The rule of fear

Published : Oct 09, 2009 00:00 IST

Encounters are part of a political strategy, says R.B. Sreekumar, former ADGP, Gujarat.-VIPIN CHANDRAN

Encounters are part of a political strategy, says R.B. Sreekumar, former ADGP, Gujarat.-VIPIN CHANDRAN

R.B. SREEKUMAR, former Additional Director-General of Police, Gujarat, as the head of intelligence, kept records of the instructions he was given by politicians and bureaucrats in the Narendra Modi government. The following are some of his experiences and impressions:

Encounter killings and the genocide of the minorities started in Gujarat in 2002. It was part of a political strategy for the communalisation of Hindus and their political consolidation for electoral dividends. Look at the sequence of events. After a train was burnt at Godhra, the bodies of the dead were paraded in the most communally volatile city, Ahmedabad. The original plan was to take the whole bogie and parade it, but the Collector objected to this. The authorities were forced to release the bodies to the VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad]. This was unlawful and criminal. Only the next of kin have the authority to receive bodies in such situations. The bodies were paraded to raise the level of communal hatred to frenzy. They got rich dividends. We all saw what happened.

I kept a register of my meetings with government officials. The instructions from the government was that those Muslim extremists who are disturbing communal peace in Ahmedabad can be eliminated. I said, How can this be possible? Encounter as a policy is premeditated murder there is no other word for it. Subsequently, on July 28, 2002, the Chief Secretary held a meeting to review the police arrangements for the Ahmedabad rath yatra. He justified it on the concept of situational logic. I said, If this is what they are planning we will stop them, but to eliminate them is illegal.

Our legal system is not at all weak. The trouble is with the chamchas [hangerson] who subvert the system for their own gains, even by indulging in anticipatory and competitive sycophancy. I added that there were government instructions to the ADGP (Intelligence) to conduct an inquiry into every encounter and custodial death and that I would report truthfully about any such incident so long as I served as the ADGP (Intelligence).

The last straw for me came when I wrote my report on Modis speech in September 2002. It was a highly communal speech and I reported every bit of it. On September 17, I was transferred to a sinecure position and from October 2002 the encounters started. With every death it was the same cock and bull story they didnt even bother to change the story every time they would claim that the encounter took place because the victims had come to kill Modi.

If that was so, then why was Rule 217 of the Gujarat Police Manual Volume 3 not followed? This rule insisted upon the high-level inquiry being overviewed by the District Magistrate with regard to all custodial deaths. This has been singularly avoided in all cases, but in Ishrat Jehans case S.P. Tamang has done his duty as directed by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (Sessions Judge rank). Tamang conducted an inquiry and submitted it to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. He did not do anything wrong as is being made out by some sections.

Look at the period of the encounters. They took place between October 2002, which was when I was transferred, and April 2007, when Vanzara was arrested. Since then there have been no threats to Modi and no encounter deaths! But in those four and a half years there were about 20 deaths, mainly of Muslims. In most of these killings no subsequent evidence was collected.

If you have killed someone on a suspicion, then you are obliged to find out more about them once you have done away with the immediate threat. The law definitely requires you to find out more. You have to check on the antecedents of this person, who aided him, whether he was part of a gang, whether there were more people involved, where he got his financial aid, arms, and so on, from, but none of these was done. And that is because it was for pure political gain pure political strategy to bolster the image of the police and to get sympathy for Modi.

It sounds amazing that encounter deaths would create a positive image for the police, but you will understand this if you see the psyche of the State. The Gujarat mindset is different. There was a time when the Muslim underworld was very powerful. This was under the Congress. In fact, the Congress created the background for Modis rise. There used to be a gangster called Latif in the 1990s and he controlled Ahmedabad at that time. He was killed in an encounter (1997) long ago. Unfortunately, some Muslims feel that if Latif had been alive none of this would have happened! Do not these people believe in the rule of law? They depend upon the underworld for their security! In fact such people prepare the ground for the rise of Modis. It is a very dangerous situation socially very polarised, and our politicians dont seem interested in defusing it.

The level of Modi phobia is very high in Gujarat... people are pulverised by it. Hats off to the man! Without declaring an actual emergency he has created an emergency-like situation in Gujarat. People are ruled by fear. It is very common to hear people say, Dont say anything bad about Modi. He has controlled Muslims shown them their place. No one else has been able to do that. The fact is that he has violated the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India. Professionalism has to return to the police force. At present it is finished there is no investigation, no scrutiny. We have never prosecuted any of the police defaulters for encounters.... The police subculture is to protect the wrongdoer, especially when the victim of the police excesses is not liked by the government. I call this the narcissistic infallibility syndrome.

People may be part of the LeT, but you cannot just kill them. Follow the procedures. Giving unlimited powers to unscrupulous police is suicidal. Who knows when you yourself will become a victim.

As told to Lyla Bavadam
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment