July 2007 
Year 13    No.124

State Complicity

Truth and the Nanavati-Shah Commission

In addition to about 3,500 affidavits relating to issues of loss of life and damage filed by victim survivors before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, senior police officers in Gujarat  have also filed their affidavits before the public commission of enquiry. An analysis of the latter tells its own two-pronged tale. On the one hand we see stoic courage in the face of adversity from a handful of officers who have laid bare the nitty-gritty of state connivance and planning not to mention several subsequent attempts at subverting the truth. In stark contrast are the testimonies by the majority of officers, many of whom assisted the government in whitewashing its dastardly role in and after the genocide of 2002.

The Gujarat government first announced the establishment of a commission of enquiry to probe the Godhra and post-Godhra carnage in March 2002. The initial announcement itself was seen as a partisan act. In its first official announcement on the matter, the state government declared that the commission would be headed by a single judge, Justice KG Shah, a man whose secular credentials were already somewhat suspect. The appointment of a single judge to investigate a volatile issue in a lawless state, one moreover who had been suspected of biased conduct in previous matters related to communal violence in Gujarat, led to nationwide protests that ultimately forced the government to modify its decision. Justice GT Nanavati’s inclusion on the enquiry panel was a corrective step.

The Modi government’s partisan approach was also reflected in the declaration of two distinct and discriminatory compensation packages for the families of victims who had died in the Godhra fire and those who had been massacred thereafter. Under the Gujarat government’s original plan, the families of victims of the Godhra train fire were to receive Rs two lakh each while the families of those who had died in the post-Godhra violence would receive Rs one lakh – half the amount. Protests finally corrected this blatant discrimination.

Cocooned in the warmth of political family – the parivar ruling at the Centre – the Modi government had announced the commission’s first terms of reference excluding the role of the chief minister, his cabinet, top bureaucrats and policemen from scrutiny. Two years later, the NDA’s unexpected rout in the national elections made the chief minister jittery. In July 2004, not long after the UPA government took charge, Modi hastily expanded the commission’s terms of reference. The step was a pre-emptive one in the event that the new government decided to institute a central government commission to probe the 2002 carnage or worse, lodge an FIR against Narendra Modi!

Thus the second terms of reference of the Nanavati-Shah Commission, issued under a government notification dated July 20, 2004, requested the commission to enquire into "the role and conduct of the then chief minister (Narendra Modi) or any other ministers in his council of ministers, police officers, other individuals and organisations" relating "to the facts, circumstances and course of events of the subsequent incidents in the aftermath of the Godhra incidents".

Even after the commission’s terms of reference were expanded and the enquiry necessitated a detailed scrutiny of their actions, Modi and his officials have done their best to subvert its proceedings. A majority of the key players in the planning and execution of the carnage and subsequent attempts to subvert the process of justice have not filed their second affidavits before the commission under its new terms of reference.

Specific directives by the then DGP, AK Bhargava, through his letters dated September 16 and 29, 2004, instructing all police officers who had filed their first affidavits under the commission’s initial terms of reference to also submit affidavits under the second terms of reference, were ignored. In fact, Bhargava’s orders even stated that it was the duty of the current incumbent in a post to ensure that his predecessor had filed the second affidavit.

The chief secretary is the bridge, the key link between the political echelons of government and the bureaucracy, including the police. He is thus a crucial player who could provide a critical account of events relating to that period of time. Strangely, however, the former chief secretary, G. Subbarao, has not filed any affidavits before the commission so far.

Evidence placed before the commission is unambiguous. And the absence of statements under oath, from key officials of the bureaucracy and the police, revealing. The affidavit and testimony of Rahul Sharma, SP, Bhavnagar, in 2002, is a telling account of the pressures faced by an upright officer of the law who beat down the efforts by fanatical elements to attack a boarding school that housed over 400 Muslim children and burn them alive. Data that Sharma subsequently revealed before the commission in 2004 included mobile phone records of incriminating calls made and received by policemen between February 28 and March 5, 2002.

