

Acc. No. 14: Dilip M. Patel, in 2002 an MLA, currently an MLA from Anand Vidhyanagar, Anand district.

Acc. No. 15: Madhu B. Srivastava, in 2002 an MLA and currently an MLA from Waghodiya, Vadodara.

Acc. No. 16: Dr (Ms) Maya Kodnani, in 2002 and currently an MLA from Naroda, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 17: Nalin K. Bhatt, former General Secretary, BJP. Author of the party’s affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

Acc. No. 18: Rajendra Singh Rana, in 2002 and currently MP from Bhavnagar. Spokesperson of the BJP.

Acc. No. 19: Dr Kaushik J. Mehta, Joint Secretary, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Gujarat.

Acc. No. 20: Dr Praveen Togadia, in 2002 and currently, International General Secretary, VHP.

Acc. No. 21: Dr Jaideep Patel, Gujarat Secretary, VHP.

Acc. No. 22: Babu Bajrangi Patel, Member, Bajrang Dal and VHP, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 23: Prof KK Shastri, Chairman, VHP, Gujarat unit, and Editor, Viswa Hindu Samachar.

Acc. No. 24: Babu Rajput, BJP worker, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 25: K. Chakravarti, in 2002, DGP, Gujarat, now retired.

Acc. No. 26: AK Bhargava, former DGP, Gujarat, currently Managing Director (MD), Gujarat State Police Housing Corporation Ltd.

Acc. No. 27: G. Subbarao, in 2002, Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat, currently Chairman, Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission.

Acc. No. 28: Ashok Narayan, in 2002, Addl. Chief Secretary (Home), Government of Gujarat, currently Gujarat State Vigilance Commissioner.

Acc. No. 29: PC Pande, in 2002, CP, Ahmedabad, later transferred on deputation to the CBI, New Delhi, currently DGP, Gujarat.

Acc. No. 30: K. Srinivas, in 2002, Collector, Ahmedabad district.

Acc. No. 31: Dr PK Mishra, in 2002, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Chief Executive Officer, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, currently Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Gujarat Government.

Acc. No. 32: Kuldeep Sharma, in 2002, Range In-charge, Ahmedabad Range, currently ADGP (Training).

Acc. No. 33: MK Tandon, in 2002, Addl. CP, Ahmedabad, currently Range Inspector General (IG), Surat Range.

Acc. No. 34: K. Nityanandam, in 2002, Home Secretary, currently, CP, Rajkot city.

Acc. No. 35: Rakesh Asthana, on deputation in 2002, from April 2002, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), CID-Crime, currently IG, Vadodara Range. Head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Godhra train fire.

Acc. No. 36: AK Sharma, in 2002, SP, Mehsana, currently IG, Ahmedabad Range.

Acc. No. 37: GC Murmu, Secretary, Home Department (Law & Home), Government of Gujarat.

Acc. No. 38: Shivanand Jha, Secretary, Home, Government of Gujarat.

Acc. No. 39: DH Brahmbhatt, Collector, Panchmahal district.

Acc. No. 40: Deepak Swaroop, in 2002, IG, Vadodara Range, currently, CP, Vadodara.

Acc. No. 41: Sudhir Sinha, in 2004, CP Vadodara, currently CP, Surat.

Acc. No. 42: K. Kumarswami, former Addl. CP, Vadodara, currently IGP (Intelligence), Gujarat.

Acc. No. 43: BS Jabaliya, District Police Chief, Anand.

Acc. No. 44: DG Vanzara, former Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Ahmedabad Crime Branch, (May 2002 to July 2005), former DIG (Border Range) and head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad. He was suspended and is currently in jail for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

Acc. No. 45: Rahul Sharma, in 2002, SP, Bhavnagar, and thereafter, DCP, Control Room, currently SP (CBI), Gandhinagar.

Acc. No. 46: Raju Bhargava, in 2002, SP, Panchmahal district, currently SP, Sabarkantha.

Acc. No. 47: (Ms) Anju Sharma, in 2002, Collector, Bharuch district.

