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Top cop refuses to name guilty Gujarat politicians
Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad | August 31, 2004 22:04 IST
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was spared a major political crisis on Tuesday when R B Sreekumar, additional director general of police (reforms), refused to name before the Justice G T Nanavati Commission those politicians who had interfered with the working of the police during the 2002 riots that killed more than 1,000 people.
Sreekumar admitted to the commission that some politicians were interfering in police work, as a result of which officers were feeling "depressed and helpless." This is the first time a serving police officer has said such things on record.
The two-member commission is inquiring into the communal disturbances after the carnage at Godhra. The other member is Justice K G Shah.
Despite repeated questioning by Mukul Sinha, a lawyer representing the Jan Sangharsh Samiti, a citizens' organisation, Sreekumar refused to name the politicians.
Sreekumar was reminded that the commission is also looking into the conduct of politicians, including the chief minister, and that they are all open to scrutiny. He was advised that he could give the names without divulging his sources.
But the officer stuck to his line. "If I disclose the names of the politicians," he said, "it will damage my sources, so I am not inclined to disclose them."
Sreekumar said his officers had told him these details confidentially, and he could not betray their trust.
Sreekumar had filed his extraordinary affidavit before the commission on July 6, 2002. He had been made additional director general of police (intelligence) soon after the Godhra incident, on April 9, 2002.
His statement is seen as an indictment of the Modi government for failing in its duty to maintain law and order.
Though the violence had subsided by the time Sreekumar took over as state intelligence chief, he had access to past records, on the basis of which he filed his explosive affidavit when the commission was appointed.
From the beginning of the hearing today, Sreekumar was subdued. He quoted the Rigveda and Kautilya, discussed the finer points of the techniques of intelligence gathering, but refused to divulge the names of the politicians who allowed anarchy to grip the state.
Kanika Kaul, a human rights activist who has been attending the hearings regularly, said, "Sreekumar's affidavit was very strong, the boldest of all. Today though he was not looking hostile, he didn't look relaxed."
Darshan Desai, a senior journalist who has reported on most of the hearings, said the statements made by serving police officers, when considered together, are nothing short of an indictment of the ruling party.
The Modi government, however, is embarrassed only because of the media attention the commission is getting. In Ahmedabad, the general public appears disinterested in its proceedings and the unfolding story of the riots. Though the commission's hearings are open to all, hardly anyone but journalists and lawyers are found in attendance.
Thus, for the government it is just a media event. Sreekumar's appearance definitely needed all the attention because no other police officer has dared come out so boldly and put everything in cold print.
Media reports about Sreekumar's submission had raised expectations. He stood by his affidavit, which gives an inside account but does not offer much by way of hard evidence. He did say, though, that when he was posted in the state intelligence department he had prepared a report about the communal scenario in Ahmedabad because of which Police Commissioner P C Pande was removed.
"I would still say he was remarkable today," Sinha later told rediff.com. "He stood by his affidavit. His affidavit says volumes against the government. What more can he say? I agree he could have named the politicians, but it's a good indication that there were such politicians who interfered."
On a lighter note he remarked, "Poor chap got too exposed in the media before he could depose before the commission."
More reports from Gujarat
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