Sreekumar’s four magnum affidavits represent the persistent efforts of a police officer to document the dark reality behind the violence of 2002 and its aftermath. They reveal the role of intelligence agencies in the build-up to the Godhra incident and the genocide of 2002, and the response of the political class, policemen and bureaucrats. If his personal register is a gripping narrative of the Gujarat administration’s barefaced acts of collusion and subversion, his affidavits are substantive revelations of official records of the time.

But Sreekumar’s tireless efforts to expose the truth, his courage, came at a price. His affidavits before the commission not only cost him an important promotion, he was and continues to be hounded and harassed by a vindictive administration. Even so, the Nanavati-Shah Commission has not intervened with any orders that could protect this officer from persistent onslaught. Sreekumar has only suffered for telling the truth before this public body, for upholding Section 6 of the Commissions of Inquiry Act. In light of this, the commission’s silence on the issue is particularly telling and raises serious doubts about the enquiry’s eventual outcome.

Role of state intelligence

The four affidavits filed by RB Sreekumar before the Nanavati-Shah Commission between 2002 and 2005 record startling details of sheer brazenness and collusion. The first affidavit, filed in July 2002, documents the assiduous attempts by the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) to warn of the consequences of the rabid communal mobilisation undertaken by cadres of the BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal on their way to Ayodhya. Sreekumar has stated that the SIB issued regular warnings about the likely threats to public peace that could be expected because of unruly mobilisation by communal outfits. It was the executive wing of the police – influenced no doubt by Modi, key cabinet colleagues and the top echelons of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), including the chief secretary, G. Subbarao, and the principal secretary to the chief minister, PK Mishra – who simply did not translate these into strict directives for preventive action. The then DGP, K. Chakravarti issued no special instructions for the maintenance of law and order and no strict instructions on how mobs should be dealt with.

The affidavit also records a significant aspect of the post-Godhra genocidal violence in Ahmedabad, one of the areas worst affected by the violence. The attacks in Ahmedabad did not take place in communally sensitive areas and ghettos but in areas where minority communities live(d) in isolation surrounded by Hindus.

In para 17 of his first affidavit, Sreekumar states that as far back as February 13, 2002, in response to a message received from the inspector general (IG) (CI) of the UP intelligence department in Lucknow, the SIB in Gujarat requested the superintendents of police from all districts and commissioners of police from all cities and towns in Gujarat to: "inform the SP, Faizabad, about the movement of kar sevaks from their respective jurisdictions. Following this missive (the) SP, Western Railways, Baroda had informed (the) IGP (communal intelligence), UP, Lucknow, through his fax message…dated February 16, 2002 that Prahlad J. Patel, president of Bajrang Dal, Mehsana, would be leading a group of 150-200 Bajrang Dal activists of Mehsana for the Ayodhya Maha Yagna by 9165 DN Sabarmati Express on February 22, 2002. It was also mentioned in the said fax message that the Bajrang Dal activists travelling to Ayodhya would be carrying trishuls with them. Similarly, SP, Mehsana, also sent a…message to IGP (communal intelligence), intelligence department, Lucknow, UP…dated February 19, 2002, stating, among other things, that a group of 150 Ram bhakts armed with trishuls would be leaving Ahmedabad by train for Ayodhya on February 22, 2002 under the leadership of Prahlad Jayantibhai Patel, president, Bajrang Dal, Mehsana and would be arriving at Ayodhya on February 24, 2002."

It was some of these kar sevaks who, on their return journey from Ayodhya, became victims of the Godhra arson incident on February 27, 2002, and this has also been mentioned in the affidavit.

Failure of central intelligence

Sreekumar’s first affidavit also records the utter failure of both the UP state intelligence department and the central Intelligence Bureau (IB) to forewarn local authorities about the kar sevaks’ movements. In para 18, Sreekumar states that: "It is pertinent to note that there was no intimation from (the) intelligence branch of UP police or central Intelligence Bureau, which has an extensive nationwide network to collect intelligence on developments relevant to internal security, about the return journey of these ram sevaks who had gone to Ayodhya." (It is perhaps significant to note that during this period, while the BJP-led NDA coalition ruled at the Centre, in UP it was Rajnath Singh’s BJP government that was in power until March 8, 2002, following which president’s rule was imposed in the state.)

