R.B. SREEKUMAR, IPS (Retd)
Former DGP Gujarat Sreelekshmideepam
Plot No.193, Sector-8
Gandhi Nagar-382 008
Administration of Gujarat-Reality check as it were
The Central and State Governments in India have two components-the political bureaucracy consisting of the Prime Minister/the Chief Ministers and Cabinet Ministers and administrative bureaucracy of civilian and police functionaries. The Rule of Law is enforced by trained and professionally skilled Government servants vested with authority, while political leadership in the Government is for designing policy framework and schemes towards maintenance of public order, development, social welfare and service delivery. Often, the careerist, corrupt and self-seeking government officials deviate from this structured mandated road map to fulfill unethical, and self gratifying verbal directions of political leadership in the government. This trend was quite pronounced in Gujarat State Administration since the days of 2002 communal riots.
The acquiescence of Administrative machinery in Gujarat towards saffronisation of bureaucracy, police and governmental bodies, besides socio cultural and educational institutions was visible since the inception BJP government under Keshubhai in 1995. This was a pro-active and re-active movement to the move of Arabisation and de-localisation seen in the Muslim community, often inspired by the pan-Islamic political ideologies of Mehadudism, Wahabism and Qutabism. Rechristening places with Hindu names, placement of Hindu deity-photos in office buildings, survey and identification of trade and commercial establishments and so on had picked up momentum. Socially ill-cohesive destablising activities by the Sangh parivar bodies and Islamic organisations like Jamat-e-Islami (particularly its extremist groups), SIMI, Tabliq-e-Jamait etc., had accelerated ghettoisaton of Hindus and Muslims in urban conglomerations and populous villages. Areas of joint fraternal activity in socio cultural fields, true to the Indian heritage of symbiotic syncretism have got reduced steadily. The identification of commercial institutions of Muslims had facilitated anti-
Muslim rioters in 2002 to easily locate and attack trade and commercial units owned by the Muslims. The mob violence against showrooms of Bata, Metro shoes, Pantaloons, many hotels bearing even Hindu or secular names should explain the long term planning of Sangh parivar and connivance of law enforcement agencies to these sectarian anti- muslim belligerent actions.
In 1990s the Sangh parivar had projected Gujarat as a laboratory of Hindutva and of late, Narendra Modi had declared Gujarat as an exhibition hall of development in India. Does it mean that intimidation of minorities to make them willingly accept the status of second rate citizens would result in greater strides of economic development? Pan-Islamism is also getting strengthened in many pockets of Muslim ghettos.
In the period up to 2002, there were many incidents of the Sangh parivar activists attacking Christians in south Gujarat on the alleged grounds of conversion, damaging dargas with the declared objective of removing traffic obstructions, extorting money from marketers of beef, and so on. The tendency of government officials, particularly of police, to carry out the covert agenda of BJP had only actualized heinous anti-minority genocide in 2002. The Apex Court termed Gujarat police as modern Neros in 2004. Out of 30 police units (4 Commissionarates and 26 Districts), high voltage violence had taken place only in 9 districts and 2 Commissionarates,while the jurisdictional officers in other 19 units had enforced the Rule of Law diligently. Unfortunately, the Modi Government had ill-treated all such good performers and this had a cascading demoralizing impact on the bureaucracy since 2002. Consequently, subversion of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) by practically all government functionaries, for implementing anti-minority covert agenda of Modi government, became the order of the day. Except three IPS officers, (RB Sreekumar, Rahul Sharma and Sanjeev Bhatt), no government functionaries had given evidence to judicial bodies about the culpable role of the Sangh parivar in the riots and misdeeds of police and Executive Magistracy to delay and deny justice delivery to riot victims. Expectedly, the State Government victimized these officers, through denial of promotions, issuance of charge sheets, arrests and vexatious prosecution.
The electoral mandate in favour of Narendra Modi since 2002 Assembly elections is repeatedly portrayed as an unchallengeable shield and excuse for all offensive and deviant governmental actions violating the cannons of legality and administrative propriety. Can re-election of a Chief Minister and his party fortify a blanket immunity for them from their criminal liability of violating foundational principles of the Constitution of India –
secularism, justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, human dignity, the Fundamental Rights and the Fundamental Duties as per Article 51(A) of the Constitution?
