THEMES

Gujarat On Trial
May 1, 2009
Gujarat On Trial
Zakia Jafri Case, 2009
Gujarat on trial

An order and a judgement of the Supreme Court – in quick succession, on April 27 and May 1 – both pertaining to the genocide in Gujarat in 2002, together constitute a defining moment for the judicial process in the Narendra Modi-ruled state.

In May 2002 Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had filed a petition in the apex court  arguing that given the overwhelming evidence of police complicity in the state-sponsored carnage, to prevent further subversion of the justice process at least the major carnage cases must be investigated by an independent agency. Fifteen months later, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked for transfer of these trials outside the state. CJP intervened, filing over 65 affidavits exposing shocking subversion of the law. In November 2003, in the midst of hearing the NHRC/CJP petitions in the Best Bakery case, the Supreme Court stayed trial of the other massacre cases. In addition, CJP’s original petition asking for reinvestigation was clubbed with the NHRC matter.

In 2008 the apex court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by RK Raghavan, a retired director of the CBI, to probe into nine major massacre cases. The investigation has among other things led to the arrest in February-March 2009 of Dr Maya Kodnani, a minister in the Modi cabinet, Dr Jaideep Patel, a top VHP leader, and Valsad deputy superintendent of police, Kiritsinh Erda, on charges including attempt to murder and bid to destroy evidence. Kodnani and Patel were named by victim survivors in 12 FIRs in 2002 but very soon their names were surreptitiously dropped. Clubbing FIRs, dropping the names of influential accused, appointing public prosecutors who are members of the BJP; these are just some of the devious ploys at work in Gujarat.

The enormous import of the apex court’s ruling concerning the day-to-day trial of the nine massacre cases in Gujarat lies in the fact that it has effectively put the entire justice system in Gujarat on trial. Witness protection should be the responsibility of the Gujarat government. But the apex court has shifted this responsibility on to the SIT. The Gujarat government is not free to appoint public prosecutors; it can only do so in consultation with the SIT, the latter having the final say. Even the chief justice of the Gujarat high court has been asked to ensure that judges for the nine trials are carefully selected. The SIT is to keep the Supreme Court regularly posted on the progress of the trials. To top it all, there is the caveat that the NHRC/CJP prayer for a trial of these cases outside Gujarat, as in the Best Bakery and the Bilkees Bano case, has not been rejected but is held in abeyance.

If this judgement charts new territory in the history of communal carnage in India, far more historic is the court’s order to the SIT to investigate the role of 63 accused in the Zakiya Jaffri/CJP petition, including Chief Minister Modi, a dozen top politicians who were in Modi’s cabinet in 2006 (when the Zakiya Jaffri/CJP petitions were filed; four of them still are), top bureaucrats and police officers.

If ever the history of India’s recurring communal carnage, and the role of the criminal justice system in punishing the guilty, is written, high praise must be reserved for Justice Arijit Pasayat who retired from the Supreme Court on May 10. It was he who wrote the April 2004 judgement upholding the Zahira Shaikh/CJP petition for the transfer out of Gujarat and retrial of the Best Bakery case in Mumbai. It was Justice Pasayat who, in the same judgement, had referred to Modi as a "modern-day Nero". It was he who, as part of a three-member Supreme Court bench, issued the order on April 27 for the SIT to probe into the role of 63 top BJP politicians, IAS and IPS officers in Gujarat. And it was he who wrote the judgement of May 1, directing day-to-day trial of the nine massacre cases under the watchful eye of an adequately empowered SIT.

Even the best among judges are constrained by the evidence placed before them. The state of Gujarat – whose constitutional obligation it is to ensure the rule of law, protect life and property, prosecute the guilty – has only compounded its crime of sponsoring the 2002 genocide by its shameful Operation Cover-up ever since. Given this grim backdrop, we salute outstanding police officers like RB Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma whose depositions before the Nanavati-Shah Commission form part of the damning and overwhelming evidence that enabled the order and the ruling of the apex court.

Having said all this, in this defining moment we remain acutely conscious of the fact that the trials in Modi’s Gujarat are still ahead of us. In the tortuous battle to come we are also aware of the paradox that while the SIT has been asked to shoulder a historic burden, one of its five members – Shivanand Jha – is among the 63 accused. How the anomaly of an accused also being the investigator is resolved remains to be seen.

– EDITORS

(Disclosure: Teesta Setalvad is secretary and trustee of CJP; Javed Anand is a CJP trustee.)

Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Editorial
The Accused

 
Modi and 62 others face investigation for mass murder


Almost three years ago, on June 8, 2006, a mammoth 119-page complaint was sent by Zakiya Ahsan Jaffri to the then director general of police (DGP), Gujarat, PC Pande, who, ironically, is listed as accused number 29 in the document. The legal action group, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), through its secretary and trustee, Teesta Setalvad, had provided her with legal assistance in assimilating the material required for the historic exercise, which took over five months to draft. Although token gestures were made by the Gujarat police – the DGP sent the additional director general of police (ADGP), Mahapatra, to meet the complainant – despite 2,000 pages of devastating evidence, the Gujarat DGP saw nothing prima facie of incriminatory substance in the complaint.

Eight months after the Gujarat police refused, in spite of clear directives in law and practice, to register a first information report (FIR) and investigate the offences, the complainant and CJP jointly filed a petition in the Gujarat high court praying for directions from the court ordering the state police to register an FIR and investigate the complaint. The petition also argued for an independent investigation by the CBI since top echelons of the police hierarchy in the state were personally involved in the crimes that were alleged to have been committed. Advocates MM Tirmizi and MS Ganesh argued the matter over two days in September 2007 while advocate general, Kamal Trivedi, for the Gujarat government, strongly resisted the petitioners’ arguments. A week before judgement was delivered the petitioners had through an additional affidavit argued for the transcripts of the Tehelka exposé following its sting ‘Operation Kalank’ (made public on October 25, 2007) to be treated as extrajudicial confessions in the matter of the overarching criminal conspiracy and investigated. In November 2007 the Gujarat high court rejected both the petition and the affidavit.

Months later the petitioners filed a special leave petition in the apex court challenging the high court order. On March 3, 2008 – the first date of hearing – the apex court not only issued notice to the state and union but also appointed counsel, Prashant Bhushan, as amicus curiae to assist the court. Recognising the specificity and enormity of the complaint, the Supreme Court had observed, "What does a citizen do when it has such voluminous evidence and the police simply refuses to investigate? What is the remedy available for a citizen?"

After the usual logistical delays the matter was ultimately heard on April 27, 2009. By then the Supreme Court had also, on March 26, 2008, directed the appointment of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI director, Dr RK Raghavan, to not only reinvestigate the eight other major trials but to oversee prosecution of the accused in these trials as well.

Acknowledging the worth and magnitude of this complaint, the Supreme Court, in a historic move, ordered the SIT to investigate the allegations and submit a report to the apex court within three months. Advocates Aparna Bhat, Ramesh Pukhrambam, MS Ganesh and Sanjay Parikh appeared for the petitioners during the proceedings in the Supreme Court.

Of the 63 persons named as accused in this complaint, 12 are politicians who were, in 2006, holding the rank of cabinet ministers in the state cabinet. Four of these 12, including Narendra Modi, the chief minister himself (who also holds several cabinet portfolios, including home, transport, industry and information and broadcasting), Amit Shah (minister of state for home), Indravijaysinh K. Jadeja (minister for roads and buildings) and Prabhatsinh Chauhan (minister of state for tribal development), continue in positions of power and authority. Ashok Bhatt, minister for law and judiciary until 2007, is currently the speaker of the state assembly.

Of the 63 persons named as accused in this complaint, 12 are politicians who were, in 2006, holding the rank of cabinet ministers in the state cabinet. Four of these 12, including Narendra Modi, the chief minister himself, continue in positions of power and authority

Of the remaining accused, three are MLAs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seven are office-bearers of the state BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal (including Dr Praveen Togadia, international general secretary of the VHP), 10 are officials of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and 28 are Indian Police Service (IPS) officers.

Accused number 23 in the complaint, Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, former chairman of the VHP’s Gujarat unit and editor of the Vishwa Hindu Samachar, published from Paldi, Ahmedabad, is dead. He had in the now infamous interview given to rediff.com in March 2002 proudly claimed a badge of honour for himself and his organisation, for the selective loot and destruction of Muslim lives and properties. "Karvunj pade, karvunj pade (It had to be done, it had to be done). We don’t like it but we were terribly angry. Lust and anger are blind." He had also outlined in graphic detail how VHP and Bajrang Dal workers had been provided with ownership details of key properties and establishments, which made their task of selectively targeting Muslim-owned ones somewhat easier.

As we go to press, the SIT begins this historic investigation, a first of its kind. Interestingly, the complaint of June 8, 2006 also lists a dozen or so witnesses in order to facilitate investigation. These witnesses are all from the Gujarat state IAS and IPS cadres. The material submitted as primary evidence along with the complaint includes affidavits and depositions by police officials that contain startling revelations made before the Nanavati-Shah-Mehta Commission of Inquiry.

List of witnesses:

1. KC Kapoor; in 2006, principal secretary (home).

2. Manoj D. Antani; in 2002, superintendent of police (SP), Bharuch.

3. AS Gehlot; in 2002, SP, Mehsana.

4. Vivek Srivastava; in 2002, SP, Kutch.

5. Himanshu Bhatt; in 2002, SP, Banaskantha.

6. Piyush Patel; in 2002, deputy commissioner of police, Vadodara.

7. Maniram; in 2002, ADGP (law and order).

8. Vinod Mall; in 2002, SP, Surendranagar.

9. Sanjiv Bhatt; in 2002, SP (security), State Intelligence Bureau.

10. Jayanti Ravi; in 2002, Collector, Panchmahal.

11. Neerja Gotru; in 2003, special investigating officer assigned to reopen investigations in some riot-related cases.

12. Rahul Sharma; in 2002, SP, Bhavnagar.

13. RB Sreekumar; in 2002, ADGP
(intelligence).

Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Cover Story 1
Villain of the piece


Accused number one: Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat

 

The BJP’s rumour machine coupled with the Indian mass media’s tardiness to investigate has allowed the impression to grow that there are no specific allegations against Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the complaint currently being investigated by the SIT.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The carefully constructed complaint lists more than 100 specific charges against Narendra Modi.

 

Major charges


Misconstruing Godhra

February 27, 2002. The tragic killings in the fire in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra were used and manipulated to justify a pre-orchestrated massacre which enjoyed the sanction of the constitutionally elected government in Gujarat.