There was also no information from the central IB or any inputs from any other agency about the possible attack on Ram sevaks returning from Ayodhya by fundamentalist and militant elements among the minority community or other antisocial elements. Worse, in para 19, Sreekumar records that the UP police did not inform the Gujarat state intelligence department or the police about the unruly behaviour of Ram sevaks on their return journey even though there had been an altercation between some Ram sevaks and Muslims when the latter tried to board the train at Rudauli railway station in UP at around 9 a.m. on February 24, 2002. A note dated February 27, 2002, addressed to all DGPs of the country from the IG, intelligence department, UP, about the return journey of ram sevaks, was received a day later, post facto, at 8.15 a.m. on February 28 – that is, after the arson incident on the Sabarmati Express took place.

In this connection, Sreekumar states that: "Though there were intelligence inputs pertaining to the movements of kar sevaks to Ayodhya from Gujarat state, there was no specific information about the return of kar sevaks from Ayodhya, from (the) UP police or central Intelligence Bureau, which has the onerous responsibility of timely forewarning the law enforcement officers in the state about nationwide or interstate emerging trends so that suitable precautionary countermeasures can be taken. The only message about the return of kar sevaks sent by the Uttar Pradesh police was received (by the) Gujarat police only on February 28 i.e. after the incident on February 27, 2002. No intelligence input either from the Government Railway Police (GRP), the Godhra district LIB or central intelligence was available about the possibility of any conspiracy or planning by Muslim militants or any antisocial elements to attack or cause harm to the Ram bhakts returning from Ayodhya. The only intelligence received from the GRP indicated that the Ram bhakts, led by Prahlad J. Patel, president of Bajrang Dal, Mehsana, (were) to start from Ayodhya on February 26, 2002 at night and return to Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002."

Maintenance of internal security is a fundamental if unwritten component of the central Intelligence Bureau’s charter of duties. And this is precisely what the central IB so singularly failed to do. In not providing advance preventive intelligence with regard to the Godhra incident and its aftermath, the bureau compromised internal security and put thousands of people in mortal danger.

Standard IB practice and procedure requires that whenever there are nationwide activities involving large numbers of organised groups, such as the communal mobilisation of kar sevaks, IB agents travel with these contingents. Through the detailed analysis provided in RB Sreekumar’s first affidavit it appears that this procedure was not followed in the case of kar sevaks travelling from Gujarat to Ayodhya in February 2002. If this procedure had been followed, the Gujarat police and intelligence network would have been alerted to the belligerent behaviour of the kar sevaks, their altercation with vendors and others at railway stations, their return to Gujarat a day earlier than scheduled and other related information. Sreekumar’s affidavit states that the central IB did not provide such intelligence to the local police. This ruled out any likelihood of the Gujarat police arranging effective police deployment at railway stations on the kar sevaks’ route.

However, given the communal mobilisation that had been under way from early February 2002, the absence of any deployment of army or paramilitary forces in Godhra, a communally sensitive spot, was conspicuous and even suspicious. This is a task that rests with the state’s home ministry. CC’s "Genocide – Gujarat 2002" issue carried interviews with former officers of the Indian army who have, in the past, been deployed at Godhra in far less tense situations and who expressed outrage that inadequate troops had been deployed there.

Sreekumar’s first affidavit also reveals that the SIB had alerted all police commissioners and SPs in all districts of Gujarat to take precautionary steps to prevent likely communal clashes in their jurisdictions. In effect, it was the perverse will of the chief minister, imposed through a supine bureaucracy and top police leadership, which disregarded systematic warnings from its own intelligence bureau. The SIB had sent out as many as three separate notes in this regard on February 27, 2002 itself. In addition to these messages, on February 27, specific information was also sent to the CP, Ahmedabad city, about the VHP’s call for a Gujarat bandh (on February 28) to protest against the Godhra train burning and a meeting being held by the organisation in that connection at 4 p.m. that afternoon.

