Nov-Dec 2002 
Year 9    No.81-82

State Complicity
Police Misbehaviour

Evidence before the Tribunal clearly establishes the absolute failure of large sections of the Gujarat
police to fulfil their constitutional duty and prevent mass massacre, rape and arson — in short, to maintain law and order. Worse still is the evidence of their active connivance and brutality, their indulgence in vulgar and obscene conduct against women and children in full public view. It is as if, instead of being impartial keepers of the rule of law, they were a part of the Hindutva brigade targeting helpless Muslims.

To start with, the Godhra incident would not have taken place had the police taken due precautions right from the beginning. Given Godhra’s history and communal background, the police should have maintained a strict vigil as kar sevaks crossed Godhra, on their way to Ayodhya and on their return journey, more so because the climate in the country was already tense because of the VHP’s Ayodhya plan. On their way to Ayodhya, the kar sevaks had indulged in provocative acts at Godhra station. Despite these warning signs, there was not enough deployment of forces. In the circumstances, one may well ask whether this was a case of intelligence failure on the part of the police force, or a deliberate absence of pre–emptive action?

Once the Godhra tragedy had occurred, the Gujarat police made no preventive arrests. The only two arrests made on February 27 were those of Shri Mohammed Ismail Jalaluddin and Shri Fateh Mohammed, who were picked up at Astodia that night, for shouting slogans.

Since 1998, there has been a proliferation of hate speech and incendiary pamphlets all over Gujarat. The Gujarat police are guilty of not initiating or pursuing criminal action against the hate–mongers for four long years, even after hate speech and hate writing had frequently been used to create an ‘appropriate’ social climate to precipitate violence against the minorities.

There is adequate evidence recorded by the Tribunal from rural and urban Gujarat, which points to systematic data collection by the VHP/RSS/BD outfits, aided by sections of the state administration under the direct control of the fraternal BJP. Throughout the sinister planning and plotting, the Gujarat police maintained a discreet distance, adopting a non–interfering stance to blatantly unlawful activities.

On March 12, posted an interview by the Gujarat VHP chief, KK Shastri on its website. He revealed in the interview: "In the morning (February 28), we sat down and prepared the list (of Muslim shops ands establishments to be targeted). We were not prepared in advance." The police have not thought it fight to initiate any inquiry or action against Shri Shastri despite his self–confession of the VHP’s criminal misconduct.

The Tribunal received direct information through a testimony from a highly placed source of a meeting where the chief minister, two or three senior cabinet colleagues, the CP of Ahmedabad, and an IG police of the state were present. This meeting took place on the late evening of February 27. The meeting had a singular purpose: the senior–most police officials were told that they should expect a "Hindu reaction" after Godhra. They were also told that they should not do anything to contain this reaction.

The Tribunal also has evidence of a secret meeting, held late in the evening of February 27, in Lunavada village of Sabarkantha district. Phone calls were made to invite 50 top people of the BJP/RSS/BD/VHP. Fifty top people, the Tribunal was told, met at this undisclosed destination and detailed plans were made on the use of kerosene, petrol for arson and other methods of killing. The state intelligence did not or could not track such meetings and preparations for the gruesome violence that was to follow.

"The police tried their best, but they couldn’t stop the mobs. They were grossly outnumbered when the mobs grew," Ahmedabad’s police commissioner, Shri PC Pandey had pleaded. But in most cases, inadequacy of forces is a mere excuse touted by serving police officers who fail in their primary duty. Even in Gujarat this time, in several cases where good officers held out against political pressure, the same small deployment was enough to act decisively and control the situation. In the vast majority of cases, however, the police either did not act or acted on behalf of the mob.

PC Pandey publicly changed his stand four months later when, on June 1, 2002, in an interview he stated that "VHP and BD were responsible for the violence in the state."

The shocking levels of police complicity in the Gujarat carnage cannot be over–emphasised. 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 which was being targeted by huge and well–armed mobs on that day, at both Naroda Gaon and Patiya as well as Chamanpura.