The district magistrate (DM) and collector of Panchmahal (Godhra), Jayanti Ravi, called the incident at the station an accident, as did the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, making his official statement in Parliament at about 4 p.m. on February 27. By the evening of that day however, Modi – who arrived in Godhra around 2 p.m. surrounded by VHP confidants like Dr Jaideep Patel – had decided otherwise. At about 7.30 p.m. he said on an Akashwani Gujarati radio broadcast that the incident at Godhra was a preplanned ISI-driven conspiracy (executed by local Godhra Muslims, no doubt!). In the days that followed the union ministry of home affairs, manned by none less than Modi’s mentor, LK Advani, did its best to instil into public perception the theory of a conspiracy behind the Godhra incident. To date conspiracy has not been proven.

Modi did not stop at that. He expressed his intention to have the burnt coach transported to Ahmedabad, a move that DM Jayanti Ravi strongly opposed. Irritated, Modi did the next best thing. He assembled a motor cavalcade, ordered that the bodies be handed over to the then VHP state general secretary, Jaideep Patel, and sent them to the Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. There the bodies were paraded around. The next morning, on February 28, 2002, the Gujarati daily, Sandesh, carried a gory seven-column colour photograph of the burnt bodies wrapped in white shrouds, a trishul lying beside them.

Undeterred by the impact or fallout, unconcerned by facts, Modi set his Machiavellian plan into motion.

 

Secret meetings to plan carnage

February 27, 2002. Gandhinagar, Lunawada, Godhra. Late in the evening of February 27, Modi called a secret meeting in Gandhinagar, which he attended along with some members of his cabinet and top bureaucrats. At this meeting illegal instructions were issued, where policemen and bureaucrats were in fact instructed to perform illegal acts.

According to the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002 by a panel including Justices VR Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant:

"The chief minister, Narendra Modi, took an active role along with at least three cabinet colleagues to instruct senior police personnel and civil administrators that a ‘Hindu reaction was to be expected and this must not be curtailed or controlled’."

"What is worse or as bad as the occurrences themselves is the now almost incontrovertible pointers/evidence, including statements made by a former cabinet minister of the state of Gujarat, that a high-level meeting was convened by the chief minister at which then chief secretary, Subbarao, and then [additional chief secretary (home)] Ashok Narayan, and senior policemen were summoned, at which clear instructions were given ‘not to deal with the Hindu rioting mobs’. Thereby clear sanction and sponsorship was given by the state to brute violence that included sexual violence of girls and women" (Crime Against Humanity, report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002).

A minister from Modi’s cabinet had testified about these details before the tribunal in mid-May 2002. His identity was kept anonymous. Soon after the report was released in November 2002 however, one of the panel members revealed Haren Pandya’s identity to Outlook magazine. Within months, Pandya was killed.

 

Other illegal meetings

There is other primary evidence of similar meetings to plan killings that were held in Lunawada and Godhra on February 27, 2002 at which cabinet ministers like Prabhatsinh Chauhan and others were present. Each of those present will need to be interrogated and investigated at the time of the SIT investigation.

 

Taking control of policing

The illegal attempts by senior members of the chief minister’s cabinet (Ashok Bhatt, accused number 2 in the complaint, and Indravijaysinh K. Jadeja, accused number 3) to influence the police were part of the collective design of the chief minister and his colleagues. Several reports in the press during that period described how the ministers sat in the police control rooms at Gandhinagar and Shahibag and actually subverted police rules and protocol by instructing policemen not to function and manipulating instructions in many cases to aid crimes and the destruction of evidence. Bhatt, state law minister in 2002 right up to 2007, is today the speaker of the Gujarat assembly. As head of Gujarat’s law and judiciary department, he had complete control over the appointment of public prosecutors until 2007 (see accompanying story, ‘Wheels of injustice’).

Proof of both the February 27 meeting as also the illegal activity of ministers located inside the Ahmedabad city and Gujarat state control rooms to influence police functioning, have corroborative evidence.

 

Modi’s ‘revenge’

February 28, 2002. The Tehelka tapes contain a confession or, rather, a gloating admission from a rapist from Naroda who speaks of Modi arriving in Naroda not long after 112 persons were humiliated, butchered and burnt, and euphorically congratulating the army of marauders even as he was surrounded by Black Cat commandos (who are therefore witnesses as well).

"(Suresh) Richard: [On the day of the massacre] we did whatever we did till quite late in the evening… at around 7.30… around 7.15, our Modibhai came… Right here, outside the house… My sisters garlanded him with roses… Tehelka: Narendrabhai Modi… Richard: Narendra Modi… He came with black commandos… got down from his Ambassador car and walked up here… All my sisters garlanded him… a big man is a big man after all… Tehelka: He came out on the road? Richard: Here, near this house… Then he went this way… Looked at how things were in Naroda… Tehelka: The day the Patiya incident happened…

Richard: The same evening… Tehelka: February 28… Richard: 28… Tehelka: 2002… Richard: He went around to all the places… He said our tribe was blessed… He said our mothers were blessed [for bearing us]… Tehelka: He came at about 5 o’clock or at 7? Richard: Around 7 or 7.30… At that time there was no electricity… Everything had been burnt to ashes in the riots…" (August 12, 2007, www.tehelka.com).

‘Operation Kalank’ was a sting operation carried out by Tehelka over several months and made public in October 2007. The tapes, recorded conversations with several persons who were in some way involved in the Gujarat genocide of 2002, have now been verified by the CBI and have the status of extrajudicial confessions.

The contents of these conversations are stark and revealing. Apart from brazen admissions of mass murder and rape, they describe the transportation of arms from other states and preparations for the Godhra and post-Godhra violence that were underway for several weeks before February 27, 2002. They also describe the chief minister, Narendra Modi’s direct role in fuelling mass rape and murder. These revelations call for the SIT to re-examine the veracity/authenticity of the recordings. The SIT must question/interrogate all those persons who spoke to Tehelka as well as the individuals they name no matter how powerful they may be.

One such conversation is with a man who worked in the accounts office at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara. He also speaks of direct orders from Modi and Modi’s street operator, Babu Bajrangi.

The chief minister did not visit the riot-affected areas to meet the bruised and battered victims who had taken refuge in nearby relief camps. He went there, it seems, as a victorious messiah of evil.

 

Secret undocumented meetings held by Modi

Not only were no minutes or records kept of the infamous meeting held at Chief Minister Modi’s office on February 27, 2002 but several other such irregular meetings convened by higher authorities and attended by the following officers also went undocumented:

  • Sanjiv Bhatt, the then SP (security), attended several such meetings as staff officer to GC Raiger, additional director general of police (ADGP) (intelligence), but failed to record the instructions he received.
  • KN Sharma, the then inspector general of police (IGP), Ahmedabad range, under whose jurisdiction many people were killed in the riots, also attended such illegal confabulations.
  • Deepak Swaroop, the then IGP, Vadodara range, under whose jurisdiction the Godhra incident had taken place and, moreover, many incidents of mass killing and other atrocities against minorities occurred, is also said to have participated.
  • MK Tandon, the then assistant commissioner of police (ACP), Ahmedabad, under whose jurisdiction many gruesome incidents of mass murder (Naroda Patiya, Gulberg Society, etc) had taken place was a part of the close-knit group. Tandon was present when the survivors of Gulberg finally escaped to safety and when the bodies of the 70 slaughtered victims were still recognisable. Three days later, at the mass burial of 133 dead (including victims from Gulberg and Naroda), the bodies had been reduced to dismembered pieces. One of the accused in the Gulberg Society massacre, Madan Chawal, is on record as saying (during Tehelka’s ‘Operation Kalank’) that the accused played cricket with the skulls of the Gulberg dead. The moot question is whether Tandon also connived and participated in the dismembering of corpses?
  • Amitabh Pathak, the then IGP, Gandhinagar range, under whose jurisdiction many people were killed during the post-Godhra riots, for instance, in Sardarpura in Mehsana district and several places in Sabarkantha district, was also part of this conspiracy.
  • Shivanand Jha, the then additional CP, Ahmedabad, under whose jurisdiction many notorious atrocities against the minority community were committed, was a close confidant of the chief minister. Between 2004 and 2006, as home secretary, he filed several misleading affidavits on behalf of the state government in the Supreme Court. Ironically, today he is part of the SIT appointed by the apex court.
  • DD Tuteja, the then commissioner of police (CP), Vadodara, under whose jurisdiction over three dozen incidents of violence, including the Best Bakery case, took place.

The superintendents of police in the districts of Mehsana, Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Patan, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad rural, Anand, Kheda, Vadodara rural, Godhra and Dahod, where mass killings were reported during the riots, all need to be specifically interrogated for their roles as also their failure to document illegal and unconstitutional instructions from the chief minister and other representatives of the state government.

No minutes of the meetings held by the chief minister and senior bureaucrats were recorded and such questionable instructions were mainly conveyed by telephone.

Not keeping minutes served the twin objectives of 1) field officers carrying out the conspiracy to execute a pogrom against the minorities and 2) avoidance of the subsequent monitoring of the actions of jurisdictional officers in the field.

The tragic killings in the fire in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra were used and manipulated to justify a pre-orchestrated massacre which enjoyed the sanction of the constitutionally elected government in Gujarat

Further corroboration of the unconstitutional meeting: February 27, 2002

Former DGP, Gujarat, RB Sreekumar, states in para 84 of his fourth affidavit before the Nanavati-Shah Commission that on February 28, 2002 his senior, the then DGP, K. Chakravarti, also told him about the late evening meeting on February 27. The meeting was held in Modi’s office after his return from Godhra. At this meeting the chief minister is reported to have said, "In communal riots police takes action against Hindus and Muslims on one-to-one basis. This will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger." None of the officers present at the meeting (which included PC Pande, the then CP, Ahmedabad, Ashok Narayan, additional chief secretary (home), etc) objected to these verbal instructions from the chief minister.

Chakravarti also observed in his conversation with Sreekumar that the chief minister’s attitude was proving to be a major obstacle to police officers in initiating action against Hindu communal elements who were on the rampage against minorities. He added that the act of parading the dead bodies of those killed in the Godhra train fire in Ahmedabad, including those who did not belong to the city, was highly objectionable and had made the situation more volatile by provoking rage among Hindu communal elements against the minority community. He also said that PC Pande had objected to this parading of dead bodies in Ahmedabad but the commissioner’s objections had been overruled by the chief minister.

Although Sreekumar suggested to Chakravarti that the latter should issue instructions to jurisdictional officers to act in accordance with the law, and follow the appropriate instructions regarding the strategy and tactics to be employed while handling communal riots, nothing of the sort was done.

DGP Chakravarti was quite critical of the presence of a cabinet minister, IK Jadeja, in his office during the days following the Godhra train fire and complained that this was adversely affecting his supervision of the riot situation. He also said that officers in critical situations were carrying out the verbal orders of leaders of the ruling party instead of following the directives of jurisdictional officers.

There is further corroboration of the meeting in the chief minister’s office.

