Criminals in uniform
Yeh andar ki baat hai, Police hamare saath hai! (Its an inside story, The police is with us!)
— Open boast of the Sangh Parivar cadre in Gujarat today.
FROM February 27 until today (mid–April), the utter failure of large sections of the Gujarat police to fulfil their constitutional duty and prevent large-scale massacre, rape and arson — in short, to maintain law and order — has been the subject of extensive reportage in the print media. Gujarat 2002 provides gory proof, if any were still needed, of the large-scale infiltration of hate politics in the minds of senior police officials who are now wedded to principles that are hostile to the Constitution and the rule of law. Paralysis and inaction at best, and active connivance and brutality (shooting dead young men and even minors) at worst, were in full public view in Gujarat. The civil service was paralysed as was the police machinery, which was influenced, manipulated and bullied into singing to Hindutva’s murderous tune.
In the past year or so, neighbouring states — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan — have been pressing for a ban on the VHP and the Bajrang Dal on the ground that they are arming themselves and generating terror among sections of the population. But Gujarat defies all constitutional norms, opening up institutions of the State to well-planned infiltration by the ideologues of hate. This has not happened overnight: CC has sent out repeated signals about ominous developments in the ‘laboratory of Hindutva’ since the BJP grabbed power four years ago. (See sections, ‘Dateline Gujarat’ and ‘The Case for a Ban’).
Reprehensible police conduct
I. Intelligence failure on the potential threat to peace despite provocative behaviour by kar sevaks in their journeys to and from Gujarat in the past. Just before December 6, 1992 – the day the Babri Masjid was demolished — tension had erupted between Shiv Sainik ‘kar sevaks’ and local residents at the Palej railway station near Vadodara as the former provoked the local population. Similar incidents were also reported from Dahod (near Godhra) soon after the Babri Masjid demolition. Strict and prompt action by the police then had arrested the situation locally. With this history, should not the police have kept strict watch and vigil over the departure and return of kar sevaks, especially when the climate in the country was tense and belligerent?
It is alleged that on February 14, former Gujarat CM, Keshubhai Patel’s son, was observed giving a speech on Platform No. 1 of Ahmedabad railway station. The train was late. He was exhorting kar sevaks "not to waste this opportunity and to return successful from Ayodhya." The station master is reported to have recorded a complaint with the railway police in this regard. Yet another witness told CC that on Wednesday, February 20, again on Platform No. 1, Keshubhai’s son Bharat Bhai K Patel was provoking kar sevaks leaving for Ayodhya from Gujarat, "to do their jobs well." Both these incidents need serious investigation for their veracity
Although police had known of tension between kar sevaks and residents of Singal falia in Godhra, the crucial intelligence failure was in not knowing that kar sevaks were returning by the Sabarmati Expresson February 27. Police had already received warning signs of tension. Information about the kar sevaks return was not pursued. Local policemen requesting anonymity said, "We had no information about the locals returning that day. If we had known we would have deployed more men."
Sources said that the police only had information that kar sevaks were returning from March 1 onwards, not earlier. Hence they were completely unprepared. (The Jan Morcha, a Hindi daily published from Faizabad, UP had, in it’s February 25 edition, i.e., two days before the Godhra tragedy, carried a story detailing the threatening and riotous behaviour of the kar sevaks, especially those arriving from Gujarat. (See ‘Godhra’ section).
Since there is a history of altercations between the kar sevaks and the tea and food vendors at Godhra (who hail from the local Muslim Ghanchi community), the intelligence and police should have been more alert, expecting provocation and trouble. (See ‘Godhra’ section and refer to the letter by former police commissioner, Ahmedabad, MM Singh).
In the circumstances, one may well ask whether this was a case of intelligence failure on part of the police force, or a deliberate absence of preemptive action?
II. No preventive arrests worth the name were made after the Godhra tragedy. (See ‘Police statistics’ section). The only two arrests made on February 27 were those of Mohammed Ismail Jalaluddin and Fateh Mohammed, who were picked up at Astodia in the night, for shouting slogans.
By the evening of February 27, the VHP made its intentions apparent with its belligerent call for a ‘Gujarat Bandh’ the next day. It saw the Godhra incident as a ‘manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism’ and gave a 24-hour ultimatum to the state government to bring the culprits involved in the incident to book. (Two years ago, in response to a similar bandh call in Gujarat on August 1, 2000, the VHP and the BJP had gone on the rampage, destroying Rs 15 crores worth of Muslim property. (See ‘Dateline Gujarat’ section). Yet the police made no preventive arrests.
The Gujarat government and the police have enough evidence of incendiary and provocative pamphlets circulated in large numbers in the state in the name of various Hindu Outfits (Dharam Raksha Samitis, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal), exhorting cadres to rape, humiliate, destroy and kill. Nationally, a spokesperson of the VHP had said at Ayodhya, "We will not remain silent." On March 12, rediff.com put out an interview by the Gujarat VHP chief, KK Shastri. He revealed that on February 28, "In the morning we sat down and prepared the list. We were not prepared in advance." The writing was etched on the wall but the police buried its face, ostrich-like, in the sand.