Motivated by self serving careerist corrupt interests with a flavour of Hindu communalism, the government officials in the theatres of extreme anti-minority massacre had violated the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) envisaged in Police Acts, Criminal Procedure Code, numerous regulations on prevention and containment of communal riots and mechanics of investigation of riots. Strangely, Modi government had gratified unethical expectations of these collaborators by rewarding them with out of turn promotions, placements in lucrative posts and post retirement assignments. The then Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad City (P.C. Pandie) had been posted as Chairman, Gujarat Police Housing Corporation with an annual budget of 150 crores, after his retirement in 2008 and all Chief Secretaries and those in charge of Home Department, since 2002 riots, were given post retirement prestigious assignments.
Hindu accused, (4) presentation of misleading reports before the Central Election Commission (CEC) on 9.8.2002 (this was criticized by CEC in its Open Order dated 16.8.2002) about law and order and rehabilitation of riot victms (5) deliberately avoiding maintenance of minutes of law and order review meetings chaired by the CM and senior officers and (6) committing serious lapses in investigation of riot related cases by Gujarat police officers.
Other misdemeanors of the State Administration towards suppression of incriminating evidence against those responsible for riots and other delinquent deeds include, (1) inaction against those who intimidated a Government witness from speaking truth to the Justice Nanavati Commission affecting the political interests of the govt., (2) issuance of illegal written orders for not providing information to the National Commission for Minorities about a controversial speech by the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, (3) non-initiation of action against those officials whose lapses were criticized in Court judgments and (4) inaction against those who intentionally avoided providing information to the Justice Nanavati Commission.
Pro-Modi approach of Dr. Raghavan in the investigation of Mrs. Zakia Ahsan Jaffri case (wife of Mr. Jaffri, former Congress-MP, brutally butchered and burned to death by rioters) was unambiguous. To illustrate, while the Court, in Naroda Patia massacre judgement, accepted revelations by rioters and witnesses to Godhra train fire and other cases to Tehelka journalist, Ashish Khaitan (in Operation Kalang) as extra judicial confession and convicted VHP leader Babu Bajrangi with life imprisonment, SIT had rejected the admissibility and relevance of this evidence. SIT had also endorsed the theory of international conspiracy behind Godhra train fire incident, floated by Gujarat police. It avoided collecting evidence from UP Police, who accompanied the Gujarat batch of Ram bhakhthas from Ayodhya in their return journey to Ahmedabad and had actually witnessed the sequence of train burning episode in Godhra. Despite specific suggestions, evidence from Central IB, whose agents also were moving with kar sevaks returning to Gujarat from Ayodhya, was not procured by SIT, lest it would upset the conspiracy theory.
The voluminous evidence presented by R.B. Sreekumar, the then State Intelligence Branch, ADGP, not challenged by even the State Govt and Justice Nanavati Commission had been ignored and invalidated by SIT on grounds of technicality and admissibility. Without verifying the claims of the officials, and CM Modi, through ground level enquiries about evidence against them by Sreekumar, Dr. Raghavan had exonerated them from criminal liability for (i) issuance of numerous illegal verbal orders, (ii) non initiation of follow up action on Intelligence reports about subversion of CJS against riot victim survivors, (iii) avoidance of action against publishers of communally inciting literature and media reports, and (iv) shielding Home Department officials who intimidated and pressurized Shri Sreekumar to speak in favour of those responsible for riots during his cross examination by the Justice Nanavati Commission. Since Mrs. Zakia Jaffri is soon challenging the closure report by SIT, clearing the CM Modi and others from any liability for riots, one can still be optimistic in this matter. Though tons of Arabian perfumes cannot remove the taint of anti-Muslim massacre from Narendra Modi and Sangh parivar (2002 riots will remain as an inerasable blot on the glorious Hindu heritage of tolerance) the SIT’s act of freeing Modi from all riot related sins, had paved the way for foreign countries accepting Modi as a amiable democratic leader.