Sreekumar, who bore the designation of additional director general of police at the time, was posted as head of the Gujarat state intelligence wing from April 2002. From April 2002 until September that year he maintained a contemporaneous record (a personal register) documenting the illegal instructions issued by Modi and his own superiors in the police department. These instructions were aimed not towards arresting the violence and booking the guilty but shielding the real accused and concocting false evidence. He got this document cross-signed by his immediate boss, OP Mathur, the IGP (administration and security).

In this register, Sreekumar documents that on June 7, 2002 PK Mishra, principal secretary to the chief minister and accused no 31 in the FIR, asked him, as chief of intelligence, to find out which minister from the Modi cabinet had met a private inquiry commission of which retired Supreme Court judge, VR Krishna Iyer, was a part. Mishra told Sreekumar that Haren Pandya, the then minister of state for revenue, was suspected to be the man concerned. He also gave Sreekumar the number of a mobile phone (98240 30629) and asked him to trace the call records.

Five days later, on June 12, 2002, Sreekumar informed Mishra that Haren Pandya was believed to be the minister concerned even as he stressed that the matter was a sensitive one and outside the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB)’s charter of duties. Call details of the above-mentioned mobile phone which, it turned out, did belong to Pandya, were however handed over to Mishra through IGP OP Mathur.

Modi was obviously keeping a close watch on any information leaks or dissent within his cabinet or hierarchy of officials.

 

The Charges

Charge One
Conspiracy and abetment to commit multiple offences of murder (Section 120-B, 114 r/w 302 IPC)

Charge Two
Furnishing false information (Section 177 IPC)    

Charge Three
Injuring and defiling place of worship (Section 295 IPC)

Charge Four
Outraging religious belief (Section 295-A IPC)

Charge Five
Criminal intimidation (Section 506 IPC)    

Charge Six
False statement as evidence (Section 199 IPC)    

Charge Seven
Giving false information about offences committed (Section 203 IPC)

Charge Eight
Obstructing public servant in discharge of duties (Section 186 IPC)

Charge Nine
Omission to assist public servant (Section 187 IPC)    

Charge Ten
Promoting enmity between peoples on grounds of religion (Section 153-A IPC)

Charge Eleven
Uttering words to wound religious feelings (Section 298 IPC)

Charge Twelve
Disobeying law with intent to cause injury to any person (Section 166 IPC)   


Modi forgives his men

No action was taken against officers like K. Chakravarti, the then DGP, Gujarat, PC Pande, the then CP, Ahmedabad, Ashok Narayan, the then additional chief secretary (home) or a large number of other senior functionaries in the state government for failure to act and control the violence. These are also the officers who filed incomplete, inaccurate and inadequate affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

 

More Modi mischief

Ø Modi’s interview to the press in which he quoted Newton’s third law of motion to justify the atrocities against the Muslim community: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."

Ø There was no direction from Modi to Hindu organisations against the observance of a bandh on February 28, 2002.

Ø There was an unnecessary delay in the requisition for and deployment of the army even though anti-minority violence had broken out in the cities of Vadodara, Ahmedabad, etc on the afternoon of February 27 itself.

 

Modi failed to act against hate writing

No action was taken against the print media for carrying communally inflammatory reports despite the fact that the SIB and some field officers had recommended such action (as noted in Sreekumar’s first affidavit 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 to prosecute the errant media. Modi was Gujarat’s home minister then as he is even today.

 

More Tehelka revelations on Modi

Ø"To get me out on bail Narendrabhai changed judges thrice." – Babu Bajrangi Patel, Bajrang Dal leader and prime accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre case.

Ø "His rage was great." – Ramesh Dave, sangh diehard.

Ø "He has done what no CM ever has… he openly said that we had three days to do what we could… he said he would not give us time after that." – Haresh Bhatt, Bajrang Dal leader, Godhra.

Ø "Were Modi not a minister, he would have burst bombs." – Arvind Pandya, Gujarat government counsel before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

Ø "Revenge was his promise…" – Rajendra Vyas, VHP Ahmedabad president.

 

Punish the good, reward the bad

The transfer of officers from field executive posts, in the thick of the 2002 riots, despite the DGP’s objection to these transfers, amounted to Modi, as chief executive, deliberately interfering in their duties.

The transfers were effected to facilitate the convenient placement, in crucial positions, of those persons among the IPS and IAS who were willing to subvert the system for personal benefit.

Similarly, Modi rewarded those senior officials who gave incomplete and questionable evidence before the Nanavati-Shah Commission with undue benefits. PC Pande, a Modi favourite, was rehabilitated into the CBI when Advani was home minister in February 2004, just when citizens’ groups were pleading for independent investigation into the riot cases. In a clear-cut directive, the Supreme Court ruled in October 2004 that he should be kept out of handling Gujarat 2002 cases. Defiant and undeterred, in 2006 the Modi government appointed him DGP of the state, a post that he occupied until six weeks before his retirement. A subsequent challenge to his appointment, by CJP in the Supreme Court, was rejected, after extensive arguments, in February 2009.

Another equally glaring example of rewards for the bad was the post-retirement appointment of Ashok Narayan, the then additional chief secretary, home department, to a two-year post as State Vigilance Commissioner, which was followed by further rewards in the form of five extensions of his tenure.
 


Courtesy: deshgujarat.com        All the chief minister’s men
 

Modi’s speeches during the gaurav yatra

Becharaji, Mehsana: Modi makes inflammatory speeches demonising Muslims in his build-up to the 2002 election campaign and then does his best to deny information about the same to the National Commission for Minorities (see box, ‘Tongue of flame’).

 

Modi ignores state intelligence reports

The Gujarat state intelligence department had sent cautionary and detailed reports to the state home department manned by additional chief secretary, Ashok Narayan, and home minister, Narendra Modi. These were dated April 24, June 15, August 20 and August 28, 2002. No follow-up action was taken by the home department on these reports, copies of which were appended to Sreekumar’s second affidavit dated October 6, 2004 before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

These were not simply ignored by the government. At first, Modi tried to get Sreekumar to redo his reports in accordance with the state government’s ideological interpretation. This was recorded by the former intelligence chief in his personal register. When that did not work, and the ADGP (intelligence) actually provided an independent view to the Chief Election Commission (CEC) and the National Commission for Minorities (on Modi’s speech at Becharaji), Sreekumar was transferred out of this sensitive post.

 

What did the SIB reports say?

April 24, 2002: This candid five-page appraisal speaks of the strong resentment felt by the Muslim minority, given the disproportionate destruction of Muslim life and property as also the connivance of the state government through its police and law and judiciary department to protect the accused. The report details that "as on April 23, 2002, 636 Muslims were killed in the riots (of these, 91 were killed in police firing) as against 181 Hindus killed (76 in police firing). Nearly 329 Muslims had sustained injuries in arson as against 74 Hindus… Significantly, this trend of loss of life and damage to property is heavily weighted against Muslims in Ahmedabad city where 278 Muslims were killed in riots (including 57 in police firing) as against 91 Hindus (30 in police action). The persons injured in stabbing and arson, etc comes to 408 in Muslims as against 329 Hindu victims of stabbing and arson."

The report details the victim community’s deep animosity towards the police and the state for doctoring FIRs (not registering actual names of the accused) and clubbing together FIRs in order to reduce the magnitude of the crimes, for not seizing the property of Hindu accused arrested for serious non-bailable offences and for the appointment of partisan public prosecutors who belonged to the ruling party and extremist Hindu organisations.

On May 7, 2002 Modi summoned Sreekumar to his office and, on the pretext of asking for his assessment of the continuing violence in Ahmedabad, criticised the intelligence chief’s note of April 24, saying that it had drawn the wrong conclusions based "on partial data and defective presumptions". Modi told Sreekumar that the violence unleashed by Hindu mobs after the Godhra incident on February 27, was a natural, uncontrollable reaction that no police force could control. Sreekumar argued with the chief minister, saying that the authorities could not take such an attitude, especially not the police department whose primary duty was to maintain public order. Modi then became defensive, laying the blame on the DGP and CP, Ahmedabad, who had been given powers, he said, to control the violence. He then asked Sreekumar to concentrate on Muslim militants. Sreekumar urged the chief minister to take steps to restore the confidence of the minority community as outlined by him in his note. This included immediate and concrete steps to arrest the subversion of the criminal justice system, arrest the guilty criminals and initiate confidence building measures between the two communities. Instead of doing this, the police watched silently as VHP and Bajrang Dal criminals openly extorted monies, promoted the economic boycott of Muslim establishments and so on.

Modi was now visibly annoyed at Sreekumar’s suggestions and argued that it was Muslims who were on the offensive. Quoting statistics on high casualties among Muslims due to police firing during the riots, Sreekumar appealed to him to see reason and acknowledge that it was Hindus who were on the offensive. The chief minister instructed him not to concentrate on the sangh parivar, as they were not doing anything illegal. Sreekumar replied that it was his duty to report accurately on any developing situation and provide advance, actionable, preventive, real time intelligence that may have a bearing on public order and the unity and integrity of India even if that meant keeping tabs on the sangh. Understanding the significance of the response, the chief minister tried one last time to throw his weight around. Modi asserted that he (Modi) should be the intelligence chief’s "source" in tracking the sangh parivar and that Sreekumar need not look for sources elsewhere. (It was a clear hint that Sreekumar should not bother to collect data on the sangh parivar.)

 

The face-off continues

June 15, 2002: The Gujarat state intelligence department gave a detailed and critical report to the state home department advising against the government proposal to allow the annual Jagannath rath yatra and warned that given that sentiments were still raw following the recent widespread violence, there was a possibility of communally volatile situations developing. The intelligence department had also warned of simmering resentment within the minority community which had been at the receiving end of the violence and could mean the risk of attacks on the rath yatra.

June 25, 2002: The chief minister convened a conference of senior officers of and above the rank of SPs from all over the state. In his address to the officers, he asked them all to enforce the law according to their (Modi’s) reading of the situation. In his personal register, Sreekumar observes: "This 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." Sreekumar also records how Modi asked the "police not to be influenced by the JNU brand of secularism." The chief minister’s tacit message was that police officers should function as committed ideologues of the ruling party and not soldiers of the Indian Constitution.

August 20, 2002: Following a telephonic request from PS Shah, additional secretary (law and order), on August 20, 2002, the SIB submitted its own independent review of the law and order situation in the state. It is obvious that the state government was seeking acquiescence to enable it to justify its decision on July 19, 2002 to dissolve the state assembly and call for immediate elections.

