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Posted Online on Wednesday 11, May 2005 02:45 IST

Ex-President Narayanan Reveals Zealots’ Role in Ethnic Cleansing of 2002

By N M Sampathkumar Iyangar

The Gujarat government’s gameplan to whitewash the state-sponsored genocide unleashed on the Muslims of the state in 2002 by appointing an enquiry commission consisting of pliable retired judges may be coming unstuck with more top guns ending their loud silence. The latest one to be bit by the conscience bug is former President of India K R Narayanan. The ex-prez wrote a brief letter to the Commission on April 8 responding to its query about the views attributed to him in an interview published in a Malayalam magazine Manva Samskriti (Humane culture).

The eyewash commission headed by Justice Nanavati and Justice Shah initially tried to sweep the brief note under the carpet for more than ten days. His letter confirming the authenticity of the interview was received by the Commission on April 15. The Commission did not disclose its receipt till April 25. Even after being to forced to acknowledge, judge GT Nanavati betrayed his utter contempt for the former Head of State by remarking, "I have not seen the letter and cannot comment on its implication till I read it." He did not say when he intended to read it!

Former Gujarat Governor S S Bhandari, the main architect of the massacre of numerous Muslims of Gujarat, has never been called upon to furnish explanation for his acts of commissions and omissions during the fateful days. He is now blissfully out of sight, probably poisoning more minds in some RSS camp. If the 2002 pogrom, like the Auschwitz, is to be a "never again", it is absolutely essential that ideologues, the hunters, rather than mere arrows, are brought to book, and very soon.

Narayanan had severely indicted the Vajpayee government that was in power in New Delhi for inaction during the terror campaign unleashed by fundamentalist zealots against minorities in 2002. On March 9 this year, Ahmedabad-based advocate Mukul Sinha moved an application on behalf of Jan Sangarsh Manch before the Commission desiring examination of the former President after quoting excerpts from the interview. The ex-President had said, "I gave several letters to PM Vajpayee in this regard. I met him personally and talked to him directly. But, Vajpayee did not do anything effective. I requested him to send the Army to Gujarat and suppress the riots. The Centre had the constitutional responsibility and powers to send the military if the state government asked. The military was sent, but they were not given powers to shoot. If the military was given powers to shoot at the perpetrators of violence, recurrence of the tragedies in Gujarat could have been avoided. However, both the State and Central governments did not do so. . . . I feel there was a conspiracy involving the state and central governments behind the Gujarat riots."

The counsel for the Modi government Sunit Shah was predictably against the idea of summoning the ex president and said he would file a reply in the case. Justice GT Nanavati and KG Shah indicated that they would first have to write to Narayanan seeking confirmation of the views attributed to him in the particular media publication.

Advocate Sinha additionally wished to examine Rakesh Asthana, Special Investigation Team Chief looking into the Godhra train carnage that preceded the pogrom. This was on grounds of Asthana’s claims of having found fresh evidence in the case. The SIT has been instrumental in inventing numerous "evidences" of conspiracy by Muslims in carrying out the carnage and incarcerating several people belonging to the community under draconian provisions of the State’s antiterrorist Act. (See The Cruel Choice Before Indian Muslims: Justice or Peace | Dec 6, 2004 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | Sinha also sought to summon Gujarat’s Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) RB Sreekumar to examine him in the light of his recent allegations that he was "briefed" before appearing before the Commission earlier. On this, Justice Shah observed "It is a serious matter and cannot be taken lightly."

Sreekumar had earlier embarrassed the State government with conscientious affidavits and deposition before the commission probably motivated Narayanan to speak out. Sreekumar comes from the same State in Southern India, Kerala, as the former President. The Government of Gujarat appointed one of his tainted subordinates as his new boss, unceremoniously passing him over for promotion in the appointment of the State Police Chief. His diary notings and an audio CD were posted on the website of the redoubtable media major Tehelka, and these gave a more damning account of the perverted criminality of the BJP leaders than ever.

The Tehelka expose revealed how the govt counsel Arvind Panday and law and order secretary GC Murmu had attempted to tutor Sreekumar on how to answer questions during examination by the Nanavati Commission. They subtly threatened him to sing the government line or face sophisticated torture techniques he must be aware of as the Intelligence Chief. In the event, Sreekumar opted not to succumb to threats. ‘‘I’m not battling for promotion. I will not hesitate to salute a junior,’’ said the upright officer, ‘‘All I want to do is restore the sanctity of criminal procedure.’’

It may be recalled that the state government, with full support from the then central government headed by India’s neo-Nazist political party BJP, had constituted the probe commission, comprising retired judges Nanavati and Shah in March 2002 to investigate the train tragedy and its aftermath. Upon dethronement of the BJP in the elections last year, the new central government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh who belongs to another minority party appointed another Commission headed by Justice (retired) UC Banerjee. This Commission submitted an interim report asserting that the fire was not a result of any external "conspiracy". The Nanavati-Shah obfuscation panel said in response that "terrorism" could not be ruled out in the tragedy!

Former Prime Minister Vajpayee too had been troubled by the conscience bug several times in the last three years. It is worth recording here that Vajpayee had lamented at the height of the communal orgy on March 3, 2002: "From Godhra to Ahmedabad, in so many places, there are so many incidents of people being burnt alive, including helpless women and children. This is a blot on the nation’s face and has grievously harmed India’s image in the eyes of the world." He once again raked up the issue last month causing great discomfiture to the fundamentalist hawks now controlling BJP, particularly the current Party Chief L K Advani.