The affidavit also records that these warnings continued, unheeded. Even after the initial outbreak of genocidal violence, the SIB periodically provided specific data to jurisdictional police, particularly to the CP, Ahmedabad city, where incidents of communal violence persisted. For instance, a written report dated April 15, 2002 was sent to the CP, Ahmedabad, by the ADGP (int.), informing him about the move by extremist and fundamentalist elements among Muslims to resist large-scale house-to-house search operations ("combing") conducted by the police. The same missive also warned of the plan by radical Hindu elements to organise a major assault in Juhapura, a predominantly Muslim colony. In another despatch to the CP, Ahmedabad city, dated April 26, 2002, the SIB provided information on (1) The plan by Bajrang Dal leaders to distribute lethal weapons (2) The migration of Muslim families from certain areas in Ahmedabad city (3) The plan by Islamic militants from within and outside the country to distribute sophisticated weapons to local Muslim militants.

The central IB unit in Gujarat is called the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, Ahmedabad. Strangely, it was Rajendra Kumar, the then joint director, central IB, (Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau, Ahmedabad), who, within hours of the train arson, came out with the theory of an ‘ISI conspiracy’ behind the Godhra incident. On the afternoon of February 27, 2002 itself, the then DGP, K. Chakravarti had informed Sreekumar that Rajendra Kumar had advised and even tried to persuade the DGP to pursue investigations into the Godhra incident along those lines.

During the course of that year, in personal conversations with Sreekumar too, Rajendra Kumar repeatedly stressed the urgent need for the Gujarat police to collect evidence that would prove the ISI conspiracy angle. When Sreekumar questioned the basis of the conspiracy theory, Kumar could not provide any sound and acceptable material to substantiate it. Curiously, Kumar did not send any formal reports, from the central IB to the state IB, containing inputs on the genesis, course and perpetration of the ISI conspiracy and the persons involved in it. Senior BJP leaders, supported by bureaucrats like the secretary (law & order), GC Murmu, and officers like Rajendra Kumar, were hell-bent on projecting an unsubstantiated ‘ISI conspiracy angle’ without furnishing details or proof.

Interestingly, on March 28, 2002, as significant political moves were afoot to project an ISI conspiracy behind the Godhra tragedy, a ‘secret’ fax message (signed by GK Naicker, section officer, home department) was received from the union home ministry, suggesting "counter-aggression by radical Muslim youth organised by the banned SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) in Juhapura" and that the administration was not dealing firmly with these developments.

It has been reliably deduced that the collusion between the central NDA and Modi’s government extended to hand-picking key officials for key postings before the carnage. Rajendra Kumar and Narendra Modi were old friends. The two men grew close when Rajendra Kumar, an officer from the Indian Police Service (IPS)’s Manipur Tripura cadre, was posted at the central IB in Chandigarh and Modi, as BJP secretary, was in charge of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir during the 1990s. Within the Gujarat administration it is widely believed that Rajendra Kumar also played a key role in guiding and even prompting former DCP of the Ahmedabad Crime Branch, DG Vanzara, to organise the ‘elimination’ of several Muslims from late 2002 onwards. Rajendra Kumar was also instrumental in having many Muslim youth arrested under POTA and instituting cases against them through the Ahmedabad Crime Branch. Some of these cases were discharged by the court for want of evidence before they reached trial.

Although it is the central IB that is responsible for reporting on internal security, Rajendra Kumar, as joint director, central IB, has not filed any affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. This amounts to a significant abdication of duty. It is especially significant given the fact that the IB has filed affidavits before other commissions investigating other catastrophes in the past, including the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and so on. Not surprisingly, when on September 6, 2005 the Gujarat government served a charge sheet on RB Sreekumar, Rajendra Kumar, who is currently joint director, IB, at the IB headquarters in New Delhi, under the UPA’s home ministry, offered to be a witness on behalf of the state government!

RB Sreekumar filed his second affidavit before the commission in October 2004, after the commission’s terms of reference had been expanded. This document contains a minefield of information especially with regard to the internal discussions held with KPS Gill, former DGP, Punjab, who was brought in by the NDA regime to ‘bring normalcy to Gujarat’. The affidavit records the first meeting with the ‘supercop’ on May 4, 2002, at which, in keeping with their proclamations to the world, blatant attempts were made by the chief secretary and principal secretary to suggest that ‘normalcy’ had indeed returned to Gujarat. A few officers present at the meeting, including ADGP Maniram and Sreekumar himself, contradicted this by presenting the true picture. They also offered their suggestions on what could be done to improve the status quo. Among other things, Sreekumar gave Gill a copy of the report on Ahmedabad and other communally sensitive areas that he had prepared. His "Analysis of the Communal Situation" dated April 24, 2002, carried with it an unsigned note containing certain points of action that could be implemented to defuse the communally explosive situation.