In this report, the SIB observes that:

a) Incidents were reported from "993 villages and 151 towns covering 284 police stations (out of 464 police stations) spread over 54 assembly constituencies out of 182 assembly constituencies."

b) The communal divide between the Hindus and Muslims had widened to an unprecedented degree. The interaction between the two communities was practically negligible in social, commercial, financial and cultural fields. Large sections of the minorities, being the major victims in the recent riots, were still to develop adequate faith in the administration, police department and criminal justice system. The minorities also continued to complain that many rioters belonging to the Hindu community had not been arrested, as they held important positions in Hindu organisations.

c) The minorities were also dejected about non-implementation of most of the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Minorities. They were also upset about the fact that of the 302 dargahs, 209 mosques and 30 madrassas damaged during the riots, only a handful had been repaired and restored to their original condition.

d) In many places, riots victims belonging to the minority community could not restart their commercial activities, or the small businesses they ran before the riots, due to a constant feeling of insecurity. In one incident that took place as late as July 4, 2002, a (Muslim) man and his son were murdered upon their return to their hometown in Vadodara district.

e) An estimated 75,500 persons from 13 districts had been shifted to other places and had yet to return home. If elections were to be held in this heightened atmosphere of insecurity, these persons would remain practically disenfranchised in the event of an election being held before their return to their hometowns. According to information that was received, interested political parties would in all probability collect such persons in large numbers and insist upon their voting rights on polling day. This would lead to confrontations between rival political groups and a resultant disruption of public order.

‘The chief minister, Narendra Modi, took an active role along with at least three cabinet colleagues to instruct senior police personnel and civil administrators that a Hindu reaction was to be expected and this must not be curtailed or controlled’

f) During the communal riots 10,472 houses, 12,588 shops and 2,724 larri/gallas were damaged or destroyed due to arson while 1,333 shops were ransacked. In this process thousands of people have lost all their documents of identity. Unless prompt remedial measures were taken, they would also pose a problem with regard to their re-enumeration as electors and subsequently, in exercising their franchise.

g) With so many persons having fled, it was unlikely that the elections would be free or fair.

August 28, 2002: In another report on the law and order scenario, the SIB once again details the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion between communities and the danger posed by the propagation of fundamentalist literature on both sides that could widen the gulf. Hence it advises that the state home department issue specific instructions to district collectors/district magistrates ordering them to take strict action against the projection of communal issues in the campaign and to rigorously observe the law and guidelines on assembly of persons so as to avoid any clashes.

Additional chief secretary (home), Ashok Narayan, took exception to the SIB’s assessment, as reflected in deputy inspector general of police (DIG) E. Radhakrishna’s report of August 28, 2002 where he questions Sreekumar on this. Sreekumar replies on August 30, 2002. He states that the Election Commission of India has observed that SIB appraisal of the communal situation was in consonance with the inputs received by the commission as evident from its order dated August 16, 2002. In response to Narayan’s query on "whether the SIB’s assessment was based only on the input from some of your field officers or the input from other government officials and others connected with the administration of the state were taken into consideration", Sreekumar replies that the SIB assessment was "based on the intelligence gathered by SIB functionaries, including senior officers, and also data received from jurisdictional police officers. We did not collect any data from any non-police departmental sources."

 

Modi misleads CEC

The Gujarat state home department gave the CEC misleading reports about the ‘normalcy’ in the state in a crude bid to push for early assembly elections, riding high on a massacre. SIB chief, Sreekumar gave an opinion contrary to the "official version" in early August 2002. The assessment of the Gujarat state home department was adjudged to be false by the EC in its order dated August 16, 2002. Modi, as home minister, headed this department.

In his personal register, Sreekumar records 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. He chose instead to follow his conscience.

 

Modi’s government lies to the NHRC

The Modi government failed to create a situation conducive to the rehabilitation of riot victims notwithstanding its claims to the contrary in reports to the NHRC. Instead, the riot victims were pressurised to compromise with the perpetrators of the violence as a condition precedent to their safe return and rehabilitation.
 


Shah Alam Relief Camp
 

Ruthless suppression of evidence

On July 20, 2004, faced with a hostile government in New Delhi which had threatened to set up a parallel central commission of inquiry into the genocidal carnage of 2002, the Modi government expanded the terms of reference of the Nanavati-Shah Commission. The second term of reference requested the commission inter alia to inquire into the "role and conduct of the then chief minister (Narendra Modi) or any other ministers in his council of ministers, police officers, other individuals and organisations" relating "to the facts, circumstances and course of events of the subsequent incidents in the aftermath of the Godhra incidents."

But this was obviously a mere formality, meant only to appease the public. It is odd that the Nanavati-Shah Commission did not insist that the commission’s terms of reference be honoured by the state government and its representatives. RB Sreekumar and Rahul Sharma were among the few who deposed on this critical question. Meanwhile, senior officials who are also accused in this complaint conspired with Modi and his men to suppress the truth about 2002.

 

The following persons are conspicuous for their role in suppressing key evidence:

1. Ashok Narayan, the then additional chief secretary (home).

2. PK Mishra, the then principal secretary to the chief minister.

3. K. Chakravarti, the then DGP, Gujarat.

4. K. Nityanandam, the then home secretary.

5. PC Pande, the then CP, Ahmedabad.

6. KR Kaushik, in his capacity as ADGP (crime), supervising investigations into the Godhra train fire, and later, as CP, Ahmedabad, in May, 2002.

7. AK Bhargava, the then ADGP (administration) and later, DGP, Gujarat.

8. Maniram, the then ADGP (law and order), in charge of maintaining law and order across the entire state during the protracted riots in 2002.

9. GC Raiger, the then ADGP (intelligence), during the crucial period of the Gujarat riots i.e. from February 27 to April 9, 2002. He was among those who attended secret meetings convened by the chief minister, the chief secretary and additional chief secretary, Ashok Narayan.

Modi intimidates his officials: Do not tell the truth before the commission

Modi misused his power and the office of chief minister to pressurise and intimidate his officials into withholding critical evidence and not testifying before the Nanavati-Shah Commission.

The complaint quotes extensively from the affidavits of the then ADGP, Sreekumar, regarding the manner in which he was asked to withhold evidence and falsely testify before the commission.

After newspapers carried reports on Sreekumar’s first affidavit dated July 6, 2002, which he filed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission in mid-2002, the chief minister used his clout, and marshalled the services of senior IPS officers, to approach the ADGP with clear attempts to pressurise him into giving false evidence before a commission of inquiry set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952 in the public interest.

On August 21, 2004 a middle-level officer in the home department, the then undersecretary (budget and coordination), Dinesh Kapadia, tried to persuade Sreekumar, who was to appear before the commission on August 31, to give a deposition favourable to the government. Kapadia told Sreekumar that no purpose would be served by telling the truth before the commission since its recommendations would not be accepted and said that all commissions were paper tigers. Three days after this endeavour, one that had obviously been carried out with Modi’s blessings, GC Murmu, the then secretary (law and order), home department, summoned the ADGP. On the evening of August 24, 2004 a "briefing session for tutoring Sreekumar" was held.

Murmu was ably aided and abetted in this illegal effort by Arvind Pandya, advocate for the Gujarat government before the commission. They directed this police officer to avoid making any statements that could embarrass the government. They stressed that they had similarly briefed all witnesses i.e. government officials on how to depose before the commission without harming the Gujarat government’s interests. When Sreekumar did not oblige, he was threatened... if he gave a statement that went against the interests of the state government, he would be declared a hostile witness and dealt with suitably later.

Sreekumar taped this blatantly illegal effort and has appended the tape and its transcript to his third affidavit before the commission.

Modi has protected the accused, had the evidence tampered with or destroyed, worked hard to ensure the impotence of the Nanavati-Shah Commission and subverted the justice process. In fact, having presided over the genocidal pogrom, he is now misusing his powers to ensure that justice is not done
 

This briefing and the directives issued by Murmu and Pandya were patent efforts to intimidate a witness and tamper with evidence, both of which are serious offences under the Indian Penal Code. Moreover, these actions were in total violation of the letter and spirit of the terms of reference of the commission as specified in the government notifications dated March 6, 2002 and July 20, 2004. In these notifications, the state legal department among other things stressed on inquiring into the "role and conduct of the then chief minister or any other ministers in his council of ministers, police officers, other individuals and organisations" in the Godhra and post-Godhra violence.

Instead of encouraging officers to assist the commission in arriving at the truth behind the collapse of law and order and the pogrom against Gujarat’s Muslims, at this in camera meeting attempts were made to influence and intimidate a senior officer of the Indian Police Service and a prime witness before the commission. He was being directed, at Modi’s behest, to lie under oath and avoid telling the whole truth.

Needless to say, Sreekumar refused to comply with these unlawful demands. Retribution came swiftly, however. He was denied his rightful promotion to the top police post in the state even as vicious attempts were made to charge-sheet him. He was separately charge-sheeted for sharing confidential government records before an inquiry commission investigating the cause of the outbreak of violence in 2002 and the persons responsible for it. He fought both cases and emerged vindicated. A day before his retirement on February 28, 2009 he was reinstated as DGP and thus retired in the very post that his vengeful political bosses had sought to deny him.

These are the instructions that Sreekumar received from the government’s emissaries:

1. Conceal the facts before the commission.

2. Accept the conspiracy theory with regard to the fire in coach-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002.

3. Do not reveal any data on acts of omission and commission by government functionaries and other senior officers.

4. Avoid any comment on the government’s inaction on reports he had submitted as ADGP (intelligence) from February to September 2002.

5. Do not provide additional facts which could result in the commission summoning more government functionaries for deposition.

6. He was warned that he would be made answerable to government through a departmental inquiry if he deposed in a manner contrary to the Gujarat government’s interests.

7. The duo also made critical remarks about the Supreme Court.

8. Undesirable comments were also made about the Gujarat high court.

9. Sreekumar was told that officers like him should be committed to the interests of the government, even at the cost of adherence to truth and so on.

It is unlikely that Murmu and Pandya acted on their own initiative. Two years after the carnage, the message they carried was clear. Conceal the truth about 2002 or else… Such intimidation by representatives of the government is unlikely to have occurred without Modi’s blessings.

 

Intimidation of witnesses

Over the past seven-and-a-half-years the discreet and overt intimidation of witnesses continues under the current Gujarat dispensation.

Contempt of the justice process

Despite recommendations by the CBI, which investigated the Bilkees Bano case, the state’s home department under Narendra Modi did not initiate departmental action against Jadeja, the then SP of Dahod district, for gross misconduct and destruction of evidence in this case. Aided by state-appointed doctors, the police officer had worked hard to destroy evidence of the murder of Bilkees’s daughter, Saleha, and sought to bury her body without proper investigations.

In August 2004, almost five years ago, Rahul Sharma submitted a critical piece of evidence, a CD containing the cellphone call records of BJP leaders and senior police officials, to the Nanavati-Shah Commission. It was only in 2008-2009, after the Supreme Court had appointed the SIT headed by Dr RK Raghavan, that some of these call records were verified by the SIT and the roles of influential accused in the Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society cases (whose names had mysteriously vanished from the charge sheets) were exposed. In the two years prior to 2004 the investigating officers in these cases simply did not probe into the contents of this CD, which clearly suggests that they had received clear-cut instructions not to investigate the role of ministers, MLAs and leaders of the VHP and Bajrang Dal in the violence.

