|Newzfirst, April 17, 2012|
On April 11, a metropolitan magistrate in Ahmedabad disclosed that a Special Investigative Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court has found no evidence that on the night before the anti-Muslim violence began in Gujarat on February 28, 2002, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi told his top police brass they should not stop Hindu mobs from killing Muslims. Modi’s supporters welcomed the magisterial pronouncement as a vindication of their long-held view on Modi’s innocence.
The allegation against Modi relates to a meeting he held with then Gujarat Director-General of Police, K. Chakravarthy, and other top police officers at his official residence in Gandhinagar on the night of February 27, 2002. As we know, earlier that morning, 59 people were burnt to death after two coaches of Sabarmati Express caught fire near Godhra railway station in an area adjacent to a Muslim locality.
Many among those who died in the train fire were kar sevaks, or volunteers, of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) coming back from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh where they had participated in a VHP event around its campaign to build a Ram temple. Within hours of the fire, the VHP called a state-wide protest the next day, February 28. Modi called that night’s meeting to discuss the law and order preparation.
Headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director R. K. Raghavan, the SIT spoke to the various police officers who were present at Modi’s meeting that night to investigate the charge. It was widely reported in the news that the SIT based its conclusion that Modi did not tell his police officers to allow the VHP mobs to kill Muslims on denials from the police officers who attended Modi’s meeting. Then DGP Chakravarthy, too, reportedly told the SIT that the allegations are false and that Modi did not order the police to stand by while the Muslims are killed.
This is simply not true. As far back as 2004, I had formally written to a judicial commission that investigated the killings of Muslims, disclosing that the then DGP Chakravarthy had told me that at the meeting at his home on the night of February 27, 2002, Modi instructed the police officers to allow the Hindus to kill Muslims.
Here are the facts of the case.
As an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the Gujarat cadre, I was posted as Additional Director-General of Police (Intelligence) with the State Intelligence Branch (SIB) from April 9, 2002 to September 18, 2002. During my tenure, I sent numerous reports to the DGP and to the state government about the culpability of the Sangh Parivar – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates – in the (1) Genocide of Muslims, (2) Subversion of the criminal justice system, and (3) denial and delay of the justice delivery system to the survivors of the violence.
The Central Election Commission postponed the 2002 assembly elections on the basis of my letter to that detailed the extent and intensity of the violence. Its order of August 16, 2002 acknowledged this. Further, I submitted nine affidavits running into 660 pages to the Justice Nanavati Commission that probed the violence. Four affidavits were submitted while I was still serving and five after I retired in February 2007. The state government never challenged the contents of those affidavits. I provided the copies of those affidavits to Mr. Raghavan’s SIT, too.
In my fourth affidavit submitted to the Nanavati Commission in September 2004, I narrated the revelation DGP Chakravarthy made to me about Modi’s meeting with senior officers on February 27, 2002, at his residence in Gandhinagar, the state capital. Chakravarthy informed me that at the meeting, the chief minister directed the officers that the revengefulness of the Hindus, aggrieved by the Godhra train fire, should be given a free play and the police should not act against the Hindus.
To validate my testimony, I offered to undergo a narco-analysis test or the brain fingerprinting test or the polygraph test anywhere in India. But neither the SIT nor the Nanavati Commission took action on my information. Perhaps because then they would have had to also run the tests on the police officers who attended Modi’s meeting that night, and that would without doubt have incriminated Modi.
Earlier, my third affidavit had given verbatim details of the Home Department’s attempt in August 2002 to tutor me to support the government in my cross examination at the Nanavati Commission. I also submitted to the Commission and the SIT the audiotapes of the tutoring session. But they did not initiate action against the officials who attempted to intimidate me into committing perjury, acts punishable under Sections 193, 509 and 153(a) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
I also submitted to SIT a copy of the register that I had maintained in which I had meticulously written down all the illegal verbal orders that various authorities, from the chief minister to the DGP, had given to me with the objective of preventing me from revealing the truth to the Nanavati Commission and also to force me to illegally send false reports, tap phones and organise fake encounters of Muslims.
The Home Department and the DGP committed a culpable offence under Section 166 of the IPC by failing to initiate remedial measures on my intelligence assessment reports, which led to the denial of justice to the victims of the 2002 violence. It must be said that the Supreme Court has passed many remarks on the illegal role of the Modi government in the many cases related to the anti-Muslim violence of 2002.
In April 2004, the Supreme Court said the Gujarat Administration had acted as Emperor Nero during the violence, working to save the culprits of the killing of the innocent people. Later, the Supreme Court ordered a reinvestigation into some 2,000 cases that the Gujarat Police had illegally closed. It transferred the trials of two cases outside Maharashtra (both of which led to the conviction of the accused), and entrusted one riot case investigation to the CBI.
The Supreme Court constituted the SIT to reinvestigate nine major case of the violence. This included the case brought against Modi and 62 others by Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who a mob burnt to death with three dozen others in his house. Last month, Supreme Court Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai entrusted retired Supreme Court judge H. S. Bedi with a full inquiry into the fake encounter cases of Gujarat. Had the Gujarat Government acted on my intelligence assessment reports and initiated remedial measures the higher judiciary would not have needed to pass such strictures at this stage.
The SIT also did not act on my many suggestions.
I had suggested that the SIT should record the statements of Uttar Pradesh policemen accompanying the kar sevaks who were killed in the train fire. But the SIT did not do so perhaps because such testimonies would have upset the conspiracy theories Modi and then Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani floated on February 27 about the Muslims’ involvement in the Godhra fire. Even the case papers of the Godhra incident do not indicate any evidence that early.
I had also suggested that officials of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), and Central paramilitary forces and the Indian Army be questioned as they had a lot of information on the violence and the nature and quality of the response of the state police to distress calls from the violence-affected. Lastly, I had suggested that the SIT probe the misuse of government funds for undermining public lawsuits.
On the whole, the SIT travelled on the road map given to it by the Gujarat government in investigating the 2002 anti-Muslim violence cases and Zakia Jafri’s complaint against Modi and 62 others. Consequently, the SIT practically became a ‘B’ team of Gujarat Police cleverly building a defence for Modi and his collaborators in planning and executing the massacre of Muslims in 2002 and their extensive subversion of the criminal justice system.
That is why the victims were not surprised with the SIT’s closure report on Zakia Jafri’s complaint. From the beginning, the SIT was solely dependent on Gujarat Police in its investigations of the cases before it. SIT chief Raghavan did not care to verify the statements of the complainants, leave alone those of the witnesses.
Let us remember that the SIT arrested only two police inspectors for the Gujarat killings. It kept the complicity levels of police officers and executive magistrates as low as possible, so that the senior officers and political leaders – from the Deputy Superintendents of Police to the chief minister – were immune from prosecution.
In view of the SIT’s partisan line, I propose that a team of criminal lawyers and seasoned police officers should examine its closure report and analyse its mechanics of appreciation of the evidence. Such a team should also critically study the merit of the evidence the SIT presented to the magistrate and thereafter give an independent opinion. The civil society should wide circulate and discuss this expert opinion so that the common citizens are made aware of the bias in the SIT report.