Facts of a carnage

Print edition : February 05, 2016

Residents of Bapunagar in Ahmedabad seeking help from Rapid Action Force personnel on March 1, 2002. Photo: AFP

An important addition to the documentation of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the book deserves a wide readership.

THE author, R.B. Sreekumar, served with distinction as an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the Gujarat cadre. A Keralite, he was respected for his ability and integrity. He was Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) of Gujarat from April 9, 2002, to September 18, 2002. He was penalised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Narendra Modi for his truthful reports. He was a witness to the subversion of the criminal justice system. The courts gave him relief and he was promoted to the rank of DGP after his superannuation.

Gujarat is an important addition to the documentation of the 2002 pogrom after the Godhra outrage on February 27, 2002, in which 58 kar sevaks, who were returning from Ayodhya, died.

The book comprises Sreekumar’s reliable personal testimony and references to documents.

“On 28 February 2002 forenoon, I was on my way to office in [the] State Police Headquarters at Gandhinagar from [my] residence in Ahmedabad city. …I found bandh supporters freely moving on [the] road equipped with sticks, shouting anti-Muslim slogans, burning tyres and waste material right on the roads, and so on. They were forcing the commercial establishments, including pan shops and street vendors, to close down their business, in [the] presence of inactive and unresponsive policemen.”

Sreekumar met the DGP, K. Chakravorti, who “hinted that the Chief Minister had convened a meeting of senior officers at his residence after his return from Godhra in the late evening of 27th February 2002. The DGP said the CM told the officers in the meeting that ‘in communal riots, the police normally take action against Hindus and Muslims on one-to-one proportion; this will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger’.”

Anonymous notes

The author prepared anonymous notes on the behaviour of the police positioned in sensitive areas “acting as facilitators to rioters, higher number of persons from victim community getting killed in police firing and riots, belligerent mobs shouting about police abetment to their crimes”. The author sent a report titled “An Analytical Note on Current Communal Scenario in Ahmedabad City” to Additional Chief Secretary Ashok Narayan and the DGP on April 24, 2002.

This, and related documents, especially the affidavits he submitted to the Commission of Inquiry, deserve publication in full in a companion volume, including his statement to the upright Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, who observed: “Significantly, Additional Director General of Police Shri R.B. Sreekumar, stated before the Commission that 151 towns and 993 villages, covering 154 out of 182 Assembly Constituencies in the State, and 284 police stations out of 464 police stations were affected by riots. This evidently falsifies the claims of other authorities that the riots were localised only in certain pockets of the State…. Before the Commission, the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police painted a similar picture of normalcy in Gujarat. But the Additional Director-General of Police (Intelligence) Shri R.B. Sreekumar, whose views were supported by the new Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, Shri K.R. Kaushik, stated before the Commission that an undercurrent of tension and fear was prevailing beneath the apparent normalcy in the State.”

Misbehaviour of kar sevaks

On the Godhra incident, Sreekumar confirms reports by reputed correspondents on the persistent misbehaviour of the kar sevaks who were returning by train from Uttar Pradesh to Gujarat. “A reliable retired IB [Intelligence Bureau] officer informed me that SIB [State Intelligence Bureau], Ahmedabad, had detailed their friends and agents to report on [the] activities of [the] kar sevaks from Gujarat and, in fact, promptly they did report about the activities of [the] kar sevaks from Gujarat to the SIB headquarters.

These reports covered the belligerent profile of the kar sevaks proceeding to Ayodhya, their quarrels and clashes with vendors and others en route, in both [their] onward and [their] return journey. The Ram bhaktas from Gujarat had indulged in criminal activities, including robbing of eatables from vendors at Ratlam and Dahod railway stations and the SIB (Ahmedabad) received full information about these. These friends of IB were eyewitnesses to all incidents at [the] Godhra Railway Station on 27 February 2002 morning, resulting in burning of bogies S6 and related developments.”

In an article in Frontline (May 6, 2005), R.K. Raghavan praised the author as “an upright officer with a good image”. As head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court, Raghavan rejected Sreekumar’s testimony in February 2012.

The author writes: “There was obvious conflict of interest in Dr R.K. Raghavan heading SIT, when he was on the pay rolls of Tata group of companies, in advisory capacity, because the Modi government had reportedly granted Rs.3,000 crore worth of concessions for attracting the company to establish the Nano car project in Gujarat in 2008-09. Activists could not put up a united front, generate a forcible public opinion and convince the Supreme Court about the unreliability and unsuitability of Dr Raghavan as investigator of a case against the Chief Minister. Though Raghavan was paid Rs.1.5 lakh per month, from 1st April 2008, on an average he had spent four-six days per month only in Gujarat for SIT work. He had even reportedly claimed two of his trips from London to Gandhinagar, though his foreign trips were for his private purpose. Why this undue favour was given to a person probing complaint against many seniors in political and administrative bureaucracy in Gujarat? Dr Raghavan did not respond to numerous suggestions and representation from important witnesses or even summoned them for discussions. Moreover, not a single statement of vital witnesses of major carnage cases and Zakia Jafri’s complaint, investigated by SIT, was verified by the Chairman personally.”

Raghavan’s report commanded little public confidence unlike that of his amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, a senior counsel at the Supreme Court. The book deserves a wide readership.

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