Thanks to a few brave cops, skeletons tumble out of Modi’s cupboard
It takes courage of a few to expose a repressive state. Sanjiv Bhatt, Satish Verma, Rajneesh Rai and R Sreekumar are four IPS officers who have shown such courage in Gujarat where a despotic chief minister Narendra Modi is brazenly riding rough shod over the state administration even though he faces serious charge of genocide.
When in 2002 Muslims in Gujarat were targeted by fanatic Hindu mobs, while the police watched silently and at many places connived with the assailants, it was an open secret that the mayhem had the blessings of Modi. When the then home minister Haren Pandya revealed before a citizens’ inquiry commission that Modi had directed the police to give a free hand to the Hindu mobs to ‘teach Muslims a lesson’, Pandya was shot dead by unknown assailants while he was going for his morning walk in a public garden.
The next to speak up and reveal the truth was additional director general of police R Sreekumar. Sreekumar was denied promotion by Gujarat government to the rank of Director General of Police after he deposed against the government before the Nanavati-Shah Commission looking into the 2002 Godhra carnage and subsequent riots.
Heroic: Sreekumar had revealed how the police administration was made to compromise by the government during the riots.
Sreekumar had informed the Commission in detail how the police administration was made to compromise by the government during the riots. He was promptly superseded by his junior. Sreekumar’s seniority was restored by a court order a few days before his retirement from service.
In a situation reminiscent of the Nazi Germany, Modi was continuing his hate-Muslim campaign in his election speeches, projecting himself as the savior of Hindus and a true patriot who could stop Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Several overzealous police officers were helping Modi in this propaganda. One such officer DIG D G Vanzara went on a killing spree, in fake encounters, claiming that all those killed were plotting in connivance with Pakistan’s ISI to assassinate the chief minister.
One of those killed in such a fake encounter was an underworld don Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi in 2005. However, the bluff was called by a young IPS officer Rajneesh Rai, who arrested Vanzara and his colleague Rajkumar Pandian along with several other police officers, on the charge of faking the encounter.
In 2004, Vanzara had shot dead five persons, including a teenaged girl, Ishrat Jahan, claiming they too were plotting to assassinate Modi. Following a case filed by Ishrat’s mother, the Gujarat High Court constituted a special investigating team (SIT) into the case. Earlier, a magistrate SP Tamang, in his inquiry report, had concluded that it was a fake encounter.
While two of the three-member SIT were found to be delaying the investigation, the third member, Satish Verma, an inspector general of police, conducted investigation and submitted a report to the high court detailing how the other two members were trying to derail the probe. The high court gave a free hand to Verma to not just carry out the investigation but also to take necessary action against officials who attempt to thwart the probe.
Truth seeker: Satish Verma investigated fake encounters in Gujarat and was determined to bring out the truth
More recently, another IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt joined the list of upright officers early this month when he filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in which he described at length how the chief minister instructed senior police officers and civil servants on February 27, 2002 to allow the Hindus vent their anger over the burning of the train at Godhra railway station by pro-Pakistan elements resulting in the death of 59 kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya.
Bhatt said he was compelled to file the affidavit before the Supreme Court as the SIT appointed by the apex court to investigate the massacre of Muslims had refused to take note of his deposition. The security cover provided to him was withdrawn thereafter though he has been receiving threats from some unidentified person ever since he approached the Supreme Court.
Gutsy cop: Sanjiv Bhatt has brought Narendra Modi under the scanner with his damning disclosures
Bhatt’s affidavit and Verma’s investigation into the fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan are the two crucial developments that are expected to put Modi in the dock. The Supreme Court, which had asked the SIT to investigate the larger conspiracy behind the post-Godhra anti-Muslim pogrom, had directed the SIT to re-look at their report in the light of the amicus curiae’s report which had pointed to the role of government officials in the post-Godhra violence.
Ever since 2002, Modi, by adopting a carrot and stick policy, has been able to silence a majority of senior police officers, who could have exposed the larger conspiracy behind the anti-Muslim pogrom. However, the bold action of four senior IPS officers – Bhatt, Verma, Rai and Sreekumar – has threatened to bring out the skeletons from Modi’s cupboard.
Nachiketa Desai is a Special Correspondent with Business India based at Ahmedabad