May 7, 2013
The filing of the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition before the Magistrate on 15 April 2013 is a significant landmark in the sustained battle for the Rule of Law, Constitutional Governance and against communal forces and their vicious mobilisation within organs of the state and through unholy alliances with non-state actors. The petition, filed after a sustained battle to get a fair and transparent investigation against a chief minister, cabinet colleagues, senior administrators, policemen and front men and women of the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal will now make a strong case for charge sheeting of 59 accused.
Apart from the individual accused involved in this case, against whom a strong case for criminal culpability and administrative connivance and failure has been made out, the wider issues raised are critical to understand. Communal mobilisation precedes violence. It’s transformation into brute attacks against targeted sections of the population remain fundamental threats to the lasting security of all Indians, communal harmony and the secularisation of the Indian polity.
We believe therefore the wider issues raised through the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition are debated widely to ensure a greater understanding of such mobilisation and to build a resistance to the same in future. Only then can we collectively demand a transparent and accountable system of governance from our representatives and the parties that they represent. The entire text of the Protest Petition can be accessed at
Important Issues Raised in the Petition
- Aggressive Mobilisation of Communal Forces and Response of State Agencies & Government Monitoring and Check on Hate Speech, Hate Writing, Pamphleteering
- State and Government Response to a Tragedy like Godhra on 27 February 2002
- Contemporaneous Records that Reveal Government Callousness or Indifference
- Transparency in Summoning assistance from the Military /Paramilitary forces
- Comparative Analysis of Districts & Commission records worst affected (15) and those that held their own (SPs/DMs refused to bow down to political masters)
- Role of Whistleblowers in Pinning down Accountability
- Role of Survivors/Activists/ Legal and Civil Rights Groups
- Role of the Political Class
- Role of Media
Build Up of Violence prior to 27.2.2002
The state intelligence records available to the state government and administration reveal that there was a systematic build up of aggressive communal mobilisation, hate speech etc even prior to February 27, 2003.These details are available in textual and tabular form in the Protest Petition. These provide significant pointers to the workings and operations of the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) that is sending out warnings and the police administration, home ministry (headed by the chief minister) that is systematically ignoring them. This aspect needs to be understood by us to ensure that such warnings are heeded in future. Reference: Pages 193-202 of the Protest Petition & Paras 457 – 469 at Pages 204-209 of the Protest Petition.
Monitoring & Check on Hate Speech, Hate Writing and Pamphleteering
Responsible sections of the Gujarat administration, senior IPS officers who were on the field manning districts and controlling attempts to provoke violence there as also senior police officer like then ADGP (Intelligence) RB Sreekumar had strongly recommended action under Sections 153 a, 153 b of the PC against certain newspapers and publications that had consciously published provocative and incendiary material not based on facts. Action against pamphlets circulated by the VHP was also advised. However the government and its home department has, to date not taken any action that was recommended.
In fact the Amicus Curiae in the case Advocate Raju Ramachandran has himself recommended prosecution against the chief minister for violation of the law on hate speech. The Protest Petition deals at length on the deleterious impact of hate speech and hate writing and the inaction of the state government. The chief minister had in fact sent congratulatory letters to those Gujarati newspapers that had indulged in such incendiary writing and excluded from praise at least three publications (Prabhat and Gujarat Today) that had been responsible in reportage (Editor’s Guild Report).. Reference at Paras 126-153at Pages 72-85 of the Protest Petition & Para 234 at Page 116 of the Protest Petition
No Appeal for Calm, No Visit to Relief Camps, Discriminatory Behaviour
Quite apart from the infamous meeting on the night of February 27, 2002 about which facts have to be tested – through examination and cross-examination of witnesses during trial — the administration’s lackluster response to protection of lives and maintenance of peace following the Godhra tragedy is itself a testimony to a conspiracy in evidence. There were no appeals for Restraint, Peace and Calm; No Preventive Arrests were made on February 27, 2002 despite the fact that violence had already broken out and the SIB was warning of widespread communal mobilisation; no issuing of Prohibitory Orders and declaration of Curfew except in Godhra town; worst, the government support to the bandh proved to be a cynical mechanism by which the streets were allowed to be taken over by rabid bands of the RSS-VHP and Bajrang Dal. The SIT has not thoroughly probed the deployment of army and paramilitary and not even examined independent witnesses like the Major in charge of Army Operations and KPS Gill sent in by the Centre.
