In his new book, Gujarat: Behind the Curtain, former Gujarat top cop RB Sreekumar makes shocking disclosures about the subversion of justice system by the state government and how even Muslim IAS and IPS officers gave a free rein to the rioters resulting in a number of coldblooded killings of Muslims during the 2002 riots.
By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani
The Gujarat 2002 pogrom has surfaced all over again with former chief of Gujarat Police (Intelligence Bureau) R B Sreekumar making some shocking revelations in his new book Gujarat: Behind the Curtain, about the functioning of the state police in the aftermath of Godhra train tragedy. The former top cop not only puts the role of the then government under scanner but also throws light on the actions of some Muslim IPS officers who also chose to provide a free rein to Hindu extremists, particularly in the Naroda Patiya riots.
At least six IAS and seven IPS Muslim officers at the time were working in close coordination with the government and chose to turn a blind-eye towards the rioters linked to the saffron groups. “At least two Muslim officers, including a commandant, even defied my “written orders” to give shelter to 500 Muslims from Naroda Patiya on the state reserve police (SRP) premises.
Consequently, they had become victims of riots… Most of the 96 people killed in the evening in Naroda Patiya were reportedly from this group of Muslims… No action was initiated for defying written order of ADGP (AU) and no report was made,” Sreekumar wrote in his book.
Sreekumar also talks about the efforts he made towards exposing those within the establishment responsible for orchestrating the entire pogrom. During his five-month stint as Intelligence chief beginning immediately after the train was gutted in Godhra,Sreekumar was given “illegal” orders from higher authorities, and not allowed to take action against those who were bent on sparking communal tensions on a large-scale.
Gujarat, Behind the Curtain, a book on the Gujarat riots by the former DGP was released in New Delhi, at a simple ceremony, according to a release issued here by Sreekumar. The former IPS officer, a native of Neyyattinkara in Thiruvananthapuram, had been in the news for his relentless fight against the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, alleging that Modi had given a free hand to the rioters for two days following the killing of 59 Hindu pilgrims at the Godhra railway station in 2002.
In Gujarat Behind the Curtain Sreekumar Sreekumar has alleged that subversion of criminal justice system took place in Gujarat after the Godhra incident with the tacit understanding of the state government. Sreekumar has thrown light on the role of intelligence agencies after the Godhra incident and how policemen and bureaucrats responded during the riots.
It is worth noting that this is the first time that SIT has recorded the statements of Sreekumar which will prove to be of critical importance for the investigation agency. A reliable source said, “The statements were recorded not in connection with a particular case but in connection with the act of commission and omission during the riots by a few people. The statements were recorded in connection with the conspiracy of the riots.”
Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri had filed an application in the apex court challenging the decision of the Gujarat high court to dismiss the plea which sought registration of a complaint against Modi and others for their alleged role in the Gulbarg Society riots of 2002 in which Jafri was hacked and burnt alive by the mob.
Sreekumar said that he was subsequently superseded by three of his juniors. However, he was promoted after he filed a petition before a tribunal but by then he had already retired.
According to SIT sources, senior IPS officer and IG SRP (Rajkot) Rahul Sharma was also quizzed in this connection. Sharma has been named as a witness in Zakia Jafri’s complaint on account of his submitting a CD containing call details of some ruling party politicians, VHP activists and police officers during the riots. It was on the basis of his CD that former minister Maya Kodnani and former VHP leader Jaideep Patel were arrested.
n the following excerpt, Sreekumar describes how his explicit orders to protect the Muslims in Naroda Patiya were defied on 28 February 2002, leading to the death of 96 people.
The constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Dr RK Raghavan (former Director, Central Bureau of Investigation) in March 2008, on the request of the National Human Rights Commission and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) spearheaded by Teesta Setalvad evoked great optimism and expectation among riot victim survivors. On 9 May 2008, I met Dr RK Raghavan in the SIT office, Gandhinagar, and submitted a statement relating to nine major mass murder cases under SIT investigation along with copies of my four affidavits to the commission, requesting for further action. An extract of my statement relevant to investigation of Naroda Patiya case, is given below:
“At about 10.30 AM (28th February 2002) while I was in my office chamber in Police Bhavan, Gandhinagar, Shri Khurshid Ahmed, IPS (Gujarat, 1977 batch, belonging to Bihar) Commandant, SRPF [State Reserve Police Force], Group-II, headquartered in Saijpur area, near Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad city, informed me that a group of about 500 Muslims, including women and children were knocking at the gates of SRP entrance and requesting for shelter as they were pursued by VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] led armed violent mobs. From my office I ordered for immediate opening of gates and housing the refugees in the barracks which were vacant as men had gone out for bandobast. I had also directed the Commandant to permit all citizens seeking shelter inside the SRP camp. A fax message was sent to the Commandant, confirming my above instructions. The Second-in-Command to Shri Khurshid Ahmed was one Shri Qureshi. Both the officers were quite shaky and worried about permitting the Muslim refugees inside the SRP campus. So, I told them that in case anybody was questioning them they could explain that they were complying with ADGP’s written orders (I was ADGP, Armed Units, supervising administration of 11 SRP battalions). Later, the State Government had claimed that they saved 500 Muslims by sheltering them in the SRP campus. But there was pathetic, unfortunate and deplorable postscript in the whole affair. It is learnt from SRPF officers that by afternoon of 28 February 2002, under pressure from higher authorities and local leaders, the Commandant had closed the gates to the refugees, without informing me. Consequently, in front of SRPF, Group-II entrance, nearly 100-130 Muslims were (reportedly) killed, many women were gang raped and dead bodies were reportedly dumped in a nearby abandoned well. In fact, the Hindu mobs found the Muslims gathered outside the SRPF entrance as an easy target, available at a single spot.