However, going by ex-President Narayanan’s account, Vajpayee was only shedding crocodile tears, with an eye on Muslim vote bank in other States. In retrospect, the ex-President had written to the Nanavati-Shah Commission, "They (The Saffron brigade to which BJP belongs) might have thought it would be difficult for them to lead the government with a person ideologically poles apart occupying the office of President. They came to power with the intention to implement lots of hidden agenda in the country. They must have felt uncomfortable executing these agenda in my presence."

In the Manva Samskriti interview, Narayanan rued that he had written to Vajpayee several times to deploy the army in Gujarat after riots broke out. The president is supposed to be the Supreme Commander of the armed forces but all his appeals went unheeded. The only effect was that he lost the chance of having a repeat tenure as President. The Vajpayee government pulled a smart one by announcing APJ Abdul Kalam as the ruling party candidate. The Congress Party, then in the opposition, had to necessarily go along and ditch Narayanan. That was because the Congress had meticulously built over the years a halo of a "brilliant world-class scientist" around Kalam to fool gullible masses into believing that India will soon be a "developed country."

Not many people are aware that the "nuclear scientist" has no record of ever enrolling himself as a research scholar in any university. Also, he had had nothing to do with India’s nuclear program until he got superannuated upon completion of a perfect bureaucrat’s career in Space Application Centre. It is of note that when some top scientists of SAC and ISRO were framed in fake spying cases (Their "crime’ was to have inadvertently come upon a gigantic scandal of siphoning off public funds in importing junk cryogenic engines costing several million dollars from Russia!), Kalam who was then Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister never cared to lift his little finger for them because that would have embarrassed the powers that be in New Delhi.. Eventually, the scientists underwent a hellish harassment for three years until they earned a reprieve from the Supreme Court, which exonerated them.

Kalam showed his gratitude to BJP by allowing himself to be paraded in the streets of Ahmedabad, flanked by the perpetrators-in-chief of the 2002 pogrom. The act just before the elections symbolically demonstrated to the minority community the level of influence wielded by BJP. This kept Muslim voters away and paved the way for a landslide victory to communal elements. (See Shrewd Move by Extremists to Trap President Kalam | Issue No 55, August 17-23, 2003 | aug17_23_03/opinion_iyangar.htm).

Bosses of Gujarat Congress Party had earlier demanded that Vajpayee be called to testify before the Nanavati-Shah panel in view of his frequent bouts of plainspeak. However, they failed to move any application in this regard before the Commission.

Observers of Gujarat are perplexed that the so-called secularists of the State who shout hoarse about the BJP leader who has traces of conscience and humanity left in him have their lips sealed about the role played by the erstwhile governor Sundar Singh Bhandari.

Bhandari, a hardcore Hindutva zealot, had been made the Bihar Governor by the BJP and had been booted out by the indomitable Laloo Prasad Yadav from Patna in 1999. He was then provided an abode at Gandhinagar. His mandate was to convert Gujarat into a "Hindutva Laboratory" so that the ethnic cleansing methods could be replicated to create the Saffron gang’s dream Hindu Rashtra. Bhandari’s strategy was was to marginalize the well-to-do among the minority communities economically to pave the way for a mini Hindu Rashtra.

The "reprisal attacks" of 2002 had been systematically planned for several months and the administrative machinery was used to pinpoint minority targets. Bosses were just waiting for a spark. That spark came when an boisterous mob of VHP workers returning after performing "kar seva" for building a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, indulged in vulgarism at Godhra Railway station. A coach was set afire by an infuriated mob of Muslims that came to the aid of victims of rowdyism and several passengers were roasted alive.

Bhandari and Company unleashed the well-planned "reprisal" to systematically terrorize all Muslims of the state. The police was ordered to watch the spectacle from he sidelines, which they happily did. No wonder, the central government chose to give the short shrift to President Narayanan’s entreaties.

Ironically, Bhandari has never been called upon to furnish explanation for his acts of commission and omission during the fateful days. He is now blissfully out of sight, probably poisoning more minds in some RSS camp. Contrary to public perception, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi does not at all deserve all the ‘credit’ he gets for what Vajpayee, and even Advani, rightly term as a "blot" on India’s image. It must be remembered that he was a petty canteen boy at the BJP office at Ahmedabad catering tea and other ‘services’ to visiting party bosses. He had been packed off to Delhi when local leaders found him knowing too much, what with his ‘inside’ knowledge about their ‘necessities’. With his insensitive and inflammatory behaviour, he was expected to become a ‘bali ka bakra’ in the hands of some infuriated victim so that the party could exploit the sympathy wave following his ‘martydom’. It goes to the credit of Muslim elders of Gujarat, Ahmedabad in particular, that they have been successful in restraining the hot-blooded from falling into the trap in the face of extreme provocation. Modi is notorious for ordering the closure of relief camps set up by NGOs and not his government for harried victims of the carnage actively stoked by saffron organisations and government machinery. The reason he gave for the closure was designed to invite such martyrdom, "These camps not only spoil the good image of the State, but they are producing babies everyday as the inmates’ only work is to increase Muslim population!"

If the 2002 pogrom, like the Auschwitz, is to be a "never again", it is absolutely essential to bring idealogues, the hunters, rather than mere arrows to book, and very soon.

N M SAMPATHKUMAR lives in Ahmedabad and receives his email at <> 

<April 30, 2005>

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