June 2011 
Year 17    No.158

A vengeful desperado

As this issue is being readied for publication (Monday, June 6), CNN-IBN has telecast an exclusive interview with a retired top cop from Gujarat reinforcing the charge that Chief Minister Narendra Modi ordered the police to “let Hindus vent their anger”. It is evident from the interview with retired director general of police (DGP) RN Bhattacharya that during the genocidal killings in 2002 the Constitution of India was the last thing on the minds of many in the state whose bounden duty it was to impartially enforce the rule of law. (Bhattacharya was then
additional director general of police, in charge of anti-corruption.) The former DGP told CNN-IBN that there was a feeling among officers that the lower-ranking officials had failed to safeguard the rights of the citizens. As head of the IPS Officers’ Association in Gujarat, he had called a meeting in the midst of the mass killing to discuss the issue. As many as 40 IPS officers had attended the meeting and passed a resolution stating that they must fulfil their constitutional duty.

What’s more, Bhattacharya fully backs deputy inspector-general of police (DIGP) Sanjiv Bhatt who filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in mid-April affirming that he was present at the meeting of top officials called by Modi on the evening of February 27, 2002 at which he issued his “Muslims must be taught a lesson” firman. Questioning the state government’s stance before the Nanavati Commission that Bhatt was not a credible witness, he asserted: “I have worked with Sanjiv Bhatt when I was DG (intelligence). I have found him to be a highly reliable man.”

That adds up to four IPS officers in Gujarat who held senior positions during the 2002 genocide pointing fingers straight at the man who was given a new middle name by numerous political commentators and activists in 2002: Milosevic. The charge against him is very serious: Sworn to uphold constitutional principles, the chief political executive of the state instead misused his office to sponsor the genocidal targeting of Gujarat’s Muslims. The four officers are: DGP RB Sreekumar (retired), DIGP Rahul Sharma (serving), DIGP Sanjiv Bhatt (serving) and DGP RN Bhattacharya (retired). The first three spoke out while in service, the last man did so post-retirement.

Modi shamefully misused his position in 2002 and has continued to do so ever since. While pliable police officers have been generously rewarded, his response to officers who upheld the rule of law can be summed up in one word: vindictiveness. Sreekumar was not only denied promotion to the rank of DGP but was also sought to be implicated (unsuccessfully) in a long buried case. The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) ruled in his favour but his promotion in 2007 came just a day before his retirement. Sharma has been served with a show-cause notice for handing over cellphone call records of February-March 2002 to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). CC readers will recall that these records reveal how, during the carnage, politicians, police officers and civil servants were in constant touch with the field commanders who directed the killings. The moment Bhatt filed his affidavit before the Supreme Court, the security routinely provided to an officer of his rank was withdrawn. What the state administration and police, which have been functioning as Modi’s private militia, will now do, or can do, to Bhattacharya, who has already retired, remains to be seen. If the disclosure by top cops damns Modi, it is simultaneously a severe indictment of the SIT. Appointed by the apex court to probe the role of Modi and 61 other top politicians, police officers and civil servants, the SIT chose an Operation Cover-Up.

As is only to be expected, Modi’s vindictiveness is not reserved for police officers alone. Teesta Setalvad, secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace, CJP, (and CC co-editor) has been a target, especially since September 2010. For regular readers of Communalism Combat, the reason for this shouldn’t be difficult to fathom: on behalf of CJP, she has been at the forefront of the legal battle for justice for the victims and survivor witnesses of the carnage and punishment of the guilty. If the net is rapidly closing in on Modi and his band of mass murderers, it has much to do with her relentless pursuit that now threatens to trap the Gujarat chief minister in a pincer movement. On one side, the Supreme Court has directed the amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran to make an independent assessment of the evidence recorded by the SIT, meet deponents if need be and report to the apex court by July 28, independent of the SIT. On the other, the prospects of nearly 350 accused – including BJP leaders and senior functionaries of the VHP and Bajrang Dal as also errant police officers – being convicted in the eight major carnage cases that are underway in Gujarat are quite high.

That is why Teesta Setalvad is being targeted. We are grateful to our community of secular activists and human rights defenders who have joined battle by launching the Committee for the Defence of Teesta Setalvad and Justice in Gujarat.

– Javed Anand

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