The suggestions included: "(1) Restoration of the faith of the public, particularly the minorities, in the criminal justice system (2) Replacement of the present incumbents in executive posts at the cutting edge level from those places where the police did not act conscientiously during the riots (3) Effective action to unearth stock of arms and booking of criminal and communal elements of both majority and minority communities (4) Action through non-political spiritual and religious leaders to de-communalise those under the spell of fundamentalist/extremist sections (5) Action at the social level to bring together both communities by proliferating interaction at various facets (6) Action against radical groups (7) Measures to improve the security ambience in the riot affected areas for facilitating the refugees to go back to their pre-riot residential areas (8) Purposeful legal action against publication and distribution of pamphlets/ handbills, etc/reports in the vernacular press, etc fomenting animosity between different groups on grounds of religion."

The report also warned that alarming tendencies could grow and flourish (within the minorities) if such measures were not taken.

Unsurprisingly, Chief Minister Modi’s personal intervention after this report was recorded and circulated (on May 7, 2002; see accompanying article, "Badge of Honour") and ‘supercop’ Gill’s succumbing to political pressure (May 8, 2002) thwarted constructive suggestions from policemen like Maniram and Sreekumar. Gill, in fact, even ‘instructed’ policemen not to try and reform politicians.

Sreekumar’s second affidavit records that, at this time, the SIB had also issued detailed communications (through this report) on signs that the Gujarat police should watch out for: i) some information that about a dozen communal elements from the minority community were trying to instigate violence (May 2, 2002); similar attempts were being made by minority communal elements in the Panigate area of Vadodara (May 4, 2002); likelihood of violence in the Dhobhighat area of Ahmedabad (May 5, 2002); Thakor Hindus trying to foment violence in the Ranip area of Ahmedabad city (May 6, 2002); likelihood of communal violence in the Vadaj and Vasna areas of Ahmedabad city (May 7, 2002); certain tribal sections being violently instigated to oppose rehabilitation of Muslims in Panwad and Kanwat areas of Chhotaudaipur in Vadodara Rural district (May 7, 2002); plans by extremist Hindu elements to create disturbances in the Paldi Muslim colony and peripheral areas of Ahmedabad city such as Juhapura, Kagadiwad, etc (May 9, 2002); miscreants moving in specific vehicles with a view to cause explosions in Danilimbda and other areas of Ahmedabad city (May 11, 2002); communal elements trying to violently prevent the rehabilitation of Muslims in Tejgadh and Kadwal areas of Chhotaudaipur in rural Vadodara (May 13, 2002).

It is significant to note that other senior officers of the SIB who met Gill on May 10, 2002 and presented their own assessments of the scenario concurred with the ADGP (int.)’s assessment of the situation in his report of April 24. OP Mathur, IGP (administration & security), E. Radhakrishnaiah, DyIGP (communal branch), Sanjiv Bhatt, SP (security) and RB Sreekumar all attended the meeting. Interestingly, Rajendra Kumar, joint director (central IB), was also present.

The disgraceful saga continues. Through May and June 2002, as head of state intelligence, Sreekumar continued to alert his men to the potential dangers on hand. Following Sreekumar’s detailed missives, which included maintaining a strict watch on aggressive Hindu and Muslim communal elements, in June 2002, PS Shah, additional secretary, home department, asked for a report assessing the communal situation in Gujarat. In response to Shah’s request, an assessment of the prevailing situation was prepared (on June 15, 2002) in which it was emphasised that the measures suggested in the April 24 communication needed to be implemented so as to achieve total normalcy on the communal front.