It is pertinent to note that after the riots, Shri Khurshid Ahmed was posted as Deputy Commissioner of Police in Surat city, a coveted post by SP level officers, considering the prosperity of the area and prestige attached to the post. Shri Khurshid Ahmed’s wife Mrs Shamina Husain (IAS, 1997, Gujarat, belonging to Madhya Pradesh) was posted as District Development Officer (DDO) in the rich Valsad district. Later, she was posted as Collector, Surendranagar district. There are practically no instances of Muslim officers, that too belonging to outside States, getting such ‘priced postings’.
Significantly, Shri Qureshi, Dy Commandant, was soon promoted as Commandant and posted in Group-XIII in Rajkot city. He was also given a second police medal, for distinguished service, which is rarely awarded to SRPF officers. In the bureaucratic circles, it is whispered that “these postings were given as rewards for facilitating Naroda Patiya massacre.”
SIT did not summon me and record my statement under 161 CrPC, a legal requirement for appreciating evidentiary merit of my deposition. Though I had given order from my office to open SRP camp for the Muslims I was not cited as a prosecution witness in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. Despite my offer to undergo personally forensic tests, I was not put through Narco and Brain Finger Print Tests.
Riot victims often expressed their concern, disillusionment and apprehension about the condemnable state of justice delivery to them by Gujarat Police and SIT investigating 9 major carnage cases through Gujarat Police officers. I had always been assuring them to have astute faith in the impartiality, dexterity and integrity of our Criminal Justice System and keenness of judiciary, to deliver speedy justice, lest they may get influenced by indoctrination drive of anti-national sectarian Jihadi militants.
According to them, SIT devotedly followed the roadmap provided to them by Gujarat Police in the investigation of major carnage cases. But unlike Gujarat Police, who allegedly tried to turn witnesses and complainants, hostile through inducement, threat and intimidation, for sabotaging the very validity of even FIRs against the accused supported by the State Government, SIT was protective and empathetic to them, thanks to implementation of witness protection scheme on the Supreme Court orders, on the representation by CJP.
While Gujarat Police tried to save practically all accused in anti-minority cases from clutches of law–only 30-35 cases, out of 2,000 odd riot cases, reinvestigated by Gujarat Police on the Supreme Court orders had reached the stage of prosecution and in the remaining cases, witnesses including riot victim survivors did not corroborate their own statements to police during the trial before the court. SIT had arrested and chargesheeted at least those indulged in violence directly, if not, planners, organizers, mobilizers and enablers of anti-minority crimes.
SIT had assiduously kept the complicity level of offenders in main crimes at the category of foot soldiers only. Except two police Inspectors, no higher officer was found to be even remotely responsible for any criminal negligence of duties, facilitating attacks by Hindu mobs.
After a lot of hue and cry made by activists and riot victims only, DySP Noel Parmar, the Investigating Officer of Godhra train fire case, who was continuing months after his retirement, was relieved of his responsibility in this case. Two main witnesses of this case, in an extra-judicial admission, revealed that they were bribed by Noel Parmar for supporting police theory on genesis of train fire. Moreover, SIT did not find any professional lapses in the investigation of riot cases by Gujarat police, though the Special Courts, in their judgments, convicting many accused in Naroda Patiya and Sardarpura mass killing cases, severely indicted police for their intentional lapses in the investigation before SIT took charge of the case.
The non-enforcement of curfew imposed in the area by Commissioner of Police (Ahmedabad city), led to armed men freely attacking minority habitats and killing 96 persons. The local police did not arrest anybody for curfew violation and prosecuted them under Section 188 IPC. Was it not blatant connivance in the commission of crimes?