III. This reporter has received information from a credible source, of an alleged secret meeting, held on the late evening of February 27, at some person’s home in Lunavada village of Sabarkantha district. The meeting, it is learnt, took place after a call was made, between 3 and 6 p.m., from the house of Dr. Yogesh Ramanlal Pandya, in Godhra to Dr. Anil Patel (a member of the Gujarat Doctor’s Cell), intimating him of the meet. A call was also made to the Police Housing Corporation chairman, Dr. Chandrakanth Pandya (from Kalol). Ashok Bhatt, the state health minister was sitting in the Godhra collectorate; he was also intimated about the meeting. Minister Prabhat Singh Chauhan from Lunavada was reportedly also called to attend. One AP Pandya was also present at the meeting.
The phone call was to invite 50 top people of the BJP/RSS/Bajrang Dal/VHP and the plan was to assemble them at someone’s house in Lunavada (Sabarkantha). Fifty top people, it is claimed, met at this undisclosed destination and detailed plans were made on the use of kerosene, petrol and other methods of killing. The state intelligence did not or could not track such meets and this marks a serious intelligence failure. The CBI must be asked to investigate the details of this reported meeting.
Finally, on the night of February 27, some companies of the State Reserve Police (SRP) were rustled into action: one was sent to Godhra from SRP Group-III Naroda, and another to Ahmedabad rural. Some more companies from Ghodasar were moved into parts of Ahmedabad by early morning. But they were split into groups of four or five jawans each, which rendered them largely ineffective against the rampaging mobs on the prowl on February 28.
IV. The supposed inadequacy of forces is often touted by serving police officers who fail in their primary duty. However, on more than one occasion, where good officers held out against the pressure, the same small deployment was enough to act decisively and to control the situation. In the vast majority of cases, however, the police either did not act or acted on behalf of the mob. ‘‘The police tried their best, but they couldn’t stop the mobs. They were grossly outnumbered when the mobs grew,’’ claimed Ahmedabad’s police commissioner PC Pandey. (The Times of India).
DGP Gujarat, K Chakravarty’s comments telecast on DD news, 27/02/2002: "As a precautionary measure, since there was a possibility of a flare-up, the district authorities have imposed curfew in Godhra town and in all other sensitive towns in Gujarat; especially the towns and cities which are coming on the train route, maximum alert was kept… The entire state police machinery has been put on red alert. The state reserve battalions have been positioned in all the communally sensitive areas and instructions have been given to all the SPs and the commissioners to take strict action against all anti–social elements and such action is already is in progress… since the incident took place all of a sudden, there was no possibility of that being prevented." These comments are farcical given the sheer inadequacy and complicity of the police the very next day.
V. On February 28, of the 40 persons shot dead by the police in Ahmedabad city, 36 were Muslims. This despite the fact that it was the minority community that was being targetted by huge and well-armed mobs. (See ‘Police Statistics’ section). In the unending saga of the police making victims the target, on April 15, two more persons belonging to the minority community, Ayub Khan Pathan being one of them, were shot dead at Dariapur, Ahmedabad. The police was effectively aiding an attacking mob that was pelting stones on the hapless Muslim residents in the area. Even minors were shot at, a few fatally, by the police. Why?
VI. Ahmedabad’s commissioner of police, PC Pandey comments on Newshour ( Star News), on February 28 were telecast again on March 10: "These people also, they somehow get carried away by the overall general sentiment. That’s the whole trouble. The police is equally influenced by the overall general sentiments." That is the police chief in person. It gave sanction to the policemen to act according to ‘sentiment’ rather than stringently enforce ‘the rule of law.’
Pandey pronounced on Newshour (Star News), on March 2: "The situation is well within control. In fact, it is fast returning back to normal. So we hope that within the next maybe 12-24 hours, we would have complete peace." The people of Ahmedabad know better.
VII. The police did not conduct the mandatory police drill.
VIII. It did not contact religious and community leaders to make appeals for peace.
IX. On February 28, as carefully planned mass killings were engineered in 30 different locations all over the state, two senior cabinet ministers sat in the police control room in Ahmedabad and the state control room in Gandhinagar and directly influenced the police not to act.
Gujarat state health minister Ashok Bhatt – who, incidentally, faces a criminal charge of murdering a police head constable Desai on April 22, 1985 at Khadia in Ahmedabad – was in the police control room (PCR) at the Ahmedabad police commissionerate in Shahibaug for more than three hours on February 28. And the Gujarat urban development minister, I K Jadeja, considered Modi’s right-hand man, had parked himself in the state police control room at Gandhinagar for four hours from 11 a.m. onwards.
Commissioner Pandey’s untenable explanation is that the arrangement was simply to facilitate easy flow of government directions as Union defence minister George Fernandes was also visiting on March 1. In a situation of crisis, the control room is a critical area of operation since this is one location where all the detailed information sent to and from various locations is received and responded to. The officer-in-charge of the control room is always kept informed on wireless about what is happening. Top police officials that CC spoke to countrywide, said it was ‘shocking’ and ‘unheard of’ that politicians sit in and try to influence the independent functioning of the police. The Commissioners of Police (CPs) of Ahmedabad, Baroda, Rajkot, Mehsana and Nadiad are personally culpable for allowing the violence to not just carry on but reach unprecedented proportions. The SPs of 16 out of Gujarat’s 24 total districts are also directly culpable.