Acc. No. 48: DD Tuteja, in 2002, CP, Vadodara city, now retired.

Acc. No. 49: Bhagyesh Jha, former Collector, Vadodara, currently Director of Information, I & B Department, Government of Gujarat.

Acc. No. 50: Nitiraj Solanki, in 2002, SP, Sabarkantha district.

Acc. No. 51: Amrutlal Patel, in 2002, Collector, Mehsana district, currently Collector of Administration, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 52: Upendra Singh, in 2002, CP, Rakjot.

Acc. No. 53: PN Patel, in 2002, Collector, Rajkot district.

Acc. No. 54: VM Pargi, in 2002, DCP, Ellis Bridge Police Station, Ahmedabad, currently Addl. CP, Surat.

Acc. No. 55: KG Erda, in 2002, Police Inspector (PI), Meghaninagar Police Station, Ahmedabad, former PI-CID Intelligence, Viramgam, currently PI (Local Crime Branch), Valsad.

Acc. No. 56: KK Mysorewala, in 2002, PI, Naroda Police Station, Ahmedabad, currently, Reader to DIGP, Gandhinagar Range.

Acc. No. 57: MT Rana, Asst. Police Commissioner, G-Division, Ahmedabad city.

Acc. No. 58: Tarun Barot, PI, Ahmedabad Crime Branch.

Acc. No. 59: Narendra Amin, currently Asst. CP, Ahmedabad Crime Branch.

Acc. No. 60: GC Raiger, in 2002, ADGP (Intelligence).

Acc. No. 61: KR Kaushik, in 2002, ADGP (Crime) and later CP, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 62: Amitabh Pathak, in 2002, IG, Gandhinagar Range.

Acc. No. 63: Satish Verma, in 2002, DIG (Border Range), Kutch, currently with the SRP Training Centre, Junagadh.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Crime and Punishment

The charge sheet

On June 8, 2006, Zakiya Jaffri, widow of the late member of parliament, Ahsan Jaffri, sought to register a first information report (FIR) against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others, including cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats and policemen, under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Needless to say, the Gujarat police had failed to register such an FIR though cognisable offences have been made out therein. Therefore, on March 1, 2007 the complainant and Citizens for Justice and Peace jointly filed a writ petition in the Gujarat High Court asking the court to issue orders so that such an FIR may be registered. Moreover, given the state complicity at the highest level, they have demanded that the entire investigation is handed over to an independent agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

We list below the details of the criminal charges made out in the complaint and the petition. Due to constraints of space, some of these charges have been condensed here. Full details can be accessed at www.cjponline.org.

Details of offences with applicable sections of law

1. Criminal conspiracy and abetment to commit multiple offences of murder (Section 120 B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) read with (r/w) Section 114 (Abettor present when offence is committed) r/w Section 302 (Punishment for murder), Indian Penal Code (IPC)).

2. Furnishing false information (Section 177, IPC).

3. False statement made in declaration, which is by law receivable as evidence (Section 199, IPC).

4. Punishment for false evidence (Section 193, IPC r/w Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952).

5. Giving false information about an offence committed (Section 203, IPC).

6. Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class (Section 295, IPC); Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs (Section 295 A, IPC).

7. Uttering, words, etc, with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings (Section 298, IPC).

8. Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions (Section 186, IPC).

9. Omission to assist a public servant when bound by law to give assistance (Section 187, IPC).

10. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc, and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (Section 153 A, IPC).

11. Criminal intimidation (Section 506, IPC).

12. Mischief causing damage to public property (Section 3, Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984).

13. Public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person (Section 166, IPC).

 

Accused No. 1: Narendra D. Modi, in 2002 and currently Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Evidence in support of the charges

1. Instructions to the director general of police (DGP), the chief secretary and other senior officials to give vent to the Hindu anger against minority Muslims in the wake of the Godhra incident. Meeting held in Gandhinagar on the evening of February 27, 2002, as testified in Affidavit No. 4 dated October 27, 2005 of additional director general of police (ADGP), RB Sreekumar, before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

2. The chief minister (CM)’s decision to bring dead bodies of those killed in the Godhra train fire to Ahmedabad and parade them in Ahmedabad city, as testified by Ashok Narayan, former addl. chief secretary, home department, in his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

3. Numerous illegal instructions given verbally to officials as detailed in Affidavit No. 3 dated April 9, 2005 of RB Sreekumar before the Nanavati-Shah Commission (Annexure F).