Indicting Documentary Evidence Ignored
Evidence from Police Control Room (PCR) records submitted by then Commissioner of Police (2002), PC Pande to the SIT after 15.3.2011 reveal cynical and cold-blooded mobilization of RSS workers and VHP men at the Sola Civil hospital from 4 a.m. onwards on 28.2.2002 in aggressive anticipation for the arrival of the dead bodies. Repeated PCR messages, that the home department under Narendra Modi (A-1, who held the home portfolio) and PC Pande (A-21) were trying to conceal, show that both in Ahmedabad and in several locations all over Gujarat crowds were mobilized to aggressively parade bodies with bloodthirsty sloganeering, inciting mobs to attack innocent Muslims. The then joint police commissioner, Ahmedabad, Shivanand Jha, also an accused in the complaint (A-38), was jurisdictionally in charge of Sola Civil Hospital in Zone 1. As the messages extracted in the Protest Petition atPara 559 at Pages 244-247 of the Protest Petition show, repeated PCR messages desperately ask for bandobast; they speak of the staff and doctors of the hospital being under threat; of a 5,000-6,000 strong mob accompanying the bodies and finally one message also says that “riots have broken out.”
Yet the entire Home department under the chief minister and senior bureaucrats and policemen who had been neutralised including Chakravarti (A-25) and PC Pande (A-29) in collaboration with the SIT have strived hard to conceal this evidence. While such aggressive funeral processions were allowed in Ahmedabad, an equally explosive situation prevailed simultaneously in Khedbrahma, Vadodara, Modasa, Dahod, Anand etc. The PCR records, also reveal that while the Ahmedabad police under PC Pande and the home department under Modi and then MOS, home Gordhan Zadaphiya (A-5) had enough forces to escort a VHP leader known for his inciteful slogans, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, from the airport to the Sola Civil hospital to accompany the processionists, shouting filthy hate speeches and murderous slogans. But they did not have enough forces to send to Naroda Patiya where 96 persons were massacred in broad daylight, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. over several hours (according to the charge-sheet though actual figures may be higher). Similarly the daylight massacre of 69 persons at Gulberg society the same day was permitted by a callous administration (PC Pande did not step out of his office barely 1-2 kms away from Naroda and Gulberg; besides he was in close touch with the chief minister’s office (CMO) between 12 noon and 3.40 p.m. that coincided with the height of the violence. Modi allowing and openly supporting the bandh and neutralising his administration, decided to give the RSS, VHP, BD mobs a free run of the Gujarat streets to massacre innocents.
Warnings Ignored (from SIB and PCR messages)
From as early as 12:30 pm on the 27th February: An SIB officer through fax no 525 communicated to the headquarters that there were reports that some dead bodies would be brought to Kalupur Hospital station in Ahmedabad city. “So communal violence will occur in the city of Ahmedabad; so take preventive action.” Another SIB message numbered as Out/184/02 again warned about communal incidents if bodies were brought to Ahmedabad. “Communal violence will occur in the city. So take preventive action.” The same message said that karsevaks had given explosive interviews to a TV station at Godhra and had threatened to unleash violence against the Muslims.