Given the BJP’s track record and at a time when communal polarisation ran deep, ‘instructions’ from politicians could only be detrimental rather than aimed at conserving law and order. In the case of Gujarat, when the ruling party and members in responsible positions in government actually espouse an anti-Constitutional and divisive ideology, such interference in the police control room assumes criminal proportions. Given the conduct of the police in Ahmedabad city and the state wide massacres recorded in detail in the ‘Testimony’ section, it is easy to guess what these ministers were up to. In the case of many victims who this reporter spoke to, mobile phones of the senior policemen they were trying to contact had just been switched off.
X. The general message sent out to the police was that minimum response and action to panic calls should be allowed, that armed crowds of 5-15,000 should be left to do their business and complaints should not be registered or should be doctored.
The section titled ‘Testimony’, details the depth of police criminality and complicity. To recall a few:
Ø A few hundred calls from Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya were made to CP Pandey and even DGP, Gandhinagar.
Ø There were several calls made from the Gulberg Society where former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri was pleading for help in the face of a mob, which in Inspector Erda’s own words was "20-22,000 strong" (See ‘Testimony’ section). He kept calling the control room until he was charred to death along with 65 of his relatives and neighbours. Police officials, speaking anonymously, confirmed that Jaffri had made frantic telephone calls to the director general of police, the police commissioner, the chief secretary, the additional chief secretary (Home) and others. Three mobile vans of the city police were on hand around Jaffri’s house but did not intervene. Sources within the police confirmed that the MP fired in the air, in a desperate last-ditch attempt at self-defence when he had utterly failed to get police assistance. At that point, the marauders broke into his house, and among other inhuman deeds, stripped and raped his daughters and then burnt them alive along with their father. It was only the Rapid Action Force (RAF) of the central government that intervened when it was far too late, around 5 p.m.
Ø KK Mysorewala, police inspector, Naroda police station, who is indicted by several eyewitness accounts (See ‘Testimony’ section) told the Aaj Tak, TV channel on March 2: "Subah ko 11 baje se le kar shaam ke 7-8 baje tak poora danga raha. 15-20,000 tak ki tadat mein yeh aadmi log yahan par aaye the. … police was here, police bhi yahan thi. Firing bhi kiya hua hai, tear gas bhi chode hain. Mob aisa tha ki woh control kisi se na ho paya. Aisa bada mob tha." ("The rioting continued from 11 in the morning to 7-8 in the evening. There were about 15-20,000 people here… police was here, the police was also here. Firing was done and tear gas shells were also exploded – the mob was such that it could not be controlled by anyone. It was such a big mob.")
Ø This was also the time the Naroda-Patiya massacre began, in which, by the end of the day, over 91 Muslims had been torched. Over two dozen survivors from Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya confirmed that they had made over a hundred distress calls to Pandey. They say his mobile was permanently switched off. There was a similarly callous response from most of the DCPs and additional CPs except Tandon, who finally helped the rest of the Naroda survivors to safety in the dead of night. Had he not done so, the massacre would have continued and the numbers lost would have been much higher.
Ø The police could not or did not respond to pleas to protect a retired and a sitting judge of the Ahmedabad high court (Justice Akbar Divecha ad Justice Kadri) compelling them to seek army protection for their safety. None less than the chief justice of the Gujarat High Court told the judges not to rely on the police (See ‘Testimony’ section).
Ø The state police allowed large, several-thousand strong mobs on the Ahmedabad-Modasa Highway; the Baroda-Godhra route (where over 25 large factories and farm lands were burnt in broad daylight). Havoc was wreaked by organised mobs and their motorcycle pilots armed with mobile phones for coordination. These motorcycles (especially on the Godhra-Modasa route through Panchmahal district) would first track fleeing families and villagers, after which a mob would descend upon them, rape, brutalise, hack and kill. There was no patrolling of the highways in Gujarat, which displays, on the part of the state police, an utter ignorance of, if not indifference to, the activities of the BJP, RSS, VHP and the Bajrang Dal, who have mocked the law and order machinery consistently over the past two years. The police had obviously learnt nothing from its own station records and FIRs filed in August 1998 when a social and economic boycott was unleashed in Randhikpur Sanjeli, following incendiary pamphlets that were used to mobilise large sections of the population.
Ø In the Baroda BEST Bakery Case, policemen from the Panigate police station simply drove past the road on which the bakery is located, totally unmindful of the huge mob that had encircled the bakery. Fourteen persons were burned alive there.
When the Baroda Coomissioner of Police, Tuteja was contacted by concerned citizens and traumatised survivors about the overall failure of the Baroda police to respond to compalints he is alleged to have remarked, "Aapka naukar kiska kaam karega?" (Who’s work will your servant do?)--implying that the police is subservient to the ruling party in power.
