'The SIT did not follow up with the CD of the phone call recordings that could have helped it find who were leading the mobs and where the calls of people involved in rioting originated from and terminated.'
With Prime Minister Narendra D Modi inaugurating the Sardar Sarovar dam on his 67th birthday and after launching India's first high speed railway, or the bullet train, last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party has sounded the bugle for the assembly election in Gujarat.
Along with the Congress and several regional parties, the recently born Smart Party will also lock horns with the BJP.
Leading the Smart Party is former Indian Police Service officer Rahul Sharma, who has, as Bhavnagar superintendent of police in March 2002 and later as deputy commissioner of police, police control room, Ahmedabad, the same year, had rubbed the then Modi government in Gujarat the wrong way on many occasions.
Sharma later deposed before the Nanavati Commission, appointed by the state government to probe the post Godhra violence in the state, and produced copies of a CD of phone call recordings (PCRs) that could have embarrassed the BJP.
After he was cleared in departmental probe and cases filed against him, Sharma floated the Smart Party in June.
Sharma spoke to Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore about the Gujarat riots which returned to the headlines after BJP President Amit A Shah testified on Monday, September 18, 2017, about former minister Dr Maya Kodnani's whereabouts on February 28, 2002.
Do you believe the Special Investigation Team botched up its investigation of the Gujarat riots?
I have sufficient reasons and so am inclined to think so.
Where did you think the SIT botched up?
In my considered opinion, it (the SIT) did not follow up with the CD of the phone call recordings that could have helped it find in a scientific way about who were leading the mobs and where the calls of people involved in rioting originated from and terminated.
It (the SIT) did not investigate any conspiracy angle (behind the post Godhra carnage) and a lot of accused (in the riots cases) were treated as witnesses.
(Note: As DCP, police control room, Ahmedabad, Sharma had collected data of calls made and received in Ahmedabad on March 1 and 2 -- when murderous mobs indulged in frenzied attacks -- after he was asked by then Ahmedabad police commissioner P C Pandey in April 2002 to assist him in probing the violence that took place at Naroda Gam, Naroda Patiya and the Gulberg Society.
Sharma later produced a copy of the CDs before the Nanavati Commission that probed the post Godhra violence in Gujarat; ironically, the crime branch to which he had submitted these CDs 'lost' the CDs.)
Would you say that had the SIT done these three things the real masterminds behind the 2002 riots would have been exposed?
Possibly; but unless that had happened or happens (now), how do I know? And I am strictly going by the merits of the cases.
Since you believe that had the SIT taken cognisance of the above three things, is there a legal way even now to constitute another SIT and perhaps reinvestigate these cases?
Technically yes, but practically it is very difficult.
Why do you say so?
All these investigations were done by the order of the Supreme Court.
Now, will the Supreme Court come up and say that these investigations were not satisfactory?
That's the reason I said 'technically yes, but practically it is very difficult'.
Could you recount the difficult phase that you as an IPS officer, as an upholder of the Constitution, faced while serving in the Gujarat police from 2002 till your voluntary retirement?
I have moved on from that. It is unnecessary now.
Do you still have the CDs of the PCRs that you recorded as DCP, control room, Ahmedabad?
I still have them. Even the courts and SIT have these copies; I even submitted copies (to the Nanavati Commission that was set up to probe the March 2002 riots in Gujarat).
You saved almost 400 citizens from a madarsa from rioters in Bhavnagar despite the police being heavily outnumbered by the rioters.
If these rioters were so enraged, why didn't they go ahead and attack this madarsa? What stopped them?
They knew they were facing some well-intentioned policemen and that must have discouraged them from going ahead with their plans.
Do you think in such critical situations, well-intentioned policemen, even if they are heavily outnumbered, are enough to save precious lives?
I have experienced it.
If the police act firmly, the rioters do not stand a chance to play mischief.
In such situations, faced with well-intentioned policemen, the rioters run away.
Nobody likes to die or for that matter get injured by a bullet, even if it were a minor injury.
Now that the Central Administrative Tribunal has quashed all the charges against you and you don't have a single chargesheet against you, do you regret the decision to retire voluntarily?
Do you regret being a police officer for what you have been through?
I am a proud man. I have served my country with utmost integrity and there are lots of things to be happy about.
Did you get a chance to meet those whose lives you saved from that madarsa on March 2, 2002? Did you meet them after the incident?
I met a couple of teachers sometime in 2006 or 2007, but not the students.
What did the teachers tell you?
They were quite happy because they were alive to see another day and lead their normal lives.
Why didn't the SIT take the CDs seriously?
You have to ask them.
How explosive are the contents of the CD PCRs? And who could they possibly expose?
It is not a question of these CDs being explosive, but the question of finding out the truth. What happened.
My CDs can connect the conspiracy in these cases (Naroda Gam, Naroda Patiya and the Gulberg Society). Though I cannot say who all will get exposed.
Wouldn't you like to reflect upon your stint as an IPS officer in Gujarat?
I did what I thought was correct; I did what the Constitution mandates for all law enforcers of this country.
Now that there are no cases or chargesheet pending against you, what do you plan to do next?
We have a small political party (the Smart Party) and we will fight elections (the Gujarat assembly election due sometime in November-December 2017).
We will contest all the 182 assembly seats in Gujarat.
Does the Opposition stand a chance to defeat the BJP?
I am not without hope.
Will the Congress be the main opposition to the BJP in the election?
The Congress is definitely the principal Opposition party as of now, but they (the BJP) will have to reckon with us also.
Will the Patidar and Dalit agitations against the state government lead to a reduction in the number of seats won by the BJP?
I can't really say, but it should affect. By how much, I don't know.
In case the BJP does not secure enough seats to form a government, and the Congress along with other regional outfits are in a position to cobble a working majority, will you join such a coalition?
It's too early.
Finally, talking about the Maya Kodnani case in which BJP President Amit Shah deposed as a defence witness, how valuable do you think his deposition will be for Dr Kodnani's cause?
I have no idea what exactly the (Amit Shah's) deposition was and I should not be commenting upon it without knowing more about it.