4. Evidence contained in Crime Against Humanity, Concerned Citizens Tribunal report, Gujarat 2002, by a panel of judges, Justices VR Krishna Iyer, PB Sawant and others, which included testimonies of officials and a cabinet minister of the state of Gujarat.

5. Positioning cabinet ministers, IK Jadeja and Ashok Bhatt, in the DGP’s office and Ahmedabad city control room respectively. DGP Chakravarti was critical of the minister, IK Jadeja, remaining in his office, as testified by RB Sreekumar in para 85 of his fourth affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

6. Transfer of officers from field executive posts in the thick of the riots in 2002 despite the DGP’s objections (as per media reports), to facilitate placement of those who were willing to subvert the system for political and electoral benefits.

7. Rewarding of senior officials with undue benefits even while their conduct is under scrutiny at the Nanavati-Shah Commission. The latest instance was the six-month extension as state vigilance commissioner awarded to Ashok Narayan, who has already completed two years in the above post-retirement placement. The orders were issued on July 28, 2006.

8. No follow-up action on the reports sent by RB Sreekumar on April 24, 2002, June 15, 2002, August 20, 2002 and August 28, 2002 about the administration’s anti-minority stance. Copies of these reports are appended in Affidavit No. 2 dated October 6, 2004 of RB Sreekumar before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

9. Indictment by the Supreme Court about the injustices carried out against the minority community and riot victims in the investigation of riot cases in respect of 1) the Bilkees Bano case, 2) the Best Bakery case.

10. Partisan investigations betraying prejudice against riot victims belonging to the minority community, as indicated by Rahul Sharma, the then superintendent of police (SP), Bhavnagar district, and now SP (CBI), Gandhinagar, during his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

11. The CM, Narendra Modi, did not visit the riot affected areas during the initial days of the violence though he visited the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002 itself.

12. The press statement by Narendra Modi that the reaction against the Muslim community was the operation of Newton’s law of action and reaction.

13. No direction from Narendra Modi to Hindu organisations against the observance of a bandh on February 28, 2002. (In 1997 and subsequently, the Kerala High Court has declared forced bandhs illegal; the 1997 verdict was even upheld by the Supreme Court.)

14. Delay in the requisition and deployment of the army although anti-minority violence had broken out on the afternoon of February 27, 2002 itself, in the cities of Vadodara, Ahmedabad, etc.

15. Appointment of pro-VHP advocates as public prosecutors in riot cases though as home minister (cabinet rank) the CM had the necessary means at his disposal to verify the credentials and integrity of these advocates.

16. Refusal to transfer officers from the grass root level, as per the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB)’s recommendation, until the arrival of KPS Gill as security adviser to the CM in May 2002. Gill ensured the above transfers and this led to a dramatic improvement in the situation, as indicated in RB Sreekumar’s second affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

17. No action taken against the print media carrying communally inflammatory reports although the SIB and some field officers had recommended such action, as noted in Affidavit No. 1 of RB Sreekumar dated July 6, 2002 and during his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission on August 31, 2004. (It is the state home department that is empowered to give clearance for initiating action against the print media.)

18. The state home department provided misleading reports about normalcy in the state to the Chief Election Commission (CEC) so as to ensure early assembly elections. The home department’s assessment was adjudged as false by the CEC in its open order dated August 16, 2002. As per the register recording verbal instructions from higher echelons of government (the CM and others) maintained by RB Sreekumar, in his third affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission it is noted that he was directed by home department officials to give favourable reports about the law and order situation so as to facilitate the holding of early elections.