Ø The Panchmahal police (See ‘Testimony’ section) were party and privy to the burning alive and hacking of villagers. The police post at Pandharwada village did nothing to stop the killings. The Dailol and the Mehsana police were also guilty of the same misconduct when they failed to prevent massacres like the one at Sardarpur; similarly, in Anand district and Kheda district (where massacres have taken place), the police presence was no help.
Significantly, one of the messages that the Ahmedabad control room received while minister Ashok Bhatt was there, was that his son, Bhushan, a local BJP councillor, had been mobbed by a group at Bhandari Ni Pol in Gaekwad Haveli area. Bhatt is reported to have instructed the staff to send forces there immediately to rescue his son. That was the first instruction he gave, CC has learnt.
XI. Since February 1998, a large number of incendiary pamphlets instigating violence against the state’s minorities have been widely circulated. Media reports have frequently drawn attention to these obnoxious publications (See ‘Dateline Gujarat’ section). Even before the Godhra incident, since early-February, a highly provocative pamphlet exhorting cadres to economically boycott Muslims, was in circulation across the state. VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and BJP have made ‘good use’ of hate speech and hate writing earlier, too, to create a ‘suitable’ social climate. The Gujarat police is guilty of not initiating or pursuing criminal action against them. To argue that this targeted hate speech is not related to the engineered violence would be puerile. In august 1998, the VHP’s "Onward To Sanjeli" pamhlet (see CC, October 1998) led to the targeted violence in both Sanjeli and Randikpur. In December 1999, before Dangs in South Gujarat was terrorised by the BJP/VHP, hate driven anti-Christian pamphlets were distributed in lakhs (see CC, January 2000). As can be seen from the Pamphlet Poison section in this report, whether it is the fomenting of general hatred against Muslims; or specifically detailing gory and chilling caranges against women (as happened in Naroda, Naroda Pattiya, Chamanpura, and the Mehsana and Panchmahals district--cadres were filled with the venom contained in these examples of hate writing and they chillingly, acted upon them.
The manner in which the BJP government has encouraged VHP and RSS workers, has given them the gumption to rule the State. At a public meeting held at Law Garden in September 2001 (details obtained from the police), highly provocative speeches were made in gross violation of section 153C. No action was taken. One of the comments made at this public meeting: "There are 36 ayats of the Quran that should be removed because they perpetrate violence; and, to make Islam less violent, these 36 ayats should be removed."
XII. The constituencies of some sitting MLAs and ministers have been the venues of the worst incidents of carnage this time. Bapunagar in Ahmedabad, one of the worst affected areas, is the home constituency of the minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya. Paldi, Ahmedabad is the constituency of Haren Pandya, former state home minister and currently revenue minister. Nitin Patel, a state cabinet minister allegedly led the violence (including sexual assault of a woman) in Kadih Mehsana district. Narav Laloo Patel is another minister in Modi’s cabinet from Unja in Mehsana district who allegedly inspired and led bouts of violence, including sexual assault and arson.. Rajkot, from where Modi recently won an election, has never before witnessed a riot. Ashok Bhatt, health minister, Gujarat is also directly named in the evidence of victims.
XIII. Police response to rumours, which act as agent provocateurs in a communal riot situation, is critical. In Gujarat, from February 27-April 10, 02 the police failed miserably to act decisively and reassuringly to control violence in the wake of rumours. The daily newspaper Sandesh was used to actively promote fear and insecurity in the majority when the minority was being targetted and the police did precious little to diffuse the situation.
XIV. Indian Law, be it the Arms Act, the Unlawful Practices Act, the Police Act or the Constitution is clear on the issue of organisations that strike terror among people and those that are armed. Carrying of swords "capable of being used for carrying out physical violence is prohibited under section 37 of the Bombay police Act. (conviction can be from four months to a year). Yet the police has allowed this arming and fatal use of swords to go unchecked. The VHP and BD, through trishul dikhsa samaroh’s have been distributing small sharp knives that can be disguised as a trishul. They proudly announce to the press that they conduct arms training for young children and women.(see CC Campaign July 2001 and CC Nov 01).CC has accessed confidential information, that needs to be investigated to show that one of the camps that the RSS/VHP/BD combine allegedly usefor training in violence and techniques of kiing is located at Kathwada near Memdavad in Kheda district.
In Gujarat, this arms distribution has assumed astronomical proportions. Distribution of trihuls, talwars and other arms continued until March 31. Police officers made the seizures in Bejalpur, Shahpur, Maninagar, Vatwa and Kalupur compulsory only after the Gujarat genocide. The police made seizures only in mid-April whereas state intelligence ought to have been informed of them and acted on this earlier. VHP joint sec. Jaideep Patel has publicly admitted that swords and trishuls are regularly distributed. "We have been distributing these weapons since 1985, — Trishul Diksha Samarohs and Bharatiya Abhiyans have been held. Nobody has objected not even the police." Information available suggests that Dudheshwar in Ahmedabad and a district in Rajasthan are where the swords are acquired from. (Recently, the Rajasthan government seized a jeep carrying swords trying to cross over into Gujarat at Sirohi in Rajasthan.)