Slack review of 2,000 cases

Review of the 2,000-odd post-Godhra riot cases, as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2004, was conducted in a slack and unprofessional manner. This was achieved by entrusting the job to those senior officers who were either willing or constrained to act in accordance with the partisan interests of the BJP and the chief minister.

 

2004: Indictment by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court severely indicted the Gujarat government and the high court for the injustices done to the minority community and riot victims in the investigation of riot cases. The apex court transferred two cases, the Bilkees Bano case and the Best Bakery case, out of Gujarat, to Maharashtra.

Partisan investigations

The Gujarat government under Narendra Modi is guilty of betraying prejudice against riot victims belonging to the minority community, as revealed by Rahul Sharma, the then SP, Bhavnagar, during his cross-examination before the Nanavati-Shah Commission in 2004. He stated under oath that the then home minister, Gordhan Zadaphiya, reprimanded him for taking action against a mob that was about to set fire to a madrassa with 400 children inside.

 

Further indictment by the Supreme Court

Amit Shah, the then minister of state for home, along with Madhu Srivastava, a sitting MLA (formerly BJP) from Vadodara, influenced the key witness, Zahira Shaikh, and her immediate family while the Best Bakery trial was underway in Gujarat. After she fled to Gujarat in October-November 2004 (while the retrial was on in Mumbai) Shaikh was given commando protection and secretly housed at the Silver Oak club in Gandhinagar, which was closed to all other guests. Allegations were hurled at me (Teesta Setalvad, as secretary of CJP) and I approached the apex court for an impartial inquiry. On August 25, 2005 a report by the registrar general exonerated me completely and instead accused Zahira Shaikh of being bribed by Madhu Srivastava. But the Gujarat government under Narendra Modi initiated no action against Srivastava who was found guilty by the Supreme Court’s registrar general of intimidating and bribing witnesses.

 

2005: Mass graves dug up in Lunawada

After trying for three years to locate the remains of their near and dear ones, victim survivors of the Pandharwada and Kidiad massacres unearthed, in December 2005, the remains of their loved ones who had been illegally dumped in forest wasteland near the Paanam river outside Lunawada town. The Gujarat high court ordered the human remains to be sent for DNA testing and analysis, to be carried out at the forensic laboratory at Red Hill, Hyderabad, under CBI supervision. Overnight an FIR was registered against the victim survivors for illegal digging and they had to give their blood samples under threat of arrest. Instead of showing concern for relatives searching for the remains of their lost ones, the administration was vindictive. Seven months later the test results showed that samples from nine body remains matched the DNA samples taken from relatives of the massacre victims. Yet, three-and-a-half years later, the remains of those who were killed have still not been handed over to the victim survivors. In late 2007 CJP approached the Supreme Court for a directive that would enable quick access to the remains, which are still lying in Hyderabad, in order to ensure speedy burial. The apex court only directed CJP to approach the trial court in Godhra.

 

2006: Best Bakery retrial

The judgement of the Mumbai fast track trial court in the Best Bakery case sentenced nine accused to life imprisonment and also indicted senior police officials in Gujarat for their conduct during the trial, which amounted to suppression of evidence. These include the then CP, Vadodara, Deepak Swaroop, the IG (intelligence), K. Kumarswami and PI Pargi, who recorded doctored statements from the hostile witnesses while they were state guests of the Gujarat government!

 

2008: Bilkees Bano judgement

Judgement was pronounced by the Mumbai fast track court investigating the Bilkees Bano case where a total of 12 people were convicted, 11 of them being sentenced to life imprisonment. The 12 include three officers of the Gujarat police who were convicted for suppression of evidence. Speaking to the press after the judgement was read, Bilkees Bano said that she was still not safe in Gujarat.

 

Conclusion

The fact that the victims of the 2002 genocidal pogrom were predominantly from the Muslim community indicates that the criminals who committed the crimes and officers of the police and administration who were directed by politicians in power all worked together in pursuance of a conspiracy, to achieve the objectives and design of the chief minister, Narendra Modi.

The offences detailed in the complaint now being investigated by the SIT are wide-ranging and extremely grave. They establish prima facie that the accused number one had violated and is violating his oath of allegiance to the Constitution of India. Modi has done this by shaping the narrative of the Godhra train fire into one of preplanned conspiracy thus creating a climate conducive to "Hindu revenge". In short, he has, through the illegal use of the human and material resources at his command in a constitutionally elected post, protected the accused, had the evidence tampered with or destroyed, worked hard to ensure the impotence of the Nanavati-Shah Commission and subverted the justice process. In fact, having presided over the genocidal pogrom, he is now misusing his powers to ensure that justice is not done.

How far this investigation goes is a robust test for the Indian system.

Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Cover Story 2
 

The silent conspirator


Accused number 29: PC Pande, former commissioner of police,
Ahmedabad

PC Pande, the former commissioner of police (CP), Ahmedabad, and later the DGP, Gujarat, who continues to enjoy special favour with the Modi dispensation, sent a confidential written communication to the then DGP, K. Chakravarti, on April 19, 2002. The letter implicates Bharat Barot, the then minister for food and civil supplies in the Gujarat government, as he directly instigated well-known gangsters of the Bajrang Dal and VHP to arson. Another such letter by the CP, written ten days later, was addressed to both DGP K. Chakravarti, and the then additional chief secretary (home), Ashok Narayan (accused numbers 25 and 28 respectively).
 

Both these letters were submitted to the Nanavati-Shah Commission in 2006 as appendices to the then ADGP, Mahapatra’s affidavit. Despite attempts by the commission to prevent copies of the letters from coming out, CJP managed to access the documents in 2006 itself and they were part of the Zakiya Jaffri petition in both the Gujarat high court and the Supreme Court.
 

On April 15, 2002, four days before Pande’s first letter to the DGP, a mob had gathered near the Amba Mata temple, near Kapadia High School outside Delhi Darwaja in Ahmedabad. This was at 9.30 a.m., in broad daylight. Bharat Barot, then a cabinet minister, drove up in a white private car, had a whispered confabulation with some members of the mob (named below) and drove off. As soon as he left, incidents of arson took place outside Delhi Darwaja and near Idgah Chowky.
 

The commissioner of police, Ahmedabad, while referring to this incident in the letter to his boss, the DGP, states that Harshad Panchal, Dipak Goradia and Dinesh Prajapati, all workers of the Bajrang Dal, were part of the mob. Pande, who was part of Narendra Modi’s major cover-up operation in 2002, also says that known leaders of the VHP and Bajrang Dal such as Raju Ravji Thakore, Kamlesh Babu Thakore, Bholiyo, Virambhai, Paresh Langdo and Mahendra Bachubhai were part of a mob that had launched attacks in the Madhavpura locality.
 

What steps did the police take? PC Pande, instead of booking the minister for incitement and abetment, politely requests his boss "to bring this matter to the knowledge of government" and to make arrangements to ensure that "Hon’ble ministers of government may not do (sic) such activity."
 

Yes, Pande does write the letter. But what more does he do? He keeps it under wraps until it is produced before the Nanavati-Shah Commission four years later.
 

 

Shielding extortion by the VHP/Bajrang Dal

Ten days later, on April 29, 2002, Pande makes other significant revelations in a second written communication, this one addressed to both Chakravarti and Ashok Narayan. This document, which was also accessed by CJP, was submitted to the Gujarat high court in 2007 as an annexure to the petition filed by Zakiya Jaffri and CJP, seeking directions from the court for registration of an FIR against Modi and 62 others. In 2008 it was also filed in the Supreme Court, in the litigation challenging the appointment of PC Pande as DGP of Gujarat.
 

In this letter, while reporting on the continued misbehaviour and criminal actions of the VHP and Bajrang Dal in Ahmedabad, Pande says "one and three quarter months (after the Godhra and post-Godhra violence) …when the situation in Ahmedabad is limping back to normal, some ugly activities are being carried out by parties that have the support of the government."


Why did the commissioner of police restrict himself to private pleas and in-house communications instead of acting to book the criminals for their illegal activities?
 

Specifically, he states that workers of the VHP and Bajrang Dal in Ahmedabad city were extorting money from businessmen under the pretext of providing them protection from the minority community. Though forced by the bullying tactics of the VHP and Bajrang Dal into paying out the amounts demanded, the businessmen had nonetheless complained about these illegal activities in public and also to the police.
 

Worse still, Pande also makes reference to complaints received by the police of threats faced by the minority community when they went to majority-dominated areas for work or work-related activities. Here too he says that the police had noted the active role played by workers of the VHP and Bajrang Dal.
 

(This from a man who suffered a sudden lapse of memory during his deposition before the Nanavati-Shah Commission and one who has protected the state government before and since.
 

Why does the commissioner of police restrict himself to private pleas and in-house communications instead of acting to book the criminals for their illegal activities?)
 

Pande also states in this letter that attempts were being made by criminals belonging to the VHP and Bajrang Dal to seize the properties of minorities after their homes had been destroyed by goons belonging to the majority community. He says that members of the minority community were not allowed to reclaim their properties and were being threatened if they did return.
 

Pande reveals all in confidential communications to his superiors but takes no steps to book the criminals, register complaints and protect the victims. He privately acknowledges the criminal activities of groups that enjoy the patronage of the top men in government as seen in these letters. He even appeals to the state government to stop their patronage and protection of criminal groups like the VHP and Bajrang Dal. Why does he do nothing more?


Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Cover Story 3

Tongue of flame
Following reports in the media of Narendra Modi’s inflammatory speeches against the minorities, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) sent a message to the Gujarat home department on September 10, 2002, requesting a copy of the speech made by the chief minister at Becharaji, a temple town in Mehsana district, a day earlier. Modi’s hate speech formed part of the overall message of his gaurav yatra.

Attempting to block such information, the Gujarat government claimed that it had been unable to trace a copy of the speech and could not send it to the NCM. The state home department even got the then DGP, K. Chakravarti, to endorse that the state intelligence department, headed by the then ADGP, RB Sreekumar, was not required to provide such a report. But Sreekumar felt duty bound to comply with the request. He obtained a copy of the speech and forwarded it to the commission. This proved to be a costly move. Viewed for months as a thorn in the flesh of the Gujarat government, Sreekumar was immediately transferred out of the intelligence department to a relatively insignificant post.

