Pranjal - Today we have with us R.B. Sreekumar, 1971 batch IPS officer was posted in Gujarat during 2002 Gujarat massacre. He is known for his strong actions, various affidavits that he has filed with the investigation agencies and Nanavati-Shah commission for irregular and illegal actions taken by the administration, the police, during 2002 Gujarat massacre. Today once again he is in news as High Court of Gujarat has paved a path clearing the government to take actions against him and he is moving to Supreme Court for it. He speaks to Newsclick and Communalism Combat on the same issue. Before coming to the further points, can you describe what happened in 2002 and what were the various incidents that took place after, to be precise 27-02-2002 in Ahmedabad and Gujarat? What was the scenario at that time?
RB Sreekumar - On 27th, I reached by 10.00 AM then DG called a meeting of we, no.2 level, the second tier of officers in DG office. "This is the notorious thing happened, there is a train burning incident by 7.30 in Godra railway station, on the spot 58 people died" etc and then he directed me to order a total mobilisation of uniform forces of SRPF. Each SRP battalion has roughly 1000 or 1100 people something like that; except those who are taken leave for one's own marriage otherwise etc, should be canceled, that was the general instructions; what alert message should be send, etc, that was concerning other additional DGPs. Then by about 1.00PM, it is noted that there people are highly agitated and by afternoon, it is learned that the Sangh Parivar, particularly VHP had given a call for observation of Gujarat wide Bandh in protest against killing of Ram bhaktas, Hindus who were returning after Karseva from Ayodhya, at Godra in a premeditated fashion, by the Muslims of Godra town. Then there was no instructions or directives from the government which we received or heard in the radio or television that the Harthals and Bandh had been banned by Kerala High Court and government is dissociating with this thing and we are not supporting it, that is not there. On the other hand, by afternoon, there was a broadcast from CM, Mr. Narendra Modi, that very bad thing has happened and we will punish those responsible for these things and also we will ensure that such things are not repeated. This is what happened.
P - On 7th, the day after you assumed charge as AGDP of intelligence, 16-04-2002, you recommended a strong action against the inflammatory speeches made by Vishva Hindu Parishad, leaders and other communal organisations. So whom did you send this recommendation as ADGP intelligence and where there any responsibilities that was assigned and whether any actions taken back?
RBS - No actions taken one thing. It is all reflected in my numerous affidavits. Four affidavits in service and five subsequently. There is a pattern. There are instructions that if there is any pamphlets being circulated, hand bills, etc or news papers reports were appeared, which has ingredients of communal incitement are creating enemy between two communities, ethnic groups or any kind of such sections of people then it is the duty of state Intelligence Bureau; I was the head of State Intelligence Bureau appointed on 9th April 2002. Then we have to send a proposal to the home department with a copy to Directorate General of Police, recommends specific actions under 153A Indian Penal Code and related sections against the publishers, circulations, etc. No action has been taken and probably I must have send not only, 16th report was the first one, there are some other reports received from the field officers like Superintend of Police of Bhavnagar district Mr. Rahul Sarma, such reports were also forwarded with strong recommendation but no subsequent action was taken.
P - I would like to go back a little. Despite various actions that the police officials like you had recommended, where there adequate steps were taken after Godra incident itself?
RBS - Real situation was that, at that time, Gujarat had 30 police administrative units, which is slightly different from the normal administrative units, even though these are co-terminal with railway units. Four commissioners of police, that is in the order of priority by population in Ahmedabad city, Surat city, Vadodara city and Rajkot city, then 26 districts, of this one district is actually district of western railway, means the railway area running through Gujarat belong to the district. Here normally, there is no question of directions coming from either Chief Minister or even up to DGP etc. When such extensive rioting situation develops and intelligence is received, they have to put into operations- standard operating procedures. It is just like standard operating procedure prescribed for any kind of a crisis management. In 11 districts, it is very interesting thing, which has been systematically suppressed by the Sangh Parivar. Honorable Prime Minister's party BJP, he himself etc that, there was a spontaneous, on the spot natural reaction of a Hindu community against the people who responsible for killing the hapless and helpless Ram bhaktas at railway station on 27th morning; it was not the case. In eleven districts, there were zero killings. There were very stray incidents because in all these places, standard operation operating procedures; in the form of preventive arrest, then initiation of action against the people who are known for the communal affiliations, communal incitements, etc, and thirdly pocessioning people in the important sensitive area and so many measures are there. Wherever such measures were taken, there were no rioting, nothing like that. Where as in some other places, there is a category of eight districts, two commissioners and others; let us say six districts, there were minor incidents lead into the death of a let us say 1 to 7 people. For example - Surat. Surat have done effective job. And in eleven districts, where deliberately, the police officers, district magistrates and officers from the SHO, that is Sub-inspector to Superintendent of police deliberately avoided implementation of standard operating procedures, there only riot had taken place. Because all these people acted like the facilitators of rioting.