XV. The Police is also guilty, post Gujarat carnage, of bullying victims/survivors into filing FIRS where the accused are only identified as mobs rather than naming y the individual leaders of parties that victims/survivors identify relating to each incident.
XVI. Continuing Violence:The role of the Police in Gujarat, especially Ahmedabad city, has failed to inspire confidence among the affected, even after the first round of brutalities. It has been responsible for highly dubious conduct from mid-March to mid-April as well. On the eve of PM Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Ahmedabad, on April 3, the police were at the forefront of an assault against minority sections of the population in the curfew-ridden parts of Gomtipur, Ahmedabad. The Police, led by PI SD Sharma, in the presence of Mr. Parmar of the Ahmedabad Collectorate, led a violent attack on the 750 refugees of the Suleiman Roza Relief Camp (behind Nutan Mills), Saraspur and actually shot two persons, Pirujbhai Mohammad Sheikh(30) and Khatoonbi Sharfuddin Saiyed (45).
As a result, the 750 strong camp was violently, wound up. Advocate Nizam was shot dead by the police inside his home on April 3 and Dr. Ishaq Sheikh, Vice President, of the Al Ameen Garib Niwas Hospital, was brutally assaulted by the police. (See section on Continuing Violence.) On April 14, two more persons were shot dead by the police at Dariapur when, in fact, they were being attacked by a violent mob. The number of lives lost due to deliberate police criminality will be astronomically high. (These figures are being witheld by the government.)
BJP and the police in Gujarat
After February 1998, when Keshubhai Patel came to power, a calculated displacement of Muslim began. All Muslim officers began to be given executive posts (they were assigned to Law and Order-Crime Investigation). Eight of the 141 IPS officers in the state who are Muslims, were deliberately keep away from decision making posts.
As a result of this well-known and blatantly unconstitutional policy of the Gujarat government, the younger batch of Muslim IPS officers who passed out in ’92-’93 have never exercised their executive capabilities; they have never seen executive policing. Gujarat is the only state in the country where IPS officers who are Muslim have never been assigned the post of deputy SP of police. At present, two Muslim officers who are qualified to be given the post of a DySP, which would put them in direct charge of maintaining law and order in half or one third of a district, have been deliberately denied the opportunity. For an IPS officer, the charge of SP, or DySP is a critical training opportunity to gain experience in execution and supervision.
Every police chowki has a constable with a head constable who could be in-charge of a beat, out post, or a chowki. Since the BJP assumed power in Gujarat, it has ensured that were a head constable to be a Muslim, he would not be in-charge of the beats/outposts under the chowki. While addressing a meeting of Baroda range officers in 1999, a minister from the state cabinet did a shocking thing. He demanded that the names of all head constables and officers above that grade be read out to him publicly. The signal was that the charge of an outpost should not be given to a Muslim.
In 1999, Mahen Trivedi, the minister of state for home, stated publicly at a police function: "We have told you that we don’t want Muslims in controlling posts. Why is he posted there?" At the DySP and Inspector level, there are 65 Muslims in the service all over Gujarat. With the exception of one who has a close relationship with a minister, all others have been shunted to CID Crime, training computers, civil defence and railways.
In the three critical government departments concerned with recruitment — the Gujarat Public Service Commission, (GPSC), the Panchayat Service Selection Board and the Gram Seva Samiti — there is not a single member from any minority community. In the vital departments of government — establishment, recruitment, law and order, finance and loans department, there are no minority persons at all. This is blatantly anti-constitutional as it violates the principles of non-discrimination and equal opportunity.
Some examples of open discrimination:
In late 1999, when a Patel was murdered in Rajkot, the then CM (Keshubhai Patel) went there on a personal visit; a few days later some 8-10 Muslims died in an incident but neither the CM nor any minister visited the city!
Transfer and punishment posting are very common in Gujarat. For example, DYSP Parmar, Viramgam who arrested 5 VHP workers was shifted over night. Punish the good and reward the guilty, is the policy followed consistently by the Modi regime as also by his predecessors in Gujarat.
Subsequent to the ethnic cleansing in March, after a secret meeting of political bigwigs and favourite bureaucrats in Gandhinagar, punishment postings were dished out to ‘disobedient’ policemen. Their crime? They had disobeyed orders, which allowed Hindu mobs free rein and thus managed to contain or prevent loot, arson and killings.
1. Vivek Srivastava, SP, Kutch: The young officer arrested a Home Guard commandant after he assaulted a Muslim woman. The commandant is a known VHP worker. Srivastava has been shunted to the post of SP (Prohibition). A local Gujarat officer has taken his place. Kutch was peaceful when Gujarat was trapped by the fires of hatred: not one death reported, no case of arson or damage to property. Srivastava moved swiftly to control the post-Godhra damage: on March 1, he ordered the arrests of Nakhtarana taluka VHP president, Vasant Patel and Home Guard commandant, Akshay Thakkar, who wore his VHP links on his uniform sleeve. Thakkar had helped a mob lock up six persons inside a dargah in Nakhtarana.