Subsequently, following a further request by PS Shah, a review of the law and order situation dated August 20, 2002 was prepared. This report covered aspects regarding the rehabilitation of riot victims wherein it was observed that about 75,500 persons who had migrated from various districts in the state had not returned to their original habitats due to a feeling of insecurity. Not surprisingly, the additional chief secretary (home), Ashok Narayan, who was clearly a part of Modi’s core group, had responded to this report with a report of his own dated September 9, 2002, stating that he did not agree with most aspects of the assessment.

A clash of wills also ensued between Sreekumar and Modi’s willing coterie with regard to the implementation of directions by the NHRC as contained in its report of May-July 2002. In its report titled "Run up to the Assembly Poll – Emerging Law and Order Trends" dated August 28, 2002, the SIB, under Sreekumar’s jurisdiction, stated that the non-implementation of the NHRC’s recommendations was also a key factor responsible for the delay in normalisation of the communal situation. This assessment was based on feedback from riot affected parties. Not content with a mere assessment, Sreekumar’s report recommended certain administrative measures. Among these was the suggestion that senior policemen and bureaucrats should issue comprehensive instructions in tune with various police manuals and compilations prepared by former Gujarat policemen. He said that it was time that a brochure on step by step measures to be taken in specific situations was issued by the state of Gujarat and followed stringently. The brochure should, he said, be supported by a detailed drill on actions that needed to be taken.

RB Sreekumar’s second and third affidavits before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, filed in October 2004 and April 2005 respectively, contained several incriminating facts that exposed the criminal and immoral conduct of the chief minister, Narendra Modi, and some senior officers. However, the Nanavati-Shah Commission has not taken any action following this alarming evidence. The commission did not call Sreekumar for further enquiry, nor did it order/conduct an independent enquiry into the allegations made and the facts revealed in his affidavits. The commission is empowered to summon documents from state government files before it comes to its final conclusions. It can also order investigations. But the commission has been a silent one so far. It has made no demands of the Gujarat government, nor has it called for any important documents relevant to its proceedings.

The behaviour of government advocates is another aspect that warrants attention. The conduct of Arvind Pandya, government counsel before the commission, contravenes the fundamental process of law and far overreaches his duties as an advocate. Pandya’s conduct, both inside and outside the commission, raises serious ethical questions. Instead of assisting the commission to arrive at the truth, he has been an active agent in Modi’s machinations; he formed part of the trio who, in August 2004, openly tried to intimidate former ADGP, RB Sreekumar, ‘not to tell the truth before the commission’. His conduct, however, has not elicited even a mild reprimand from the commission’s learned judges.

It was Rahul Sharma and RB Sreekumar who, suo motu, guided by their own conscience, submitted crucial documents and data from state government records. Even the startling revelations contained in these have not moved the Nanavati-Shah Commission to take any action or order any enquiry.

With his third affidavit, Sreekumar encloses more stunning evidence. A tape recorded conversation with Dinesh Kapadia, undersecretary of the Gujarat government, and an equally revelatory set of conversations with GC Murmu (secretary, law & order), both of whom were trying to persuade and then intimidate an honest officer into perjuring himself before a commission of enquiry. These meetings, which took place on August 21 and August 24, 2004, constitute the most blatant attempts by officers of the Gujarat state and even its own lawyer, to subvert the commission by intimidating officers.

At the first meeting Kapadia observes that newspaper reports conveyed the impression that Sreekumar was pro-Muslim and anti-Hindu. Sreekumar replies that he stood for the Indian Constitution and the ideals of citizenship. Kapadia then changes track, accusing him of being biased against the government and the ruling party. Sreekumar replies that it was not a question of community, party, office or regime. As a police officer, he failed to see the difference between majoritarian or minoritarian communalism. The undersecretary listens to Sreekumar earnestly explaining his position about the hate filled mindset that has resulted in such violence. Kapadia then asks him to ‘moderate his position’, requesting that ‘some circumspection be shown’. He also suggests that Sreekumar be ‘totally objective’ by ‘withholding ideology’. Responding to this, Sreekumar draws a clever comparison between Bhavnagar and Jamnagar, where violence was controlled, and other parts of Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, where it was not.