In his speech of September 9, 2002, an impenitent Modi makes several derogatory remarks about the minorities, offers indirect justification for the anti-Muslim pogrom earlier that year and even ridicules the plight of the thousands of refugees, victims of the violence who still lived in relief camps. Despite efforts by CJP, no action has so far been taken against Modi for this blatant attempt to engender hatred and ill will towards Muslims and create a communal divide. Excerpts from the speech:



The gaurav yatra has now reached the holy land of Becharaji… blowing the bugle of Gujarat’s self-respect. This is the holy place of power (Shakti), the power to exterminate the asuras. We have resolved to destroy and stamp out all evil forces that are a threat to the self-respect of Gujarat.

We are accused of being Hinduwadis. Oh, brothers! Our government has allotted eight crore rupees for the development of Becharaji Devi temple. Have we committed a crime? Have we become communal by allotting eight crore rupees for the development of Becharaji?

Our Congress friends say Narendrabhai has brought Narmada water to the Sabarmati river and this man is so clever that he brought it in the month of Shravan. Let me ask my Congress friends a question: if water is brought during the month of Shravan, those mothers/ladies residing on the banks of the Sabarmati river can bathe in Narmada water and feel holy and blessed. So how does it hurt them? Since we (BJP) are here, we brought water to the Sabarmati during the month of Shravan, when you (Congress) are there, you can bring it in the month of Ramzan!

When we bring water in the month of Shravan, you feel bad. When we spend money for the development of Becharaji, you feel bad. What, brother, should we run relief camps? (At the time, tens of thousands of Muslims, rendered homeless during the carnage, were still living in relief camps.) Should I start baby producing centres there? If we want to develop Gujarat… we need to teach those people (Muslims) who are expanding their population a lesson.

In Gujarat, madrassas are coming up in large numbers. Children have the right to primary education. But a madrassa-going child is deprived of primary education. What will such a child do when he grows up? What if normal education was not available and only religious education was available; would this not be a burden on Gujarat?

We cannot permit merchants of death to operate freely in Gujarat. I may lose the chair but I will not allow those plotting to destroy Gujarat and harm the innocent to carry out their plans. The days of somebody like Dawood Ibrahim sitting in Karachi and playing games of murder and destruction are over.

Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Cover Story 4
Building up an arsenal


Questions for the Special Investigation Team

Criminal behaviour of kar sevaks at Rudauli near Faizabad
 

A detailed study of the Gujarat state intelligence and police documentation now before the Nanavati-Shah Commission through the affidavits of RB Sreekumar and Raahul Sharma reveals fairly high levels of communal mobilisation of members of sangh parivar outfits throughout February 2002. Field officers of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) submitted reports of such activity which were however ignored by the state government. Around mid-February 2002 there were two separate reports from the Gujarat SIB stating that Haresh Bhatt, Bajrang Dal leader (and former BJP MLA from Godhra), and Prahlad J. Patel, president of the Bajrang Dal, Mehsana, were among the group of kar sevaks who had gone to Ayodhya for the Ayodhya Maha Yagna.
 

On February 22, 2002 the Gujarat intelligence department received a fax message (of the same date) from the UP state intelligence department, informing them of the criminal behaviour of kar sevaks travelling on the Sabarmati Express S-6 special bogie. This is in all likelihood the same bogie that caught fire a few days later. The message from the UP intelligence department states that when some local people tried to enter the bogie at the Rudauli station near Faizabad the kar sevaks attacked them with trishuls and daggers and injured some of them. An FIR was also registered for the crime. Communalism Combat, in its ‘Genocide – Gujarat 2002’ issue of March-April 2002, had carried a report by Jan Morcha, Faizabad, (February 25, 2002) which had also reported these events. In fact, two days before the Godhra train fire the editors of Communalism Combat had issued a nationwide alert, sent out to the media and also to the president and chief justice of India, on the possible fallout of this sort of behaviour by the kar sevaks from Gujarat.
 

Now, seven years later, some curious, even sinister, connections can be drawn. All these linkages, the behaviour of kar sevaks and the build-up to the Godhra train fire and its aftermath, ought to find a place in the new investigation ordered by the Supreme Court on April 27, 2009.
 

Haresh Bhatt, who had gone to Faizabad, was one of the many persons who were caught off guard by Tehelka’s sting ‘Operation Kalank’, telecast on October 25, 2007. From reports received, it appears that the train bogie containing those kar sevaks who had misbehaved at Rudauli was the same one that returned on February 27 and was unfortunately burnt. Following revelations that Haresh Bhatt and Prahlad Patel also went to Ayodhya, and were integral parts of the plot to build up an arsenal in Gujarat prior to February 27, it is conceivable that they too were in the bogie that caught fire.
 

Tehelka’s conversation with Bhatt raises serious questions for the authorities and investigating agencies about the sinister accumulation of arms and ammunition by Bajrang Dal and VHP men all over Gujarat. During the same sting operation Tehelka also spoke to the then VHP district convener from Sabarkantha, Dhawal Patel. He too provides startling details about the stockpiling of ammunition and bombs. Why were sangh parivar members stocking up on ammunition prior to February 27, 2002? As part of its investigation into the wider conspiracy, the SIT will be required to probe this dangerous amassment of weapons as well.

 

Arms distribution before the execution of mass crimes

From Tehelka’s ‘Operation Kalank’:

Haresh Bhatt, the then BJP MLA from Godhra, to Tehelka:

Bhatt says a well-planned conspiracy was hatched to import large quantities of ammunition from outside Gujarat and also to manufacture weapons within the state. He names one Rohitbhai (VHP treasurer) as being a core member of the planning team. He says the plan to import arms, swords and other ammunition into Gujarat from Punjab and elsewhere was a long-standing one and that he brought swords and countrymade guns into Gujarat and distributed them all over.

He says that a large number of bombs, including diesel bombs and pipe bombs, were manufactured at his factory while rocket launchers were manufactured both at his factory and elsewhere. These rocket launchers, with stands, were made using thick pipes and filled with gunpowder and then sealed and blast using locally made ‘598 bombs’. The weapons were then distributed across Gujarat. Haresh Bhatt also said he previously owned a firecracker factory in Ahmedabad, one that was fully operational on February 27, 2002!

 

Questions raised:

a) Who were the conspirators involved?

b) When and where did they meet?

c) Did this meeting take place well before February 27, 2002, when the Godhra arson took place, and if so, what was the real intent, the motive?

d) When did Haresh Bhatt order two truckload consignments (of swords) from Punjab?

e) When did Bhatt order the consignment of desi guns from UP and MP?

f) How long does it take for a loaded truck to travel between Punjab and Gujarat?

g) How long does it take for a loaded truck to travel between UP and Gujarat?

h) Who are the manufacturers and suppliers of swords (in Punjab) and countrymade guns (in UP and MP)?

i) When did they receive the orders for consignment and when did they deliver these? Most importantly, who paid for them?

j) The consignment truck(s) must have passed through many states – Punjab, Haryana, UP, MP and Rajasthan. How was easy passage for the arms arranged?

k) When did the consignments actually arrive in Gujarat and where in Gujarat did they arrive?

l) Were these consignments delivered to locations other than Godhra? Did these destinations include Ahmedabad, for instance? (In the post-Godhra violence, Ahmedabad and Panchmahal district were the worst affected in terms of loss of life while Sabarkantha was the worst affected in terms of loss of property.)

These revelations suggest the existence of a well-organised and structured arms and ammunition network within Gujarat that has been in operation since well before the violence in 2002 and perhaps thereafter

m) If the consignments were ordered well before February 27, 2002, will this fact not have some bearing on the much touted Godhra conspiracy theory?

n) If the consignments arrived in Godhra, which is a hub of truck owners, hundreds of trucks could be available at short notice to supply consignments all over Gujarat. It is now well known that the genocidal carnage that Modi presided over spread to 19 of Gujarat’s 25 districts within hours of the news of the Godhra train burning.

o) What is the identity of the vehicles used for the supply of these arms and to whom did they belong?

p) To whom, and at which location/s, were these arms and ammunitions supplied?

q) Who were the officials, police, octroi department and others, who allowed these consignments safe passage?

 

More questions:

a) Who were/are the workers at Bhatt’s firecracker factory?

b) What were the products manufactured?

c) Was the factory operational on February 27 and 28?

d) Where, apart from Haresh Bhatt’s factory, were the rocket launchers manufactured?

Observations: These findings would then have to be corroborated with forensic reports of the Godhra train burning and mass burnings of women, men and children in many of Gujarat’s districts following the Godhra fire.

Apart from the revelations about arms consignments being ordered by prominent members of the sangh parivar, other aspects relating to the use of explosive materials in the systematic attacks on minorities bear consideration.

This writer and many others recovered a whitish powder from various sites of the genocidal carnage in Gujarat (some of it in unopened bags bearing labels stating that it was manufactured at Laxmi Industrial Estate, Hyderabad). It is thought possible that this powder enabled complete, to the bone, incineration of flesh (of those who were killed and/or burnt alive) at Gulberg Society, Naroda Gaon and Patiya, Vatwa and elsewhere. Were any traces of such a powder found on the burnt coach of the Sabarmati Express? This is especially relevant in view of the fact that serious questions have been raised about the train burning and the manner in which the fire spread (see Communalism Combat, ‘Genocide’s Aftermath – Part II’, July 2007).

Besides, in Naroda Gaon and Patiya, for weeks before the attack on minorities there was a gas cylinder shortage. However, from the morning of February 28, 2002 onwards, gas cylinders were used by the dozen, by assailants in Naroda Gaon and Patiya, Gulberg Society and other areas of Ahmedabad. In the first attack at Naroda Patiya, at the Noorani Masjid, gas cylinders were placed inside the mosque and then ignited to explode.

 

Stockpiling arms in Sabarkantha

Dhawal Jayantilal Patel, the then VHP zilla sanyojak (district convener), Sabarkantha, to Tehelka:

Patel says that he is a registered holder and supplier of dynamite used in quarrying in the district. He also said that he along with some others had been trained to make bombs. They made desi bombs that were then distributed and used in various areas.

 

Questions raised:

a) What was the quantity of dynamite stock as noted in the stock register maintained on Dhawal Patel’s premises on and before February 27, 2002?

b) How much stock did Patel receive?

c) From which government depot did he get the supply on requisition?

d) Did he acquire the stock from any other states?

e) What is the identity of the vehicles used for the supply of dynamite and to whom did they belong?

f) Where was the stock supplied to?

g) To whom was it delivered and in which village, town or city?

h) Who were the police and other officers responsible for allowing the consignment safe passage?

Anil Patel, the VHP’s vibhag pramukh (departmental chief) in Sabarkantha, spoke to Tehelka about bombs destined for Ahmedabad being smuggled in from quarries owned by VHP workers in Sabarkantha. This suggests the existence of a well-organised and structured arms and ammunition network within Gujarat that has been in operation since well before the violence in 2002 and perhaps thereafter.