‘‘They were about to be attacked with swords and set on fire, but they managed to break open the door and flee. We had information on who was behind the attack, and we picked up the commandant and a Shiv Sena leader,’’ police sources told the media. After a shop was burnt down and a dargah damaged, Srivastava identified the culprits and made them pay for the reconstruction. ‘‘The police also foiled the attempts of a mob which tried to stir up things in Angia village. The police stepped in again when VHP activists attacked a dargah in Bhimsar village a few days ago."
Srivastava stood firm in the face of a flurry of phone calls from minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya and other ministers, police sources in Nakhtarana said. ‘‘There were two calls from the CM’s office too,’’ they added. Though Srivastava refused to, comment, Zadaphiya admitted that he had called up Srivastava twice. ‘‘I thought the leaders who were arrested were innocent and had been picked up by mistake,’’ said the minister. "I did my job. As a police officer, I did whatever was required of me to keep law and order," shrugged the 1988 batch officer.
2. Praveen Gondia, DCP Zone IV, Ahmedabad City: Gondia registered FIRs against prominent BJP and VHP leaders for their role in the rioting. He has been transferred to Civil Defence.
3. Himanshu Bhatt, SP, Banaskantha: He suspended a sub-inspector who had let a Hindu mob plunder a village in the district. The PSI is close to several BJP and VHP leaders. Bhatt has been transferred to the Intelligence Bureau.
4. Manoj Antane, SP, Bharuch: He came down fast and hard on rioters all across the communally sensitive district. He has been transferred as SP, Narmada, a less important, smaller district.
The motive, apart from vendetta? One, to make sure Modi has his key police officials in positions of command in case he goes through with his cynical plan for elections. Two, in case there is President’s rule, the move can be effectively subverted with soft saffron elements in key places in the police and the bureaucracy.
5. Rahul Sharma, SP, Bhavnagar: The riots erupted when he had been in charge for only 25 days. Sharma fired on a mob that was trying to set a madrassa on fire, and put all its leaders behind bars. By his firm act, 400 young lives were saved. A local BJP leader wanted them released. Sharma told him to get lost. The officer is now DCP (Control Room). On March 1, the 1992-batch officer broke up a rally led by a Shiv Sena leader and VHP activists. For 25 days, he held his ground, resisting pressure from BJP MLAs, minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya and others. When leaders in the rally including SS leader, Kishore Bhatt and 21 VHP activists raised inflammatory slogans, the SP issued instructions for their immediate arrest. This brought the situation under immediate control.
On the evening of March 1, when mobs were prowling the streets, the Bhavnagar police, who had never faced a riot before, momentarily seemed to lose confidence. ‘‘Sensing that my men were hesitating, I got out and fired the first round and they immediately joined me. We managed to disperse the mob and did not allow them to regroup,’’ Sharma told the media. For this, Sharma had to face heat from political ‘bosses.’ The BJP MLA, Sunil Oza, called up Sharma, accusing him of stirring up trouble by arresting Sena and VHP leaders. The MLA, in fact, threatened the police saying that if they were not released, it would cause a serious law and order problem. But the police stuck to their principles.
Oza then reportedly exerted pressure on the director general of police’s office, but after considering the case, the DGP office did not pressurise Sharma. Then they tried to instigate riots to get Sharma into trouble. Suddenly 22 incidents were reported. That is when the police decided to use force. The Bhavnagar police were on their toes, opening fire wherever and whenever necessary. By March 2, the number of incidents had trickled down to 30; by March 3, there was nothing to report. When the Army eventually reached Bhavnagar, it had little to do. The interference did not stop here. The minister of state for home, Zadaphiya called up Bhavnagar city police and told them not to register cases against those injured in police firing. The police refused to oblige. Sharma paid the price for his uprightness.
The IPS officers’ association has decided to meet for discussions, and the state’s top policeman has lodged a protest. To preempt any challenge to the abrupt transfer orders, the Gujarat government was quick to file an application with the Central Administrative Tribunal, pleading that it should, before taking action on appeals against transfers, allow the state government to have its say. "This is the first time that the police in any part of the country have been taught inaction," said a senior officer. "The fallout of this would be disastrous. The next time we have a riot and a constable sees a senior officer being assaulted by a mob, he’ll probably just stand back and watch."
Shivanand Jha and VM
Parghi, additional police commissioner and deputy police commissioner of
Ahmedabad, were transferred on April 8 and appointed as DIG, Armed Unit,
Rajkot and commandant of SRP, Group Eight, Gondal, respectively. Parghi was
the officer who actually beat up journalists while Jha had pulled him up and
tried to do his duty.
PB Upadhaya, superintendent intelligence, Gandhinagar, has been posted as district superintendent of Police, Amreli. PN Patel, commandant, SRP, Group Eight, Gondal, would hold the post previously held by PB Upadhaya as SP, Intelligence. DS Bhatt has been appointed SP, vigilance squad, DGP’s office, Gandhinagar.
The Gujarat government under the BJP has used the IB (intelligence bureau) for its political programme, targetting the minority community. Earlier, details of places of residence and business of members from the minority community were maintained to ensure protection to them when needed. The present government has completely misused the IB machinery to find out who lives where and make their cadre’s job easy.
