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Is the Srikrishna Commission Report finally being implemented?

The latest round is just one more example of political games, argues MH Lakdawala

Mumbai: Is the Srikrishna Commission Report finally being implemented?Now that an FIR has been lodged against former Mumbai police commissioner R D Tyagi, who was then joint commissioner of police (crime) and who headed the Special Operations Squad (SOS).

For the eight times since the DF government took over it announced the action against Police officer indicted by the commission.

The latest round is just one more example of the political games that have come to characterize the handling of the worst communal violence Mumbai has ever seen. Some critics have termed the exercise an ‘eyewash".

The sudden spate of actions by the Special Task Force (STF) gives the impression that the Srikrishna Commission Report is finally being implemented. But going after politicians, against whom the commission has not recommended action, and not touching 22 of the 31 policemen against whom strict action has been recommended, only shows that for Chhagan Bhujbal, who is the final word on this matter, the Srikrishna Commission Report is only a political weapon against his opponents.

For the charges filed against the Shiv Sena leaders last week, are equally amazing. Gajanan Kirtikar (coincidentally, also an ex-minister of state for home), Nandkumar Kale, Ravindra Waikar, Raghunath Kadam and Sridhar Khadye have been charged with criminal intimidation, ie, threat to cause death or grevious hurt, or to cause the destruction of property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable by death?(section 506 Indian Penal Code [IPC]).

Justice Srikrishna has not recommended any action against them in his report.But by all these prosecutions, Bhujbal has gained a lot of public support.

Moreover Tyagi has still not been arrested. Normally, an arrest follows immediately, as a matter of course, when any FIR for murder is registered. Should there be an exception now? Though police commissioner M N Singh said there would not be any arrest ``at the moment,’’ Lawyers largely feel that an arrest ought to be made or the public would believe that the police get preferential treatment.

Nine persons, including five bakery employees, were killed in police firing on that day at the Suleiman Usman bakery on Mohammed Ali Road in an operation led by Tyagi, then the joint commissioner (crime).

The police had told the Srikrishna commission that suspected pro-Pakistan militants were taking potshots at the police picket from the bakery from the morning of January 9.

Inspector A K Ingle, the senior most policeman on the scene between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm on that day, testified that he had seen eight to ten miscreants on the roof, one with a sten gun and another with a revolver. The inspector ordered retaliatory fire in which 18 rounds were fired.
After this, Tyagi arrived on the scene and 31 more bullets were fired by the police at the suspected ultras.

According to the police, 78 persons were arrested after the operation. However, none of those arrested or killed were terrorists. Besides, no policeman or civilian suffered any injuries whatsoever. "The police also failed to produce the empty shells of bullets fired at them by the suspected ultras,'' said an STF investigator.

Indicting Tyagi and two other officers of the Special Operations Squad under him for "excessive and unnecessary firing'' in the Suleiman Usman bakery case, the commission had recommended action against them.

Dr Pritam Phatnani, the expert assessor appointed by the commission had said that "the post-mortem of the nine bodies are suggestive of the victims being shot in the back while fleeing''.

The public witnesses examined by the commission gave graphic descriptions of how the inmates of the ‘madrasa' next to the bakery were shot in cold blood. In fact, one of the nine shot was a ‘maulvi'.

"This is one incident where the police appeared to be utterly trigger-happy and used force utterly disproportionate to meet the apprehensions of private firing, assuming there was one,'' said the Justice Srikrishna in his report.

However, the Shiv Sena-BJP government ignored all this and instead appointed Tyagi as the police commissioner of Mumbai in 1995.

Later, a government committee headed by the additional chief secretary (home) exonerated Tyagi. It cited two reasons for doing so-that ‘service rules' forbid prosecution three years after retirement and that Tyagi was only doing his duty. What duty Mr. Tyagi had discharged then? Killing innocent people?
In the affidavit,to the supreme court the DF coalition has praised the Mumbai Police for its secular, impartial and free from bias character.This is in stark contrast to the commission report which had categorically stated that the police are biased against the Muslims.Justice Srikrishna has pointed out how the police response to Muslims' appeals was ‘cynical and utterly indifferent? It says,on occasions the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed position., the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim less. Muslims were given ‘harsh and brutal treatment sometimes bordering on inhuman (behavior). ‘Registered riot-related cases were ‘unsatisfactorily investigated’. Showing lack of enthusiasm, lackadaisical approach and utter cynicism. Clues were not chased if the suspects happened to be ‘Hindus with connections to Shiv Sena."

The roles of the police force in the riots have also been exposed during the examination of various witnesses by the commission. Testimonies of former additional chief secretary (Home) Jambunathan Srinivas Iyer, then additional commissioner of police V. N. Deshmukh and others brought out the cold facts before the commission, that the Sena men in uniform aided and abetted the Sena workers to commit pogrom against the Muslims.

The report of the People's Rights Commission comprising Justice H Suresh and Justice A. Daud, found as many as 60 top officials in the police department guilty of committing atrocities on Muslims.

Now famous transcript of the police wireless message (see box) presented before the commission made it crystal clear that police force have many elements carrying hatred against the Muslims.

In spite of these facts all recorded before the Srikrishna commission DF government dares to say that guilty policemen acted in line of the duty and are free of communal bias. In fact, the contamination of police is one factor that comes out whenever riots between Hindus and Muslims are analyzed.

Justice Srikrishna, had said that the time has come for Retribution and for the guilty to be exposed. Laxity in enforcing the writ of the law and meting out the punishment prescribed by the law will send out all wrong signals to both law breakers and law enforcers all over the country.

Recorded bias
DONGRI 1 TO POLICE CONTROL: Two military trucks have come carrying milk and other rations. Led by Major General (Retired) Syed Rehemtullah, therefore, a crowd has gathered at IR road near Bhendi Bazar. Please send some more men.
VOICE: Why the f?is you distributing milk to them laandyas [Abuse for a circumcised person]? Do you want to f?their mothers? Miyan (Muslim) bastards?live there.
DONGRI I (agitated): there are lots of police here. Let them distribute milk.
VOICE: why is distributing milk to them? Are you doing them a favor or what?
V. P. ROAD TO CONTROL: A mob has gathered outside Maharashtra garage. Ghas galli. Lamington road with the intention of setting it on fire. Send men.
VOICE: Must be laandya? garage. Let it burn. S?on? burn anything that belongs to a Maharashtrian. But burn anything belonging to a miyan, the bastards.
(Excerpts from transcripts of police wireless messages taped by Mumbai based journalist,Teesta Setalvad, which was presented before Srikrisna commission. Excerpts from the recordings were also published at the time in the New York Times).

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