At 1:51 hours and again at 1:59 hours (early morning ) on the February 28, 2002, there were panic messages by wireless police vans positioned at Sola Hospital demanding immediate protection from Special Reserve Police platoons and the presence of DCP Zone 1.Message at 2:44 hours on 28.2.2002: the motor cavalcade has reached Sola Civil Hospital. Page No. 5790 of Annexure IV, File XIV reveals that at 04:00 am a mob comprising of 3,000 swayamsevaks, that is the members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had already gathered at the Civil Sola Hospital. At 7.14 a.m. the PCR van again informs the Police Control Room that a large mob had assembled at the hospital. (Page 5796 of Annexure IV, File XIV of the documents). Again, another message three minutes later at 7:17 a.m. (Page 5797 of Annexure IV, File XIV of the documents) says that a mob of 500 people was holding up the traffic. Ten bodies were taken to Ramol, an area near Naroda and a massive funeral rally of over 5,000-6,000 mourners took the bodies to Hatkeshwar crematorium in the afternoon. At 11:55 am a PCR message is sent out saying that the Hindu mob had become violent and had set a vehicle on fire and was indulging in arson on the highway. Message at 11.55 a.m. on 28.2.2002 (Page No. 6162 Annexure IV File XV) saying that “Sayyed Saheb, the Protocol Officer had informed Sola-1 that riots have started at Sola civil hospital at the High Court where the dead bodies were brought.”Again, there is another message with no indication of time (Page No..6172 of 28.2.2002) that states that the officers and employees of the hospital had been surrounded by a 500 strong mob and they could not come out”. The message also made a demand for more security for the civil hospital at Sola. Annexure IV File XIV- Message No. 5907 and 5925 at 11:58 a.m. on 28.2.2002 shows that when 10 dead bodies were taken from Ramol Jantanagar to the Hatkeshwar cremation ground, a crowd of 5,000-6,000 persons accompanied this procession. On the morning of 28.2.2002, a SIB message (on page 258 of Annexure III File XIX, message No. Com/538/28/2/02) says that a funeral procession was allowed to take place at Khedbrahma, a town in Sabarkantha district. The message adds that soon after the funeral procession 2 Muslims on their way to Khedbrahma were stabbed and the situation had become very tense.
Throughout February 28, 2002 while fires were set all over Ahmedabad city, PCR records show that repeated calls from different areas to the Fire Brigade drew went answered. PCR records show that repeated distress calls to the Fire Brigade from different parts of Ahmedabad went unanswered. Reference – Para 827 at Pages 369-372 of the Protest Petition. This is further evidence of the deliberate neutralisation of the administration.
The Protest Petition also makes a systematic study of those districts where violence did not break out largely because of the men and women at the helm who refused to abet the wider conspiracy. For an effective understanding of whether the widespread and brutal and systemic violence in 14 of Gujarat’s 29 districts and commissionerates was on account of a pre-planned and systematic neutralistion of the preventive and protective Constitutional mechanisms, the SIT ought to have undertaken just such an exercise. Instead it willfully concealed from the Supreme Court of India the wealth of documentary evidence collected through the SIB (January 2010) and the PCR records of Ahmedabad city (post March 15 2011). Similar PCR data of other parts of Gujarat was deliberately not collected by the SIT.
The role of whistleblower policemen and administrators through the investigations and the past eleven and a half years has been significant. The affidavits and phone call CDs submitted by then SP Bhavnagar and DCP Crime Rahul Sharma have been critical. Today he is being consistently targeted with one chrage sheet and six notices being served on him. Former DGP RB Sreekumar who’s first four affidavits before the Nanavati- Shah Commission provided a thorough documentation of the functionings of the government at the time was also similarly victimised. Lastly Sanjiv Bhatt has also been targeted. Interestingly the evidence of all three whistleblowers has been given little credence by the SIT except when they in small measure support one or the other of SIT’s claims.
The Citizens for Justice and Peace has assisted complainant Zakia Ahsan Jafri in this legal battle. Both Mrs Jafri and her family and the CJP, especially its secretary and band of lawyers continue to carry on this legal battle at great personal risk. On May 1, 2013 the Magistrate that had heard the SIT arguments for six days since April 24, 2013, was transferred. By May 15, 2013, when the next Magistrate takes over, the day to day hearings in this matter are likely to resume.
We hope that this case that has a great significance for the control and containment of state sponsored communal violence is allowed to continue without interruption and delay.
Ram Rahman Teesta Setalvad
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