The manner in which the selective attacks took place after Feb. 28 suggests a sinister link; information collected by departments like revenue, sales tax, the registrar of companies, the factory inspectors records, and shops and establishments records were passed on to the mob leaders who used this information to direct their killer squads on cellular phones to the next address for mutilation, rape, murder, loot and arson. Pantaloon, on CG road in Ahmedabad has a 10 per cent Muslim partnership. Similarly, a Muslim holds a minor partnership in the city’s Honda showroom. Rajesh Mehta, a Punjabi Hindu who owns Copper Chimney had entered into a business tie-up with a sheikh from the Middle East. Who and how did the mobs and their leaders, who were also in government, get access to this information before they acted with such military precision? Leaders of the mobs were seen with computer printouts that had all these details.
The present government had already tried using the police for a selective census of Christians and Muslims, which they were compelled to withdraw after a nationwide protest. (See ‘Dateline Gujarat’ section).
The Gujarat police, under instructions from the government instituted a ‘Cell to Monitor Inter-Community Marriages’, a step that is a gross violation of the Indian Constitution.
The general secretary of the district Home Guard command is a VHP man. There is a policy decision under the Home Guards scheme to create a post like a ‘shikshak sahay called suraksha sahay’; under this scheme, policemen are hired at 2,500 rupees for 4 years. Their recruitment procedure is ad hoc. It does not follow the normal rules, the intention is obviously to make them permanent after four years. The present government has already created health, education ‘sahays’; now there is a strong move to follow the same pattern for the police force.
At present, there are 4,000 vacancies for policemen in Gujarat. Recruitment through the normal route, like GPSC, is a procedure not easily prone to manipulation since there are arduous tests and other procedures to be followed. However, now this novel idea is being pushed through to introduce the police sahayak at Rs 1,500 to 2,000 per month. After 6 months of this induction in an ad hoc way, and through which active infiltration has been attempted, political bosses have been pushing to regularise their employment under the permanent category. Through the backdoor, then, cadres are being recruited. After four years of ad hoc service, they are inducted directly into the force. The recruitment procedure for the police sahayaks is deliberately lax. CC learns that nearly 4,000 from the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS cadres have already been inducted as police sahayaks. These are the persons that are creating havoc with the police system and have been used successfully in the recent genocide.
Over the last 5 years as many as 12,000 VHP workers have been inducted into the state Home Guards, with many district chiefs being VHP office bearers. Barring one or two, all the 25 Home Guard commandants in the state are primary members of the VHP and Bajrang Dal. The Home Guard’s position is a critical one for the maintenance of law and order in rural areas. Through massive infiltration over the past four years, the BJP and its rabid wings have virtually taken control of the Home Guards machinery. It is an arrangement that has worked well for the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat in recent weeks. In past weeks there have been reports that 6,000 Home Guards have been asked to go on leave by the chief minister because of their transparent and close associations with the cadres of the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal.
There is a practice followed by the Gujarat police in rural areas with regard to the entries made and the questions asked for entries in the Village Crime Notebook. These questions are reserved exclusively for Muslims. Pakistan tarfi valan dekhadiye che ke nayee? What was his position during Partition? Is he a known Gandhe vadi? (Does he show a leaning towards Pakistan? What was his position during Partition? Is he a known Gandhian?)
The intense insecurity felt by Muslims in Gujarat is borne out by the fact that even Muslim policemen are afraid to put name tags on their uniforms and have sought special permission to be on duty without their name tags. Special IG AI Saiyed, with over 25 years of service, was asked to help a group on his way to Karai. He stopped and tried to help out the hapless people. But he was assaulted when they saw his name. The level of anarchy is evident from the fact that many police officers posted in sensitive areas have simply stopped wearing their name tags, which is against the law. Many Muslim police personnel, including PSIs and PIs do not feel secure wearing their name tags while on duty in riot-affected areas.
All vital and sensitive postings in the Gujarat police were systematically politicised and saffronised by the BJP immediately after coming to power. Several months ago, the then home minister, Haren Pandya, widely reported to have personally led the marauding mobs against Muslims last month, completely reshuffled the police inspectors and sub-inspectors in Ahmedabad and Vadodara, sidelining the police commissioners and the DGP.
Here are some examples of the police-parivar nexus:
1. Police Inspector VB Raval, (PCB, Ahmedabad City) Crime Branch: He participated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid as a kar sevak and proudly displays a photograph thereof as a trophy. This deed of his is said to have fetched him such a plum post.
2. RD Makadia, DCP Zone IV: Very close to VHP leader Pravin Togadia; works as his agent.
3. Savani, DCP Zone V: A close ally of Togadia.
4. RB Jebalia, DCP Zone VI: Hails from Amreli district, as does Togadia. He is said to be under a personal obligation to Togadia, though he may not be outright communal.
5. PB Gondia (IPS) DCP, Zone III: His father is an ex-MLA (Congress.) He was offered a BJP ticket from Panchmahal dist. during the last Assembly elections. He was ready to contest but his father persuaded him not to.