P - After 16-04-2002, when you first filed your confidential report, after that filed four confidential reports to your senior officials. To be precise on 24-04-2002, 15-06-2002 20-08-2002 and 28-08-2002. So what was the significance of these reports which you had filed?
RBS - When I took over, I called the papers from the communal riot branch, there was no reports incriminating against the Sangh Parivar, role of Sangh Parivar, etc. Where as on files, from the fields, we had received reports about the role of these people in planning and execution of riots. When I checked with branches, I was told that my predecessors never want to send the reports and then how can we suppress this thing? then they said these are the instructions. Then I said, "you send all these things, compile it and make it in English" So the report we have started sending exactly from 9th onwards. This 24th report about Ahmedabad situation was necessitated by then persistent violation in Ahmedabad city. In certain pockets, Muslims were in a state of belligerency, so the analytical report on the persistent violence in Ahmedabad city with curative measures. This was the report may be 8 or 9 pairs report, which BBC has described as the 'Magna Carta of the riots the situation'. There is so many interviews were done. This is really shocked them etc. I said that the things are bad because the Muslim community, the victim community had lost faith in the criminal justice system. There is a prevailing prejudice against Muslim community. Their complaints were not recorded properly. When they were going to complaint, instead of recording the complaints in their language and their versions, the Inspectors them-selves to volunteer and register cases and 6, 7, 8, 9 incidents taking place in different areas. These had been clubbed into a single incident and persons who were identified by the victims of the riots and witnesses, there names were not identified and numerous these things and very rarely these Hindu accused were arrested. Whenever they were arrested also, they were not taken on remand for recovering weapons of offense or killing and also property looters. Almost some 150 crores rupees worth of property of Muslims were looted on first 2-3 days and then nearly 600 Muslim monuments and about 100 Muslim monuments from the day of Ahmad Shah, who is the founder of Ahmadabad city, that is in 16th century, these monuments were destroyed; out of that, 20-25 were Archaeological Survey of India protected monuments. This situation I have narrated and explained the whole thing and suggested curative measures. I said that the VHP office bearers and office bearers of Sangh Parivar where appointed as special public prosecutes for presenting cases against the Hindu accused. All these should to be changed and the cutting at the level, that is the inspectors in-charge at the police stations, they should be immediately shifted. From the commissioner down onwards, all executive line officers from Ahmedabad city should be shifted and measures like freely record in the FIRs of the accused people should be done and then they should be arrested and the people who were arrested, they should not be bailed out. The situation at that time prevailed was very very funny, says that, Hindu accused responsible for killing of the Muslims, all of them are bailed out. One reason was that there were no effectively appealing against bail, they were not taken, etc; where as, those accused arrested for some stray anti-Hindu incidents, they were not released, and no accused arrested in connection with Godra train incident was released till the session court has issued it's verdict, some of them are convicted, etc. This situation I reported and no curative actions were taken then. Secondly nor they did ask my explanation why you have reported? what are your sources? Give us clarification, that is their duty.
P - Can you throw some light on this illegal requirements or the actions that were asked from you to be taken by your seniors and by the administration and what were such various illegal actions taken by your seniors itself in not preventing the riots that were taking place?