19. State secretary, home department, GC Murmu, was presumably specially assigned to tutor, cajole and even intimidate officials deposing before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, to prevent them from telling the truth and harming the interests of the CM and the ruling party, as noted in RB Sreekumar’s third affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

20. GC Murmu’s mission was to try and ensure that officials did not file affidavits relating to the second term of reference of the Nanavati-Shah Commission, in particular, the role of the CM and other ministers in the riots.

21. Initiating no action against senior police officers, whose work is administered by the home department, for their grave dereliction of duty in the supervision of the investigation of serious offences as envisaged in Rules 24, 134, 135 and 240 of the Gujarat Police Manual-Vol. III, as noted in para 94 of RB Sreekumar’s fourth affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

22. Did not initiate departmental action against the then SP of Dahod district, SP Jadeja, for his gross misconduct and negligence during investigations into the Bilkees Bano case despite recommendations to that effect by the CBI which reinvestigated the case as per the directions of the Supreme Court.

23. Investigating officers in the Naroda Patiya and the Gulberg Society cases did not investigate the compact disc (CD) containing records of important telephone calls made by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and police officers during the riots. Rahul Sharma, SP (CBI), had submitted this CD to the Nanavati-Shah Commission in 2004. In May 2007 the commission ordered an inquiry into this matter, as per media reports.

24. A situation conducive to the rehabilitation of riot victims has not been created, contrary to the claims made by the state administration in its reports to the National Human Rights Commission. Instead, riot victims were pressurised into compromising with the perpetrators of the violence as a condition precedent for their safe return to their homes and their rehabilitation.

25. Police inaction on investigating the roots and extent of the criminal conspiracy, linked to their participation in it.

26. No minutes or written notes of the meetings held by the CM and senior bureaucrats were issued, and instructions were mainly conveyed on the telephone. The non-issuance of such minutes/notes served the twin objectives of 1) Field officers carrying out the conspiracy of a pogrom against the minority and 2) Avoidance of subsequent monitoring of actions by jurisdictional officers in the field.

27. No action has been taken against officers like K. Chakravarti, then DGP; PC Pande, then commissioner of police (CP), Ahmedabad city; Ashok Narayan, then addl. chief secretary, and a large number of senior government functionaries who filed incomplete, inaccurate, vague and inadequate affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. Virtually no officer provided important documents relevant to the terms of reference of the commission as exhibits either in affidavits or during their cross-examination.

28. Slack review of post-riot cases, a review ordered by the Supreme Court in 2004. This was achieved by entrusting the work to those senior officers who were willing or constrained to act according to the political interests of the CM and the BJP.

29. Nepotism practised in postings, transfers, promotions, etc despite mounting vacancies in police departments so as to facilitate the ongoing subversion of the criminal justice system.

30. The fact that the main victims of the riots were Muslims, and the violence and police firing were targeted predominantly at the Muslim community will establish that rioters, the administration, cohorts of the ruling party (BJP), were working in collaboration to achieve the vile objectives of the CM. Statistics in this respect may be seen in RB Sreekumar’s second affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, particularly in para 3 of Appendix V therein.

The nature of offences detailed and the quantum of evidence delineated above categorically establish that the accused No. 1, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had violated and has been violating his oath of allegiance to the Constitution of India. Further, through a series of preconceived, and pre-planned illegal actions, he carried out and has been pursuing actions challenging, violating and subverting the letter, spirit and ethos of the Constitution. This sinister design has been implemented by means of the malevolent use of the human and material resources under his command, by virtue of his position as chief minister. Activists, collaborators and supporters of the ruling party – BJP – and its feeder and sister organisations have been motivated, equipped and directed by the accused for the perpetration of crimes as listed above. In other words, the accused has been waging a war against the true sovereignty of the Indian nation, "We, the people", as etched in the first line of the Preamble to the Constitution of India. The deliberate acts of omission and commission by the accused, individually and through his active collaborators in the state administration and the BJP’s party bodies, violate the basic and inviolable structure of Indian polity as envisioned in the preamble to the Constitution.

From this perspective, the accused had and has been committing seditious acts, which had and will have a divisive, degenerative and debilitative impact on Indian society and on the unity and integrity of the Indian nation in the long term.