6.Parghi (IPS) DCP Zone I: Brother-in-law of Gondia. He was seen moving in his official vehicle along with Haren Pandya during the riots.
7. DJ Patel, DCP, Zone II: Also very close to Togadia.
8. ND Solanki, SP Himmatnagar: His father is an active office-bearer in the VHP.
The testimonies from the numerous survivors of the genocide in Gujarat, which form a major part of this report, provide abundant evidence of dereliction of duty and in many cases even complicity of sections of the police force in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims.
Numerous reports published in the national dailies since March 1, too, record several instances of brazen anti-Muslim bias, evident in the acts of commission and omission by policemen - from constables to top officials - SRP jawans and even Fire Brigade personnel. We reproduce below excerpts from some of them:
Minors shot by police
Vadodara: An 11-year-old girl in Dudhia village was hit on the head by bullet in police firing and is now recuperating at the SSG hospital, Vadodara. A 14-year-old was killed in police firing at Kisanwadi. The bullet went through his chest. In Halol, a bullet ricocheted from a wall on a veranda of a one-storied-house, injuring a two-and-a-half-year old. At a time when the state police are accused of "inaction" as mobs went around looting and killing during the recent riots, records at the SSG Hospital here, which is treating numerous riot victims, are pointing at another "folly" – police forgot the rule book during the riots and shot many above the waist while controlling the mobs.
(The Times of India, 1 March 2002)
Police chief vanishes as Rajkot burns
Rajkot: While Rajkot burned on Thursday, its police commissioner did a vanishing act. As mobs rampaged through the city and curfew had to be clamped after a gap of 17 years, Upendra Singh switched his mobile phone off and was nowhere to be found. And, with their chief not in sight, the inefficiency of the local police came to the fore as mobs attacked marked targets at will.
(The Times of India, 1 March 2002)
‘The Police watched as we were attacked’
Vadodara: "We were surrounded on all sides by police vans but had to contend with stones from the mob. The police did nothing to stop the attack. On the contrary, an ex-corporator instructed them on how they should ensure that we have no way to escape," said a resident of Memon colony. "The police looked on as mob attacked and destroyed homes of an ex-judge and retired army colonel," said Iqbal Memon, who also added to the complaints of police inaction.
(The Times of India, 2 March 2002).
RAF accused of atrocities in Surat
Surat: Rapid Action Force (RAF) jawans are alleged to have beaten up and misbehaved with Muslim women and an elderly maulvi in Surat. The jawans reportedly went on the rampage on March 3, a day after residents of the predominantly Muslim suburb of Rander faxed a message to President KR Narayanan and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, seeking protection from Hindu mobs. They now plan to move court and complain to the human rights commission against the RAF and police.
(The Hindustan Times, 5 March 2000).
6 deaths after mob attack, police call it ‘asphyxiation’
Por (Gandhinagar dist.): … Police say all mohalla residents were evacuated; the villagers say some had already been killed before the evacuation began. Irfan Ali Shaikh, a survivor who lost his wife, says women and children were soft targets for the mob. "They killed them pressing their fingers on their throats and police also forced us to bury the bodies in a hurry to kill any proof of murder."
(The Indian Express, 5 March 2002).
Police fails to provide security to activist
Ahmedabad: Well-known social activist and state vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties J.S. Bandukwala, a personal friend of defence minister George Fernandes, has been forced to go into hiding following an attack on his residence at Sama, Baroda. The police has failed to provide adequate security to him despite several requests. This is not the first time that the Bandukwalas have been targeted during communal riots.
(The Asian Age, 6 March 2002).
Failing the people
Sabarkantha: 137 petitioners from the district have moved the Gujarat High Court to have their voices heard. They claimed that the police had not recorded their individual FIRs. The role of the police in Sabarkantha district, as a case in point, has only recently become the subject of debate, from the Lok Sabha to the Police Bhavan in Gandhinagar. The main allegation against the Sabarkantha police is that they did not do enough to protect the innocent and were now preventing the registration of FIRs against the individuals who led the mobs.
(The Indian Express, 13 March 2002).
‘We were just watching, why did they fire at us?’
Ahmedabad: "All the women had gathered for majlis - a ceremony before Muharram which is attended by women only. We were returning home when we saw smoke around Navapura area... the women came outside to check what was happening when suddenly, police personnel barged inside our homes and started firing directly at the women," alleges Mumtaz. (The 18-year-old Mumtaz Bano Darbar, a physically challenged girl, escaped death, though she was hurt by a police bullet)...
"They didn’t even throw tear-gas shells or lathi charge first," claims Sherbano Abbas Bukhari, an 18-year-old girl who was shot in the chest. "The policewala was only five metres away when he fired directly at me," sobs Sherbano, who is in a very critical condition.
(The Indian Express, 22 March 2002).
FIR says Muslim MLA led riot mob
Ahmedabad: In a glaring example of what appears to be police connivance with the ruling BJP government in Gujarat, the Ahmedabad police put the name of a Muslim MLA in a FIR for instigating mobs to burn Hindu establishments when he was actually in the Gujarat Assembly attending the session discussing the law and order situation in the state.
(The Asian Age, 23 March 2002).