RBS - There were so many illegal orders were coming in most of the review meetings. It was a very very funny situation. In which review meeting is held by the Chief Secretary, first DGP then Additional Chief Secretary, Chief secretary and CM or some one else then there will be discussions. No minutes will be kept, no instructions will be recorded and mostly illegal instructions were given. Mr. Shah initially was sending contingents of army as per the police directions. When the mischiefs done by the police in connivance with rioters was that, whenever there was a trouble in north Ahmedabad area, they will direct these people to central Ahmedabad. Subsequently Mr. Shah should get some contacts or people developed contact with these people, that is advantage of India's open communication system. Sir, there was trouble in 'x' place why your army is moving in 'y' place? So then he started independently responding and send forces. This had actually subverted the plans of Sangh Parivar to suppress Muslim population in certain pockets. This annoyed them and they wanted to get Mr. Shah shifted. So the only way is to get some intelligence report which nobody will question, which came to know afterwards. And I am told they appointed a new liaison officer from IPS to keep in contact with Shah and he has given such false reports. For that purpose he was rewarded and he was made a member of UN Gujarat human rights commission, even after retirement. In third or fourth meeting CM said that, I have information that Congress is behind the communal riots which is going on certain pockets and also Congress is instigate people to spoil the planned examination. SSC examination was planned, that was prestigious examination. I said, I have no such information then the psycho-fans are more funny and difficult to deal with CM himself; " Mr. Sreekumar, CM is telling then you do it." I told, I don't understand, I have no information. I saw-motto how I can give a report? I cannot give report. Then interestingly this is written in my register also. CM said "let him go" So he did not insisted upon that.
P - If I am right, it is a confidential register that you are talking about?
RBS - In journalistic fashion, it is confidential register. I called it a semi-official register. It is more an aid to memory so then somebody asks question such illegal orders were known to be issued, what happened, what was your response? so I will have an aid to memory and explain. This is what the exactly the purpose and I never want it present to government, etc but since government subsequently harassed me and superseded me, I was constrained and forced to present this to judiciary for getting my grievances and redresses.
P - If I remember, by first week of May 2002, KPS Gill was brought into Gujarat so by that time had the violence been controlled and did he play a major role in controlling violence or what was his role in his entire process which he was brought into?
RBS - He played some positive role but largely inactive because he came with an agenda of Advani to create an impression that the government is serious about curbing violence. And especially in Ahmedabad city, stray incidents were happening and also there was stabbing in the bylines. Stabbing is difficult to be controlled because they are professional stabbers employed by the communal rioters. And normally when riots subsides, they wait in the by-lanes and any stranger comes, they strip the person. If it is a Hindu attacker then will see he is a Muslim or not through obvious methods and stab vice versa etc. This was continuing. And this Gill came, I had one to one session with him, many sessions. I said that, immediately change the commissioners and others, which I have said a suggestion as early 24th April 2002. Unless this is done, nothing can be achieved. This itself will be salutary impact, exactly that is what happened. Ahmadabad city crime curbed. Then I have send a actionable note containing the list of that 24th April report about follow up action taken and I was changing the PPs, registering FIRs; none of this is implemented. Because that was not Mr. Gill's plan. Since we asked, Gill told me " Mr. Sreekumar, we are not here to reform the politicians, they have their own agenda". I told him " Sir, we are not here for reforming politicians but political leaders have no authority to deviate form the letter and spirit of ethos of the constitution of India. We have taken oath to the constitution of India. And he has been send with a unique, ulterior and malicious plan of Sangh Parivar to demoralise Muslims of Ahmedabad city by organising an extensive house to house combing of Juhapura, housing 1.5 lakhs of Muslims and biggest ghetto of Muslims whole of India and otherwise that would have been one of the most notorious human rights violation.
P - September 2002, you were abruptly transferred from the post of ADGP intelligence. So what was the reason for this transfer? because it was all of sudden and abrupt in nature.
RBS - Exactly, perhaps I have hinted about that. The exact reason was my flagrant and direct violation of their verbal and written orders directing me not to send the verbatim of CM's speech containing anti-Islamic references and elements of communal incitement delivered by CM some time 8th, 9th or 10th of September 2002 as part of Gaurav yathra. It is called Gaurav procession and Gaourave procession itself is a shame to whole of Indian public. In Gujarat, 1500 people were killed in the man made disaster. Let it may be natural disaster. What is the prestige procession to be conducted in that way? because the people he wanted to make use of the situation to make people aware that, 'for the first time, the belligerent Muslim community of India, of Ahmedabad particularly had been disciplined by me, only Modi can do that. Only Modi can do that. Only Narendra Modi is the Hindu hridya samrat.'