Kapadia then tries to be more specific, saying that it was Modi, not the Gujarat police, who was the target of criticism everywhere. Kapadia says: "What if…Narendra Modi is removed? This Supreme Court, media, all elements making hue and cry, will become silent." He stresses, "You may place this on record. If Narendra Modi is removed, all these elements, self-proclaimed champions of secularism, will be totally silent. The main target is Modi." Kapadia then goes on to laud Sreekumar’s honesty and integrity but suggests that the commission is not the forum for interventions. He further adds that although many police officers were quite critical of the government, this had not appeared in public. He states that the then CP, Ahmedabad, PC Pande, was the model of officialdom. PC Pande, in fact, told the Nanavati-Shah Commission that he did "not recollect, remember and recall many relevant things" pertaining to the time he was commissioner.

After a while Sreekumar becomes quite blunt, stating that his loyalty is only to the Constitution. Kapadia replies that revealing the truth before the commission would be futile: "These commissions are paper tigers." Sreekumar retaliates, saying "Truth is truth". To this, Kapadia replies, "It is against the public interest." 

The subsequent meeting with Murmu was in response to a direct summons. Murmu is accompanied by state government pleader before the commission, Arvind Pandya, who begins the conversation. Pandya remarks that he is surprised by the attention that Sreekumar’s affidavits have attracted considering that when the first affidavit was filed in 2002, it was one of 5,000 documents and no one noticed it. Trivialities about Sreekumar’s early years in the service are then discussed. Pandya carries on talking, questioning Sreekumar as if he were before Justice Nanavati, cautioning him "not to be very quick or very hasty in answering questions" and instructing him to "stall, and say ‘I don’t understand the question’." 

Pandya tries to further the theory of a conspiracy behind the Godhra incident (which Sreekumar has already denied in his affidavits) and basically instructs him to toe the chief minister’s line.

As is obvious, Sreekumar does not succumb to these pressures.

He has placed tape recordings and transcripts of both these conversations before the Nanavati-Shah Commission but no action has been taken so far. During his testimony and subsequent cross-examination before the commission, crucial questions are not put to him by either the government advocates or those representing victims or NGOs. This was and is a glaring deficiency.

It is in his third affidavit before the commission that Sreekumar places these details on record. The state responds by filing, on September 6, 2005, a set of nine charges against Sreekumar, simultaneously initiating a departmental enquiry against him. The charges for misconduct relate mainly to his depositions before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. These include the fact that he maintained a private diary of official behaviour which he then claimed was an official diary, conduct that is unbecoming of an officer. Second, that he had not obtained permission to do this. Third, that the unofficial diary contained secret information that had been clandestinely released to the press. Finally, the charges allege that Sreekumar had failed to obtain permission to place certain documents before the commission. Sreekumar has challenged this action before the Central Administrative Tribunal and arguments by both parties have just concluded.

In his fourth affidavit, Sreekumar replied forcefully to these charges, contending that an officer’s loyalty was to the Constitution and not an elected government. He argued that the rule of law encompassed the activities of an elected chief minister. He added that personal whim or party ideology cannot be equated to law. He maintained that the official is not always true, nor always ethical or legal. So an officer who disobeyed a verbal order which covertly demanded illegal action could well be doing his duty. Sreekumar also held that as a professional, as head of the State Intelligence Bureau, he was only following the rules of his professional training in prudently and confidentially recording illegal orders for future reference. The message he sends out is a powerful one. Duty must follow the Constitution and basic ethics of equity and non-discrimination. In certain circumstances to dissent or disobey an illegal order may be the ultimate act of duty.

For his foresight and his insight, Sreekumar continues to be hounded even today. After his retirement and his decision to join Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), the state government has stepped up its offensive and an old case filed by the VHP has been resurrected for ammunition. As SP, Kutch, in 1986, Sreekumar had taken firm action against the VHP for instigating communal violence. This matter lay stagnant until it was recently revived by a vindictive administration. As we go to press, RB Sreekumar was served a non-bailable warrant by an acquiescent court in Kutch. Fortunately, however, he was granted bail by a local court on July 23. This courageous and upright officer from Gujarat now joins the list of human rights defenders who have faced arrest in a similar fashion. There appears no end to the lengths that Modi’s government will go. And courts in the state seem only too willing to oblige.

This saga is another litmus test for Indian institutions, the judiciary and the executive.

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