Gujarat Police has finally admitted that it killed more Muslims than Hindus in its ostensible attempts to stop what was clearly targeted Hindu violence against Muslims. Of the 184 people who died in police firing since the violence began, 104 are Muslims, says a report drafted by Gujarat police force itself. This statistic substantiates the allegations of riot victims from virtually every part of the state that not only did the local police not do anything to stop the Hindu mobs; they actually turned their guns on the helpless Muslim victims.

At some places in the state though, this trend, of more Muslims falling to police bullets than Hindus, was reversed. In both Bhavnagar and Banaskantha districts, five Hindus died in police firing on rioters. No Muslim was killed in Banaskantha, only one died in Bhavnagar. The superintendents of police of both districts were promptly removed from their posts. The number of Muslim and Hindu deaths in police firing, despite having been computed by the Gujarat police, have, so far, not been released. Coming out with the truth would only inflame the situation, it is feared.

Shri Pandey’s comments, telecast during the ‘Newshour’ bulletin of Star News on February 28, on the role of the police under his command was telling: "These people also, they somehow get carried away by the overall general sentiment. That’s the whole trouble. The police are equally influenced by the overall general sentiments." Here we have a top police official being indulgent towards his policemen who "somehow" get carried away by "general sentiments", when the least that could be expected of him would be a categorical assertion that those in the force who had failed to enforce ‘the rule of law’ were a disgrace to the uniform they donned and would themselves be punished in accordance with the law.

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 police control room in Gandhinagar and directly influenced police action, or inaction. Gujarat’s health minister, Shri Ashok Bhatt — who, incidentally, faces a criminal charge for the murder of 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 urban development minister, Shri IK Jadeja who is 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 on the same day. To have cabinet ministers sitting inside the state and city police control rooms can mean only one thing: they were there to influence the independent functioning of the police.

The police chiefs of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot, Mehsana, Panchmahal, Dahod and Sabarkantha stand individually indicted for their failure to control unprecedented violence under their respective jurisdictions. The SPs of several of Gujarat’s 24 districts are also directly culpable. The Tribunal has enough evidence to establish that the Gujarat carnage was not simply a case of failure or abdication of duty; in far too many cases, the police were accomplices in the carnage.

When Vadodara’s commissioner of police, Shri DD Tuteja was contacted by concerned citizens and traumatised survivors to protest against the overall failure of the police to respond to complaints, he is claimed to have remarked, "Aapka naukar kiska kaam karega?" ("Who’s work would your servant do?"), implying that the police is subservient to the ruling party in power.

To begin with, police failure to quash rumours, deliberately floated to inflame passion and fuel violence, is unpardonable. In addition, from February 27 to April 10, it failed miserably in taking decisive action to control the violence that followed. The daily newspaper Sandesh was used to actively promote fear and insecurity in the minds of the majority while the minority was being targeted. However, the police did precious little to diffuse the situation.

As if this were not bad enough, the police itself committed atrocities against Muslims, especially in Vadodara (Bahar Colony, Noor Park and other areas) and Ahmedabad (Gomtipur and elsewhere). Even women were beaten and thrashed, often on their breasts and vaginas. In fact, such widespread sexual misbehaviour of the police with Muslim women marks a new low in police misconduct against the minorities.

It is a matter of public knowledge that in the past 3–4 years the VHP and the Bajrang Dal have distributed trishuls on a large scale in Gujarat. Barely disguised as a ‘religious symbol’, trishuls are sharp, three–pronged weapons that can easily cause fatal injury. Yet it took no steps to seize the weapons, stop the training camps or act against its practitioners in any other way.

Police conduct after the Gujarat carnage, with regard to the registration of crimes, conducting of investigations etc., has been marked by a desire to please political bosses and an utter disregard for the law of the land. This is nothing but calculated miscarriage of justice. The police are required to file separate FIRs for each incident. Instead, separate incidents of crime committed by different aggressors at different places at different times have been clubbed together in single omnibus FIRs. Panchnamas have either been made 3–4 weeks after the incidents or not at all. Also, if the charge-sheets filed in the Gulberg (Chamanpura), Naroda Gaon and Patiya massacres are anything to go by, the names of the main accused have been conveniently dropped.