Anil Patel also explains how sections of the Gujarat police, for example, ND Solanki, the then SP, Sabarkantha, were full-fledged supporters of the VHP. He adds that Solanki gave him full support and even enabled the quick release of a "co-minister", Arvind Soni (a VHP leader). Patel also refers to a fax message sent by "this IB officer, Sreekumar …to the Ahmedabad police commissioner, saying the Sabarkantha VHP had supplied weapons to Ahmedabad. The matter was inquired into, our block minister was arrested. The inspector who came for the inquiry was associated with the Sangh."

Patel’s revelations to Tehelka show the levels of complicity between the Gujarat police and outfits of the sangh parivar that are the fraternal organisations of the ruling BJP. This will be the most significant challenge for the SIT under Dr Raghavan. Will it be able to ensure that investigations are carried out by men of impeccable integrity?
 


Other startling revelations from the sting operation

Babu Bajrangi, Bajrang Dal leader, Naroda, Ahmedabad, to Tehelka:

Bajrangi (prime accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre) says he was present in Godhra at the time of the train fire and vowed to kill four times as many people in Patiya as the kar sevaks who died in Godhra.

Bajrangi boasts among other things of being the first to launch an attack in Naroda Patiya, of organising the use of bombs, ramming a diesel tanker into a mosque and setting it ablaze, slitting open the womb of a pregnant woman (the Kauser Bano case) and bribing witnesses and forcing them to flee.

 

Questions raised:

a) Bajrangi has admitted to calling the then home minister, Gordhan Zadaphiya. This can easily be corroborated with call records of the outgoing calls on his mobile phone.

b) He claims that Chief Minister Modi told the (police) commissioner to provide safe passage to Bajrangi and even arranged for his four-and-a-half-month stay at the Gujarat Bhavan in Mount Abu (Rajasthan) not long after the massacre, when he had still not been granted bail and was on the run from the police.

c) What was the room number of the room at Gujarat Bhavan that Bajrangi occupied?

d) Where there any others with him in Mount Abu?

e) Are there any relevant entries in the Gujarat Bhavan guest register?

f) Who provided the expenses for his stay in Mount Abu?

g) Bajrangi’s interview also indicts the Gujarat courts. These are extremely serious allegations that warrant investigation. He talks of how Judge Akshay Mehta had granted bail, to him and other accused, without even looking at the case files. He first says that when Dholakia and other judges simply refused to grant bail, Modi had the bench changed. This was done three times before the matter was heard by a more sympathetic judge – Akshay Mehta – which enabled him to get bail. Four and a half months after the Naroda massacre Bajrangi was a free man. He roams scot-free today.

 

Ramesh Dave, the then VHP zilla mantri (leader), Kalupur, Ahmedabad, to Tehelka:

Dave says that he took DCP (SK) Gadhvi to the terrace of a locked house (in Kalupur) after Gadhvi told him that there were several Muslims who had taken shelter nearby and he wanted to "set them straight". Once on the terrace, Gadhvi started firing and before they knew it, he had killed five persons (Muslims). Dave also claims that "all the policemen helped us, they all did. One shouldn’t say it, but they even gave us cartridges."

 

Questions raised:

a) Did Gadhvi shoot a service revolver – if so, the victims could not have been more than 20 feet away.

b) Did he shoot a .303 rifle – if so, the bullet would go through the victim, making a hole, and could be recovered later from the scene of the crime.

c) If the shots were fired from a revolver, the bullets should have struck the victims either in the head or the chest.

d) Five dead bodies must bear near identical injuries/bullet wounds.

e) Did the doctor performing the post-mortem examinations recover any bullets from the bodies of the victims?

This is a small but critical aspect of the detailed and independent investigation that is now expected of the Special Investigation Team. Given the deep-rooted communalisation of the Gujarat state police apparatus, which will undoubtedly be drawn in by the SIT to assist in its own investigations, the task ahead will prove an enormous challenge.


Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Cover Story 5

Wheels of injustice


Subversion of the criminal justice system in Gujarat: Role of the public prosecutor

 

Since 2003, when Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) took up first, the Best Bakery case, and thereafter intervened in the NHRC case (concerning trials that are now being reinvestigated by the SIT), it has highlighted the subversion and dubious functioning of the public prosecutor in Gujarat. In detailed affidavits submitted to the apex court between October 2003 and May 2007, CJP has constantly exposed the designs of the state of Gujarat in deliberately subverting the position of public prosecutor by appointing men who had overt sympathies with the ideology of the RSS and the BJP. These lawyers, instead of functioning as officers of the courts to safeguard the Indian Constitution, served the interests of the ruling party and the accused. They assisted courts in granting hasty bail to mass murderers within months of the crime.
 

The mainstream media, tragically unconcerned with this deliberate subversion of the criminal justice system, did not bother to dwell on these facts or analyse them in lofty editorials. Chief Minister Narendra Modi who, in the run-up to the 2009 polls, was the most interviewed politician on television channels, including Times Now, CNN-IBN and Headlines Today, received kid-glove treatment from a media that is otherwise almost hysterically abusive about the ‘political’ class.
 

Chetan Shah, Ahmedabad. First appointed public prosecutor in the Gulberg Society massacre case in 2003, he had previously appeared for the accused in this and the Naroda massacre cases. Witnesses made an application to the then state law minister, Ashok Bhatt, in September 2003, which was also produced before the apex court. Shah was replaced by his junior, VP Atre.
 

During the Supreme Court proceedings, Harish Salve, amicus curiae, had, in his written submissions dated March 22, 2007 filed in the Supreme Court, stated that "the state of Gujarat does not have significant reply to the allegations (made by victim survivors and CJP) that the appointment of public prosecutors was done in a manner inconsistent with the rights of the victims under Article 21 (right to life) and in breach of the duty cast upon the state under the Code of Criminal Procedure."
 

VP Atre, Ahmedabad. A junior to Chetan Shah, whose conduct has also been suspect.
 

Vinod Gajjar, Ahmedabad. He was appointed by the state of Gujarat in 2006 to appear on its behalf before Judge ML Mehta, additional sessions judge, Delhi, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to scrutinise the voluminous case records in the NHRC case. Gajjar had previously appeared for some of those accused in the Gulberg Society massacre case.
 

Dilip Trivedi, Mehsana. He was and is the general secretary of the state VHP and heads the organisation’s 12-member lawyers’ panel. He appeared for the state in matters relating to the Sardarpura carnage, in which 33 persons were burnt alive on March 1, 2002, where all 46 accused were released on bail. (A day after they were released some of them allegedly attacked a mosque). When the witness complainants filed an application in the Gujarat high court objecting to Trivedi’s role, additional public prosecutor, SJ Dave said the government would consider the appointment of a special public prosecutor but it would not make a firm commitment. Trivedi was removed from the Deepda Darwaja case (one of the two major incidents in Mehsana district) and replaced with Rajendra Darji. There is no order on record removing him from the other trial.
 

Bharat Bhatt, Sabarkantha. He was the public prosecutor in 2002 but he was also the VHP’s district president. He is on record as saying that he has been doing his best to help the accused in 2002 riot-related cases (in the Tehelka exposé following its sting ‘Operation Kalank’).
 

Avadhoot Sumant, Vadodara. In early August 2003 he had demanded that the Gujarat high court initiate contempt proceedings against the NHRC for calling the Best Bakery case verdict of July 2003 a miscarriage of justice. Three days after his public declaration to this effect, Sumant was appointed assistant public prosecutor in the case.
 

Sanjay Bhatt Vyas, Vadodara. Vadodara’s assistant public prosecutor is the nephew of Ajay Joshi, VHP’s city unit president in 2003. An advocate himself, Joshi was a defence counsel in the Best Bakery case.
 

PS Dhora, Anand. He is allegedly an RSS sympathiser.
 

Piyush Gandhi, Panchmahal. The president of Panchmahal’s district VHP unit in 2002-03 and a member of the VHP’s lawyers’ panel appeared as public prosecutor in the district’s carnage cases and obtained acquittals in three trials between July and November 2002.
 

Raghuvir Pandya, Vadodara. As prosecutor for the city police in 1996, he contested elections to the Manjalpur Corporation from Ward 20, Kesariya (south), Vadodara, on a BJP ticket. During the Best Bakery trial in April-May 2003, before the fast track court of Judge HU Mahida, all matters were handled by the then public prosecutor, Mr Gupta. But at the time of interrogation of witnesses (who had turned hostile) Raghuvir Pandya was suddenly appointed public prosecutor.
 

HM Dhruva. A sudden and recent appointment to the SIT panel of prosecutors in April 2009, as reported in The Indian Express, Ahmedabad. Dhruva previously appeared as public prosecutor when the Godhra train fire case was being tried under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and where, during proceedings, he demonstrated a clear bias against the accused. According to information received through a Right to Information (RTI) application filed in 2006-07, Dhruva, as special public prosecutor in one of the Godhra cases, officially received fees amounting to more than Rs 92 lakh, eight or nine times what was earned by prosecutors in other 2002 trials..

Appointed public prosecutors, these lawyers, instead of functioning as officers of the courts to safeguard the Indian Constitution, served the interests of the ruling party and the accused.
They assisted courts in granting hasty bail to mass murderers within months of the crime


Arvind Pandya, Ahmedabad. The state government’s counsel before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, who cast aspersions on the judges. According to him, Nanavati is after money and Shah is sympathetic to "them" (Tehelka, ‘Operation Kalank’).
 

No contempt of court proceedings have been initiated against Pandya for this insult to the Gujarat judiciary.
 

JM Panchal, Ahmedabad. He has been appointed public prosecutor in the past when major lapses were found in investigation.
 

Sudhir Brahmbhatt, Ahmedabad. He has been appointed public prosecutor in the past when major lapses were found in investigation.
 

SC Shah, Anand. He has been appointed public prosecutor in the past when major lapses were found in investigation.
 

MS Pathak, Anand. In 2002 he was public prosecutor in the Odh massacre case where hasty anticipatory bail was granted to the accused.

 

The judiciary

The story of the subversion of the criminal justice system in Gujarat by officers of the state from Chief Minister Modi downwards includes the unseemly influence exerted on the state judiciary for prompt granting of bail to all those accused in the post-Godhra massacres. In stark contrast, 86 persons accused in the Godhra train fire case, all Muslims, were and still are in jail, having been denied bail for more than seven years. (Five of them died in custody.)
 

The pursuit of justice for the victims in the post-Godhra massacre cases through a sustained intervention by the apex court has been an arduous process. In 2004, a year after the former chief justice, VN Khare, appointed Harish Salve as amicus curiae, the Gujarat government made shameful efforts to mislead the court on the issue of granting of bail to the accused. When CJP, acting as a constant watchdog, called attention to this shamefaced lying by the Gujarat government, the amicus curiae commissioned it in July 2004 to translate hundreds of pages of bail orders to prove that the Gujarat government was wrong and had been lying to the court. This task was completed within a month. The result revealed to both the amicus curiae and the Supreme Court the lengths to which the state of Gujarat would go in order to conceal the facts from the apex court.
 