Acc. No. 2: Ashok Bhatt, in 2002, Minister for Health, currently Minister for Law and Justice, Health and Family Welfare, Legislative & Parliamentary Affairs, NGOs, etc.

Acc. No. 3: Indravijaysinh K. Jadeja, in 2002, Minister for Urban Development, currently Minister for Roads & Buildings, Capital Projects, Urban Development and Urban Housing.

Acc. No. 4: Prabhatsinh P. Chauhan, in 2002, Minister for Transport, currently Minister (MoS) for Tribal Development and MLA from Kalol, Gandhinagar district.

Acc. No. 5: Gordhan Zadaphiya, in 2002 an MLA and Minister for Home, currently an MLA from Rakhial, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 6: Ranjitsingh N. Chawda, in 2002 an MLA and Minister for Cottage Industries and Shri Vajpayee Swarojgar Yojna.

Acc. No. 7: Kaushikkumar J. Patel, in 2002, Minister for Energy and MLA from Shahpur, Ahmedabad, currently Minister for Revenue and Disaster Management.

Acc. No. 8: CD Patel, in 2002 an MLA from Petlad, Anand district, currently Minister (MoS) for Tourism, Holy Places & Pilgrimage Development (Ind. Charge), etc.

Acc. No. 9: Nitin R. Patel, in 2002 an MLA from Kadi, Mehsana and Minister for Finance.

Acc. No. 10: Amit A. Shah, currently Minister (MoS) for Home, Police Housing, Border Security, Jails, Prohibition, Excise (Ind. Charge) and Transport, and MLA from Sarkhej, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 11: Anil T. Patel, (of the Apollo Group) currently Minister (MoS) for Civil Aviation, Cottage and Salt Industry (Ind. Charge), Industry, Mines and Minerals, and MLA from Mehsana.

Acc. No. 12: Narayan L. Patel, in 2002, Minister for Transport (Ind. Charge), currently an MLA from Unjha, Mehsana district.

Acc. No. 13: Kalu H. Maliwad, in 2002 an MLA from Lunawada, former taluka Panchayat Pramukh, currently an MLA from Lunawada, Panchmahal district.

Acc. No. 14: Dilip M. Patel, in 2002 an MLA, currently an MLA from Anand Vidhyanagar, Anand district.

Acc. No. 15: Madhu B. Srivastava, in 2002 an MLA and currently an MLA from Waghodiya, Vadodara.

Acc. No. 16: Dr (Ms) Maya Kodnani, in 2002 and currently an MLA from Naroda, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 17: Nalin K. Bhatt, former General Secretary, BJP. Author of the party’s affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

Acc. No. 18: Rajendra Singh Rana, in 2002 and currently MP from Bhavnagar. Spokesperson of the BJP.

Acc. No. 19: Dr Kaushik J. Mehta, Joint Secretary, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Gujarat.

Acc. No. 20: Dr Praveen Togadia, in 2002 and currently, International General Secretary, VHP.

Acc. No. 21: Dr Jaideep Patel, Gujarat Secretary, VHP.

Acc. No. 22: Babu Bajrangi Patel, Member, Bajrang Dal and VHP, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 23: Prof KK Shastri, Chairman, VHP, Gujarat unit, and Editor, Viswa Hindu Samachar.

Acc. No. 24: Babu Rajput, BJP worker, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 25: K. Chakravarti, in 2002, DGP, Gujarat, now retired.

Acc. No. 26: AK Bhargava, former DGP, Gujarat, currently Managing Director (MD), Gujarat State Police Housing Corporation Ltd.

Acc. No. 27: G. Subbarao, in 2002, Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat, currently Chairman, Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission.

Acc. No. 28: Ashok Narayan, in 2002, Addl. Chief Secretary (Home), Government of Gujarat, currently Gujarat State Vigilance Commissioner.

Acc. No. 29: PC Pande, in 2002, CP, Ahmedabad, later transferred on deputation to the CBI, New Delhi, currently DGP, Gujarat.

Acc. No. 30: K. Srinivas, in 2002, Collector, Ahmedabad district.

