The Apex Court order (25th Jan, 2012) entrusting enquiry to a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice M. B. Shah, of all 21 extra judicial killings by Gujarat Police from October 2002 to December 2006, is welcomed by all law abiding citizens. This has confirmed the representation of the Human Rights activists that the Modi Government, since the days of anti-minority carnage, following the gruesome killing of 59 Hindus on 27th February, 2002 in train fire at Godhra, has unabashedly subverted the Criminal Justice System, to delay and deny Justice to riot victims and carry out its false propaganda of high voltage threat from militants to Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar leaders. Earlier, the higher Judicial bodies had intervened for equity and justice to riot victims by ordering transfer of trial of two riot cases to Maharashtra State; reopening 2000 odd closed cases by Gujarat police; appointment of a Special Investigation Team (SIT), to reinvestigate nine major mass killing cases and complaint by Mrs. Ehsan Jafri, widow of former Congress MP, brutally murdered by rioters in 2002; and directing CBI to investigate fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin and others.
Of the 21 fake encounter killings, the first was in October 2002, a month before assembly elections in which the Gujarat Electorate gave a massive mandate to riot tainted Chief Minister Narendra Modi and BJP. Many factors contributed to the continuance of fake encounters by a set of police officers like DIG Vanzara from October 2002 to April 2007, when Vanzara and other police officers were arrested for extra judicial killings.
Firstly, the Modi Government has been nurturing an ill-founded and audacious presumption that the electoral mandate in 2002 and in 2007, despite its involvement in planning and execution of anti-minority holocaust, is a blanket license to further marginalize the spirit and practice of the Rule of Law. Any criticism of riots, deviation from the cannons of justice delivery, stereotyped versions about the process of encounters, identity and organizational linkup and antecedents of victims of fake encounters were ultimately countered by Government spokesman on the ground of immense popular support in the elections and public approval to Narendra Modi.
Secondly, the mandatory post-encounter structural administrative response, like departmental and executive magisterial probe, under the provisions of Gujarat Police and Revenue Manuals and regulations about State Intelligence Branch’s (SIB) suo motto probe were conveniently flouted. Even hierarchically senior officers to the “the encounter experts” dared not to enquire against these blue eyed boys of the Government and they deemed that the Government, particularly the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, did consent all these fake encounters.
Thirdly, these fake encounters have been part of the satanic heritage of Gujarat Police, since the killing of notorious gangster Abdul Latif of Ahmedabad city in the late 1990s. These are treated as legitimate police action though the means of this crime control strategy was illegal and unethical. General public and community leaders often insisted upon extra-judicial killings of alleged incorrigible and so called desperate goons as a means of preventive action like proceedings under section 107 to 110 CRPC, Externment under the Bombay Police Act and PASA/ POTA detentions. The bitter truth is that no goon or extortionist grows in stature, range of operation and extent of money spinning organized crimes without the active connivance of the ruling political elite and their collaborating police officers. The killing of Abdul Latif in fake encounter was actually to avoid the danger of his speaking out incriminating information about his mentors among politicians and police officers.
Reportedly the gang of Sohrabuddin was used by Police and their political masters to extort money, irrespective of community background of the victims. For the reasons best known to CBI, probe on nearly 200 petitions from victims of extortion received by this agency, during investigation of Sohrabuddin case, was not enquired by CBI, instead these complaints were forwarded to the state police which had allegedly coerced the petitioners to submission and withdrawal of the complaints. Were Sohrabuddin and his companions killed to obviate the risk of the gang exposing the culpable role of the powerful and mighty in the State Government who nurtured them? Of late, throughout India, organized crime is a lucrative economic activity, so, instead of merely conniving with the operators of crimes, unscrupulous politicians and police officers make investments in the “business”, i.e. sale of illicit liquor, gambling, prostitution, drugs, illicit firearms, land grabbing and so on.
The failure of the long arm of law in booking the real plotters and perpetrators of the anti-minority bloodbath in 2002, particularly in the hay days of fake encounters, (as on today SIT arrested only one police inspector rank officer from the official hierarchy, for the riots resulting in the death of nearly 2000 people), had emboldened the encounter experts to go ahead with their killing spree for catering to the nefarious political machinations of their masters, career advancements and corruption. The impact of media, public opinion and judicial vigilance, had thankfully resulted in the arrest of encounter specialists. This has not only driven them out of the euphoria of immunity from accountability and punishment, due to their proximity to ruling party, and had also sent the right and pungent message to potential sycophants and roughish careerist officers from indulging in anymore fake encounters. Hence no extra-judicial killings took place since the arrest of Vanzara and company in 2007. This aspect also will disprove the baseless propaganda about Muslim militants dispatching armed assassins for attacking Narendra Modi and Hindu leaders. Are the leaders of Indian Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed afraid of imprisoned encounter specialists than when they were on active duty?
Fourthly, fake encounters were executed with obvious unholy political and unethical administrative objectives. Political strategic aims of, 1) Maintaining the publicity of high intensity threat from Islamic Jehadists against Narendra Modi and Sangh Parivar leaders, 2) Silencing critics of Narendra Modi in BJP and NDA and 3) Creation of sympathy and support for Modi and his followers for their unprecedented “brave action” to project and protect Hindu honour and image among the bulk of Hindu community throughout India are discernable. The close men of the CM in police was also keen for one-up-man ship in comparison to police forces of other states through fake encounters and elimination of so called Jehadi elements. They also did indulge in “victim shopping”, viz. arresting alleged Islamic militants from other states and bringing them to Gujarat for interrogation and their subsequent extra judicial killings. Strangely, Gujarat police or central agencies had not succeeded to bring out any collateral or circumstantial evidence relating to the “terrorists” killed in encounters like unearthing the network of these persons, their financers, weaponry, shelters, communication channels, training centers, so on. Let us not forget that in none of these cases any relevant information was unearthed so far. Basic professional requirement even in the arrest of a pickpocket or a thief is to trace out his abettors and associates, up to disposers of booty. Why even the central IB, which reportedly supplied information about the terrorist links of many victims of fake encounters, did fail to unearth relevant incriminating collateral information? This should unravel the deceitful inveracity of practically all encounter stories by Gujarat police.
In fact the fake encounters by the right hand men of the Chief Minister was an extension of the official policy of the State Government. The Chief Secretary, G. Suba Rao, in May-June 2002 wanted DGP and Additional DGP Intelligence to organize encounters as a preventive action. Evidence about such illegal verbal instructions was advanced by me to Justice Nanavati Commission, probing into the riots and SIT, in my Third Affidavit (April 2005). The fake encounters by Gujarat police was started after my transfer from the post of ADGP Intelligence in Sep 2002. Another relevant fact is the reluctance of senior police officers to initiate any inquiry about alleged undesirable activities of DIG Vanzara. A report in Sep 2002 about this officer allegedly planting illicit firearms on members of minority community in Ahmedabad city on the eve of Rathyatra was not acted upon by the Commissioner of Police. Strangely, the Chief Secretary had started an enquiry against the ADGP Intelligence, who sent this sensitive information to the Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad city. Had the Government acted on this information and corrected Vanzara, the right message would have gone to the police officers and they would not have indulged in extra judicial killings, which brought incalculable infamy to the Gujarat State Government.
The agility of media and Human Right activists like Javed Akhtar, Teesta Setalvad and B. G. Varghese coupled with the alacrity of the Apex Court to order a probe on all fake encounters had energized the Rule of Law in Gujarat. This will have a deterrent impact on all conscienceless politicians and knavish police officers from denying right to life and liberty to innocent Citizens of India.
(The author is a former DGP of Gujarat )