Worse still, in places like Pandharwada, Anjanwa, Mora (Panchmahal district), Randhikpur and Sanjeli, Fatehpur and Dailol (Dahod district) as well as in villages in Bharuch, Sabarkantha, Mehsana and Himmatnagar districts, the Tribunal has evidence of the police bullying victim–survivors into filing FIRs wherein only mobs are mentioned, without naming the assailants and mob leaders whom the victim–survivors had clearly recognised during the incidents of violence. The CPs of Ahmedabad and Vadodara are also culpable for similar police misconduct.

Communalisation of the Police Administration

Evidence before the Tribunal clearly indicates that since the assumption of power by the BJP in Gujarat in February 1998, there was a calculated move to sideline Muslim police officers. Muslim officers were given non-executive posts. (they were assigned to crime investigation etc.). The eight Muslim officers, from a total of 141 IPS officers in the state, were kept away from decision–making posts.

The Tribunal notes with shock that, as a result of this discriminatory practice by the Gujarat government, the younger batch of Muslim IPS officers who joined service in ’92–’93 have not known executive policing because they have simply been denied the opportunity to test their executive capabilities.

The Tribunal recorded the testimonies of many police officials who, for obvious reasons, cannot be identified. In every police chowki, the normal practice is to make head constables in–charge of a beat or outpost. Since the BJP assumed power in Gujarat, it has ensured that in the few instances where a head constable might be a Muslim, he would not be in–charge of the beats/outposts under the chowki.

Evidence led before the Tribunal indicates that ministers in the BJP government in Gujarat made public statements to ensure that Muslims in the state’s police force were sidelined. For instance, in 1999, Shri 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?" (Confidential testimony of police officers before the Tribunal).

Politicians of all hues resort to punitive transfers, which only reinforces the oft reiterated demand for an independent police force in the country. In Gujarat, such transfers take place at the behest of the Sangh Parivar.

After the carnage, several police officers suffered for their upright behaviour in controlling violence and preventing further loss of life. From the evidence placed before the Tribunal these are:

Ř Shri 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. Shri Srivastava was shunted to the post of SP (Prohibition).

Ř Shri Praveen Gondia, DCP Zone IV, Ahmedabad City: Shri Gondia registered FIRs against prominent BJP and VHP leaders for their role in the rioting. He was transferred to Civil Defence.

Ř Shri Himanshu Bhatt, SP, Banaskantha: He suspended a sub–inspector who had allowed a Hindu mob to plunder a village in the district. The PSI is close to several BJP and VHP leaders. Shri Bhatt was transferred to the Intelligence Bureau.

Ř Shri Rahul Sharma, SP, Bhavnagar: The riots erupted when he had only been in charge for 25 days. Shri Sharma fired on a mob that was trying to set a madrassa (school) on fire, and put all its leaders behind bars. By his firm act, 400 young lives were saved. A local BJP leader wanted the culprits released but Shri Sharma refused to oblige. The officer is now DCP (Control Room).

Ř Shri Ajit Srivastava, PI, Khanpur police station, surveillance branch, Ahmedabad city: On February 28, this officer saved the lives of 35 Muslim women who were trapped inside some hutments with a mob surrounding them within his jurisdiction. He risked his life and limb by jumping into the fire that had already started and fortunately saved them. Later that day, around 8 p.m., while he was in the Madhopur police station area, Shri Srivastava risked his left for the second time the same day to rescue 134 Muslims surrounded by an over 20,000–strong mob. In the process, he prevented what could very likely have been two more incidents of ghastly massacre in Ahmedabad city.

Ř Shri Vinod Mall, SP Surendranagar: For having efficiently controlled violence and foiled attempts at provocation in his district, he was given a promotion posting in Ahmedabad which effectively deprived him of direct charge of a district.