Acc. No. 31: Dr PK Mishra, in 2002, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Chief Executive Officer, Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, currently Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Gujarat Government.

Acc. No. 32: Kuldeep Sharma, in 2002, Range In-charge, Ahmedabad Range, currently ADGP (Training).

Acc. No. 33: MK Tandon, in 2002, Addl. CP, Ahmedabad, currently Range Inspector General (IG), Surat Range.

Acc. No. 34: K. Nityanandam, in 2002, Home Secretary, currently, CP, Rajkot city.

Acc. No. 35: Rakesh Asthana, on deputation in 2002, from April 2002, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), CID-Crime, currently IG, Vadodara Range. Head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Godhra train fire.

Acc. No. 36: AK Sharma, in 2002, SP, Mehsana, currently IG, Ahmedabad Range.

Acc. No. 37: GC Murmu, Secretary, Home Department (Law & Home), Government of Gujarat.

Acc. No. 38: Shivanand Jha, Secretary, Home, Government of Gujarat.

Acc. No. 39: DH Brahmbhatt, Collector, Panchmahal district.

Acc. No. 40: Deepak Swaroop, in 2002, IG, Vadodara Range, currently, CP, Vadodara.

Acc. No. 41: Sudhir Sinha, in 2004, CP Vadodara, currently CP, Surat.

Acc. No. 42: K. Kumarswami, former Addl. CP, Vadodara, currently IGP (Intelligence), Gujarat.

Acc. No. 43: BS Jabaliya, District Police Chief, Anand.

Acc. No. 44: DG Vanzara, former Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Ahmedabad Crime Branch, (May 2002 to July 2005), former DIG (Border Range) and head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad. He was suspended and is currently in jail for his involvement in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

Acc. No. 45: Rahul Sharma, in 2002, SP, Bhavnagar, and thereafter, DCP, Control Room, currently SP (CBI), Gandhinagar.

Acc. No. 46: Raju Bhargava, in 2002, SP, Panchmahal district, currently SP, Sabarkantha.

Acc. No. 47: (Ms) Anju Sharma, in 2002, Collector, Bharuch district.

Acc. No. 48: DD Tuteja, in 2002, CP, Vadodara city, now retired.

Acc. No. 49: Bhagyesh Jha, former Collector, Vadodara, currently Director of Information, I & B Department, Government of Gujarat.

Acc. No. 50: Nitiraj Solanki, in 2002, SP, Sabarkantha district.

Acc. No. 51: Amrutlal Patel, in 2002, Collector, Mehsana district, currently Collector of Administration, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 52: Upendra Singh, in 2002, CP, Rakjot.

Acc. No. 53: PN Patel, in 2002, Collector, Rajkot district.

Acc. No. 54: VM Pargi, in 2002, DCP, Ellis Bridge Police Station, Ahmedabad, currently Addl. CP, Surat.

Acc. No. 55: KG Erda, in 2002, Police Inspector (PI), Meghaninagar Police Station, Ahmedabad, former PI-CID Intelligence, Viramgam, currently PI (Local Crime Branch), Valsad.

Acc. No. 56: KK Mysorewala, in 2002, PI, Naroda Police Station, Ahmedabad, currently, Reader to DIGP, Gandhinagar Range.

Acc. No. 57: MT Rana, Asst. Police Commissioner, G-Division, Ahmedabad city.

Acc. No. 58: Tarun Barot, PI, Ahmedabad Crime Branch.

Acc. No. 59: Narendra Amin, currently Asst. CP, Ahmedabad Crime Branch.

Acc. No. 60: GC Raiger, in 2002, ADGP (Intelligence).

Acc. No. 61: KR Kaushik, in 2002, ADGP (Crime) and later CP, Ahmedabad.

Acc. No. 62: Amitabh Pathak, in 2002, IG, Gandhinagar Range.

Acc. No. 63: Satish Verma, in 2002, DIG (Border Range), Kutch, currently with the SRP Training Centre, Junagadh.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2007 Year 13    No.123, Genocide's Aftermath Part I, Crime and Punishment

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