This was seen in cases relating to the Gulberg Society massacre, the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon massacres as well as the killings at Sardarpura and Odh. In fact, in Odh in Anand district, a judge even granted anticipatory bail to the accused, some of whom then ran off abroad! This subversion of justice was systematically executed between March 2002 and 2003 when acquittals in many of the cases relating to the major massacres also took place. Apart from the Best Bakery case, there were acquittals in the Pandharwada case (Panchmahal district, where 42 persons were killed) and Kidiad cases (Sabarkantha district, where 62 persons were burnt alive at Limbadiya Chowky as they attempted to flee in tempos). If the apex court had not intervened and stayed the trials (now being reinvestigated by the SIT) on November 23, 2003, there was every likelihood that mass acquittals would have taken place. The media through its piecemeal and sensationalised coverage has refused to grasp, or portray, the systematic subversion of the justice process within Gujarat.
 

Babu Bajrangi (Patel), principal accused in the Naroda Patiya case, was granted bail within months of the carnage. Since then he has blatantly committed more crimes. He told Tehelka during its sting operation that Modi had changed three high court judges to ensure that Bajrangi was granted bail! Akshay Mehta, a high court judge who granted bail to a large number of those accused in the post-Godhra killings in various cases was, after retirement, appointed colleague to Justice Nanavati of the Nanavati-Shah Commission when Justice KG Shah passed away.
 

Surely such deep levels of subversion require systematic investigation?


Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Cover Story 6

Modi as media darling


Dubious standards of public opinion and debate


We witnessed, a few weeks ago, how the media launched a broadside against the Congress and two leaders, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, based upon leaked reports from "sources" in the CBI and a flung shoe. The situation was built into an expression of the ire of the Sikh community, the candidacy of the two gentlemen was withdrawn by the Congress and top guns of the media community got them and others to time and again apologise on air.

I am not trying here to defend these two gentlemen for what they may or may not have done nor am I trying to judge the treatment meted out to them. The events of 1984, as the targeting of any specific religious or ethnic group anywhere in the world, is a matter for grave condemnation, reproach and indeed the sustained search for redressal and justice. And it is truly unfortunate that successive governments and dispensations of the CBI seem to have failed to convincingly press for justice in this case.

However, I would contend that this search for justice must remain within the realms of a judicial system that our, and indeed any other nation, chooses to set up. It must not be based upon speculation and perceptions rife in the media or the supposed "public space". My point here is to bring to your attention the very different standards that are being used to judge the Supreme Court’s queries into the actions of the Narendra Modi government of Gujarat in the events of 2002.

Why is it that while Tytler and Kumar are pronounced guilty and termed recipients of a "clean chit" thanks to the largesse of the present central government, Mr Modi continues to be hailed as the most development-oriented chief minister around despite the fact that the highest court in our country deems it fit to include his name for investigation into these dastardly events? Is this the model of development that we must extol and cherish so highly, where a state high court may be judged unsuitable by the Supreme Court to impart fair judgement?

Why, when interviewing Mr Modi, is a poignant silence allowed to reign as he digs in his heels and refuses to answer questions about the riots of 2002? The footage of the man who must lead us in the future (if we believe the BJP propaganda, endorsements of India Inc and that of some media houses too), folding his hands, sulking and refusing to answer questions like a chastised little boy, was truly unflattering.

I am by no means an expert on the law; however, even to a lay person it should be evident that the fact that the Supreme Court of the country sees merit in relocating the riot cases outside Gujarat, in setting up the Special Investigation Team as its own impartial investigator for the cases and now, finally, having it investigate the role of none less than the chief minister in the events under scrutiny does bring into serious question the entire administrative machinery of the state and its ability to administer justice to its citizens, if not further its complicity in the acts of violent crime.

Would we grant Hitler the same leniency that we seem to be bestowing on Mr Modi for having supposedly created development and won an election?

Must we still uphold the Gujarat government as an epitome of development when, in addition to being investigated for complicity in communal violence, the government’s track record on various social and political indicators such as health, education and land rehabilitation is more than dubious, as evidenced by the reports from various social commentators and also analysis of the government’s own published data. Additionally, most of the financial IOUs signed at Mr Modi’s glorified "Vibrant Gujarat" shindigs too have scarcely materialised into actual investments on the ground.

It may serve us well to remember that the regime of Hitler was supported by most of the conservative governments of the West and in fact did win a popular mandate at the polls too. His reign was marked by significant architectural development, military growth and advances in the fields of science and technology and industry at a scale and grandeur far in excess of Mr Modi’s Gujarat thus far. Would we then grant Hitler the same leniency that we seem to be bestowing in judging Mr Modi for having supposedly created development and won an election?

You may call me opinionated or biased but I am unable to bring myself to support this travesty in the name of the "popular".

If we must address the anguish felt by communities, as a responsible rational society must, then it must be equally so for all communities, not just those that may be convenient for us. The disaffection felt by the Muslim community after repeated attacks upon its faith and, more importantly, innocent members of its community, must also be addressed and assuaged at least by public displays of being fair if not more sincere efforts at finding justice. And certainly not by having the Hindustan Times in its Delhi edition editorial (on April 28, 2009) claim that this new investigation, instituted by none other than the apex court after a prima facie examination, may in fact be an opportunity for Modi to prove his innocence and rid himself of this "controversy". This raises the question then of why the ‘sources’ seem so silent this time around and why no harrowing interviews of the ‘morally deplorable politician blindly supported by his party’ seem to be forthcoming with their rather virtuous and moralistic closing lines.

Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Media
Turning point
The ethics of duty and drama in times of riot

Two events have hung on the conscience of modern India because we, as a society, have not responded to it. It is not easy to respond to violence either as a mnemonic or as a continuing process. Witness and victim almost become irritants testifying to our passivity.

In fact, when one sees the prime agents of ’84, one realises that as tigers they are toothless. The late HKL Bhagat, even Sajjan Kumar, had better claims to an old age home than prison. It raises then the question of whether we should pursue these people into dotage.

Even more, it confronts us with the question – should society forget and go on?

There is a therapy in forgetting, a hygiene that does not allow old wounds to fester. But there is a sense of history as convenience which a society cannot allow. Also, denial produces its own pathologies. For instance, the Israeli Sabra’s contempt for the Holocaust Jew was so blatant that camp documents were sold as pornographic literature. The denial of violence comes back as a new form of destiny. Sociologists also banalised the ’84 riots with writers like Emma Vidal pursuing a ruthless ethnography of how widows exploited the situation. While competent as sociology, this form of work blunted the sense of justice by treating the victims as entrepreneurs of their own misfortune. What Ms Vidal forgot is that not all memory can be commoditised. All trauma does not graduate to the circus as a "monster".

The 2002 riots were a bit different from the riots of 1984. The first major difference was that in ’84 civil society and especially academics, university students, groups like the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) rose to the occasion to provide succour to the victim. The state, in Gujarat, treated the victims as recalcitrant citizens of a development process. The riots were seen as part of a logic of development, of an old city sulking in its ethnicity. Worse, there was a blatant sense of exterminism. The local society in general wanted not just to terrorise the victim but also to eliminate him. This psychology in fact contributed to the carnivalesque mode in the aftermath of what was genocide.

What kept memory alive, apart from the efforts of the survivor, was not the media but the defiance of dissenters. One thinks, in particular, of Teesta Setalvad and the defiant testimony of Sreekumar before the Nanavati Commission. It was partly because of their efforts that the court established the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe into the Gujarat riots.

The entry of the SIT was an extraordinary event. It came at a moment of cynicism about law and justice. It worked quietly, almost invisibly. Yet its very adherence to protocols, its readiness to listen, its determined patience created a sense of the law as an occasional oasis of hope. Just like with Sreekumar in the earlier phase, for RK Raghavan enactment of protocols has become iconic of the processes of a decent society.

In a performative way, faith in justice is going to depend not merely on what the SIT unearths but on how Mr Raghavan, in his role as SIT head, behaves. He has to perform the drama of legal interrogation and investigation and he has to do it with immaculate correctness. In an odd sense, Raghavan has to play Raghavan to be convincing. He has created an everydayness about the interrogation, playing the unflappable Jeeves to a legal system that often tends to be empty-headed. As CBI director, Mr Raghavan embodied professionalism and honesty. His was a respected career.

But when, on April 27, the SIT opened the file on 41 new cases, something new was signalled. A Pandora’s box of question marks exploded to encompass police officers, IAS officers, including chief secretaries, and even a few ministers. It was an electrifying moment. A new set of expectations has been created. The demands for justice as procedure, as ritual, as performance and as meaning has reached a new high.

When the SIT opened the file on 41 new cases, something new was signalled. A Pandora’s box of question marks exploded to encompass police officers, IAS officers, including chief secretaries, and even a few ministers. A new set of expectations has been created

Mr Raghavan is not merely a person. He is now a persona. His new role demands an immaculate performance as the circle of suspicion tightens around an elite bunch of officers. Tacitly and explicitly, he has to define what duty is. Is one loyal to a chief minister or the Constitution? Is duty clerical adherence to procedures or following one’s conscience? Is silence punishable? Is a request for transfer an adequate form of dissent? Is duty doing things right or doing the right things?

This drama does not belong to Gujarat alone. It is a truth commission of a different sort, asking why officers meekly follow unjust orders. In a psychological sense, we will have to face the idea that obedience is not enough. Following the psychologist, Stanley Milgram’s questions, one then asks why people obey indiscriminately and what differentiates the ethics of duty from the ethics of obedience.

Mr Raghavan has to enact this entire pedagogy and compress it into a report. If he succeeds, he will become an icon and if he trembles, it is the bureaucracy that will turn iconoclastic, dismissing the SIT as a partisan or incompetent body. It is ethical high drama enacted within the procedural domain. If the rituals are completed with fidelity then a new generation of bureaucracy will face new standards of truth and propriety. They will realise that truth does not die when a file is closed. Mr Raghavan has enacted the first move by summoning one of the members of the SIT itself for interrogation. But the SIT drama is also a challenge to society.

One of the fragments of violence one has lived with is how ordinary people kill and live with themselves. The question is what happens to a society that allows murder as a permissible occasional ritual.

The SIT drama should now be seen as more than a cat-and-mouse game, a record of which bureaucrat got caught and which did not. One sympathises with the families of officers under scrutiny. Communities get ungenerous at these moments. But justice or, rather, the search for justice, can help cleanse our society. We owe the SIT a debt of gratitude for this moment of ethics.

Courtesy: The Asian Age; www.asianage.com

Archived from Communalism Combat,  May 2009 Year 15    No.140, Comment