Gujarat bureaucracy in general and IAS/IPS officers in particular are suffering from acute Modi phobia which inhibit them from doing anything towards prosecuting the planners and facilitators of 2002 anti-minority man slaughter. Modi has been successful to create an ambience of mini emergency without invoking emergency provisions of the Constitution. Erosion of moral values, commodification of human beings, commercialization of human relations, hedonistic pursuit of consumerism through corruption by government functionaries, tendency of IAS/IPS officers to forget their oath to the Constitution and so on had been fully utilized by Modi for carrying out his unholy agenda of self projection motivated by narcissistic megalomania.
Crony Capitalism rules the roost at the cost of egalitarianism in socio economic sectors in Gujarat. Debate and discussions at the decision making level in the administration is replaced by Modi-centric uni-dimensional imposition of directives. Corruption at the cutting edge level in the primary outlets of service delivery - police stations, mamalatdar, taluka panchayat, sales tax, labour, education, health, service offices - has increased phenomenally.
Intervention by the Apex Court in correcting maladies of CJS in Gujarat would also confirm misadventures of Gujarat bureaucracy against the spirit of the Rule of Law for satisfying the ruling party . The Apex Court orders, (i) transfer of trial of two riot cases to Maharashtra, (ii) entrusting investigation of Bilkis Bano mass rape case to CBI, (iii) re-investigation of 2000 odd closed riot related cases, (iv) appointment of SIT to probe into nine major riot cases and Mrs. Zakia Jaffri complaint, (v) entrusting investigation of fake encounter cases to CBI and (vi) appointment of Justice Bedi Committee to probe nearly 17 fake encounter cases in Gujarat from Oct 2002 to Feb. 2007 are obvious indications. The extra judicial killings were carried out by a set of officials like DIG, Shri Vanjara, who acted as a mafia within the police department, having extra hierarchical accessibility to top political leadership in the State Government.
The civil administration headed by IAS officials had mobilized funds and used them for extravaganzas like Vibrant Gujarat, Kutch Uthsav, Sadhbhavana Programmes etc. The acceptance of funds from private sources and its utilization not approved in the budget is a clear violation of Constitutional provisions. Huge tracts of government lands were leased out to big corporate bodies headed by Reliance brothers, Adani, TATAs etc., causing nearly one lakh crores rupees loss to the State. Data on corruption in certain highly publicized projects like Sujalam Suphalam, brought out in Public Accounts Committee reports were suppressed. Modi govt. had also systematically stalled appointment of Lok Ayukta for nearly a decade and this had invited adverse comments from the Apex Court recently.
Most developmental policies are in favour of big business houses at the cost of service delivery and advancement in social sectors for the downtrodden. Infant mal-nutrition in Gujarat (48%) is higher than its rate at national level. High infant mortality, high women’s maternity death rate, 57% poverty rate in rural areas and among SC and Backward Classes and so on would put Gujarat in an inferior position in human development to North Eastern States and Odisha. More than a third of adult men in Gujarat have a body mass of less than 18.5 – the seventh worst in the country. Environmental degradation is rising and educational standards are falling. An UNDP Report in 2010 has placed Gujarat after eight indian states in multiple dimensions of development, health, education, income levels etc.
Modi’s success in (i) appropriating to himself the credit of entrepreneurial heritage of Gujarati, (ii) making officials to implement speedily schemes dearer to him, (iii) scientific and professional propaganda operations, (iv) keeping up the tempo of Hindu communal consolidation from 2002 and impulse of Gujarati sub-nationalism and so on had also made officials and voters to religiously move on the road map chartered by Modi, ignoring norms of administrative prudence, laws, regulations and even self respect and human dignity.
No worthwhile effort is made by NGOs and opposition political groups to bring out truth about claims of development at micro level through field enquiries and interaction with targeted beneficiaries of projects. Bitter and painful truths about developmental hype by Modi government will be known only after removal of Modi from the helm of affairs in Gujarat and civil societies and media mustering courage to probe and uncover facts behind fiction painted by Modi bhaktas about Gujarat. Let us hope that the real sovereigns of India – the people, will take a cue from exhortation by Lord Krishna in the 63rd sloka of the last chapter (18th ) of Shrimad Bhagawad Gita (O’ Partha critically examine what I told you and chalk out your own course of action – vimarshae tada seshena yathacchasata tada kuru) and analytically assess the projected achievements of Gujarat Administration and design schemes for future course of action.