P - When was the first inquiry initiated against you? and what was the outcome of that inquiry?
RBS - There are formal and informal inquiries. You know, their wrath against me came with like open claw and exactly 16th August 2002; that was the day election commission has issued 14 pages long order, making reference about my presentation to election commission on 9th August 2002, which is that " Sreekumar's presentation about law and order situation is completely correct and this had falsified the presentation made by the government which was totally misleading and I condemn and suggests that an action should be taken against the officers who reported false, etc" So that next day or even that day, they started a preliminary inquiry on a silly issue of my head constable who was in-charge of control room communication of the additional DGP intelligence communication, which is under the supervision of an inspector, sending a secret message through facts, eliciting information. This is normally done after getting identity of the receiver, we send over that, but they never. So I have replied to them, last two months you have send about 120 messages like that. This is flagrant violation of your own thing and following the convention of my head constable done that, but I take full responsibility, you can give any punishment to me; that was closed. And secondly they asked my explanation sometime in September first week, regarding a duo letter, a semi-official letter which I have returned to commissioner of police, conveyed him a complaint against a false case instituted by Mr. Vanzara. This DG Vanzara for implicating about 16-17 Muslims in false illicit fire arms cases on the Ratha Yatra day in July and they have been highly praised and cash awarded has been rewarded. Actually these were weapons manufactured in Sabarkantha VHP owners' factory and Mr. Vanzara collected that and deposited. I have send a report on that. Due to the internal politics of the Ahmedabad city police, this was leaked out to the press and government got embarrassed and the government asked the explanation that "why you have written letter like that?" but writing a letter about such illegal, suppose to be reportedly illegal detention etc, it is the duty of the additional DGP intelligence. Even upto DGP rank officer, anybody in your team expect to report and keep watch. So they have entrusted to inquire DGP, DGP conducted an inquiry and reported that " this is part of duties and routine action, normal functions and I don't find any malevolence and mall-ware intention on the part of Sreekumar to report against Mr. Vanzara and we don't suggest any action".
P - Is there any rule mentioned in All India Services Rules book that you cannot report against the government officers or your own department? and did you ever regret the actions which you took in 2002 case?
RBS - Absolutely not. Because All India Service Rule doesn't contain that thing. Even if All India Service rules supposed it is there, it is illegal.
P - Recently the High Court judgment has paved away for inquiry against you by the Gujarat government. So what are the significance of this judgment given by the High Court and do you think the attack on whistle blowers attempt to expose the different government that are involved in illegal activities?
RBS - Undoubtedly. Because what is the whole issue? It is nothing to do with corruption, moral turpitude, dereliction of duties. They said that you maintained a diary. In the diary I have to enter the details of the illegal orders given. Whether they kept any minutes of those meetings, then let them show. Then Nanavathi Commission and before RK. Raghavan's SIT, I said that, I am willing even today, as on now, in this moment, to undergo the Narco test about the contents of my diary and whatever my affidavit contains to anywhere in India. So why they are not answering the challenge?
P - Do you think the attempts by state government of Gujarat is a mode and method to neutralise the Zakia Jafri case hearing which is going on in the High Court?
RBS - Exactly. First aim is to neutralise the witness and disgust the witness. My evidence constitute almost 1/3 or 40% of very very physical material untilised by Zakia Jaffry, that way organised by madam Setalvad in that case. The whole case is made out of my first four affidavits. So instead of attacking the material in the affidavits, you are disregarding the person.
P - This would be my las question sir. What are the such threats and in way it is heading towards?
RBS - Threat is in a systematically curbing the areas of liberalism, areas of democratic free thinking, areas of rightful expression and any activity which is going to curb the propaganda unleashed by Modi Sab and company in support of their so called achievements. Such a opinion or genuine expression is taken as the sedition. This was not the treatment minted out to the Indian freedom fighters, including revolutionaries by British government. There are officers were corrupt criticised by Gandhiji and for that, sedition charge was not imposed on Gandhiji and etc. So we are heading towards that. But for petty creature comforts, the bureaucrats and for petty political benefits, if the Indian political parties and people are surrendering, it is a temporary phenomena. Indian people will rise-up.
P - Thanks a lot sir for giving us your time.
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