The Gujarat government under the BJP has used the IB (Intelligence Bureau) to promote the sangh parivar’s political agenda of targeting the minority community. In the past, police stations maintained details of places of residence and business of members from the minority community, to ensure them protection whenever necessary. The present government grossly misused the IB machinery to find out who lived where, making their cadre’s job of loot and arson easy.

The present government had attempted to use the police to put together a selective census of Christians and Muslims but was compelled to withdraw after a nation–wide protest. The Gujarat police, under instructions from the government, instituted a ‘Cell to Monitor Inter–Community Marriages’, a step that is in gross violation of the Indian Constitution.

Some lists of politically convenient appointments to the police department were placed before the Tribunal. (See Box) This needs further investigation and, if true, the situation must be redressed. This is imperative if a clean and politically untarnished police force is to be put in place to ensure justice and peace.

Apart from the police, the BJP has filled several posts within the state’s Home Guards with members of the VHP. The head of the Home Guards in Mehsana district is also a senior VHP functionary. (Significantly, the public prosecutor in Mehsana district, Dilip Trivedi, is also the VHP’s district chief. Moreover, the district magistrate/collector, Amrut Patel is a close relative of Shri Narayan Laloo Patel, a BJP minister and one of the prime accused for leading attacks in the district).

Over the last 5 years more than 8,000 VHP workers have been inducted into the state Home Guards, with many district chiefs being VHP office–bearers. 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.

The intense insecurity felt by Muslims in Gujarat is borne out by the fact that even Muslim policemen are/were afraid to put name tags on their uniforms and had sought special permission to be on duty without their name tags. Special IG, Shri AI Saiyed, with over 25 years of service, was asked to help a group on his way to Karai in Gandhinagar district. When Shri Saiyed tried to help the hapless people, he was himself attacked when the mob saw his name.

The height of the ‘fear and favour’ policy of the current political dispensation is borne out by CM Modi’s treatment of senior officials. On September 18, the Gujarat state intelligence bureau chief and his two deputies were summarily transferred on punishment postings because Star News gained access to police tapes on Shri Modi’s shocking anti–Muslim remarks made at Bahucharaji near Mehsana on September 9.

The Tribunal is of the view that a significant section of the Gujarat police is guilty of gross dereliction of duty and of flouting the Indian Constitution and Indian criminal law. Therefore, all the individual policemen named by the Tribunal in the list of accused must be promptly prosecuted.

Legal Remedies

Sections 107–110 and sections 143–152 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) give adequate preventive and punitive powers and deem it the duty of district magistrates and police chiefs to prevent breach of peace and ensure the rule of law. And the All India Service Rules (1969) provides for the punishment of errant IAS and IPS officials.

Apart from violating Indian penal and constitutional law, dereliction of duty is a clear violation of the ‘All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, Part III – Penalties and Disciplinary Authorities’. Under these rules, there already exist provisions for the dismissal from service of IAS and IPS officials guilty of "any act or omission which renders him liable to any penalty specified in rule 6."

Communalisation of bureaucracy

The Tribunal has received substantial evidence of the deep communal-isation of the state bureaucracy. Collectors and deputy collectors are appointed on the basis of political expediency. Again, in these posts they do not perform their constitutional duty. They have in fact been subverting basic rights guaranteed through the Indian Constitution and to which they are sworn, whether in the matter of relief and rehabilitation or compensation claims or law and order.

The Tribunal, for instance, received specific complaints about three deputy collectors from Naroda, Rakhial and Ahmedabad city who have not only served more than their four–year term but are patronised by BJP MLA Sushri Maya Kotdani who is directly indicted in killings and massacres and Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya. Their names are Shri Manoj Macwana (deputy collector, Rakhial), Shri Manoj Patariya (deputy collector, Naroda) and Shri Gaurav Prajapati (deputy collector, Ahmedabad). Besides this, many DMs/collectors have been indicted in specific cases as in Bharuch and Ahmedabad city and their names have been included in the List of Accused with a strong recommendation from this Tribunal that they be swiftly prosecuted and punished.

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