June 12, 2012

SIT report on Gujarat riots: An analysis

I studied the whole closure report filed by SIT on the allegations put in by Mrs Zakia Jafri. I did so, because there was lots of hue and cry over the matter that SIT has given a clean chit to Modi etc. So I felt it necessary to go through the complete report. In an overall sense, the report is NOT satisfactory. But it throws a good amount of light on the situation revolving around the riots. Here starts my analysis....

In case you don't wish to read the whole lengthy blog-post, then just read the below 7 bullet points, which is a kind of summary of the whole blog-post.
Some of my major conclusions reached upon after reading the SIT report-
  • Modi can't be nailed legally. There is no hard evidence against him. So it would be foolish to expect any legal action against him. 
  • Modi can still be held guilty but only "morally". By studying the report, one can conclude that Modi didn't show as much concern for affected people as is expected from a CM. He hasn't got a "humane" nature. At some times, he seems callous by nature. Also, in some cases, he didn't take any firm action against irresponsible/negligent police officers. All these facts, may not implicate him legally, but are sure to damage his reputation as a good, just, noble, elected representative.
  • There was no delay in calling of army. The swiftness in calling of army is appreciable.
  • Sanjeev Bhatt lied. One can get fully convinced about it after going through the SIT report.
  • Relief, rehabilitation and compensation measures seem quite good, in fact impressive. But they can't be said to be fully satisfactory, or excellent. Three major drawbacks remain- (1) a clear timeline of action has not been given (how much work done by what date?) (2) No. of people compensated for death seem quite less (is the official figure of died people just 1169?) (3) SIT seems to have taken view of only one side- Govt. side. Any independent allegation/complaint made by aggrieved people are neither mentioned in report, nor does it seem to have been taken into consideration. It's extremely difficult to accept that no one would have complained to SIT regarding this. That said, since SIT has not made any adverse remarks on this(in fact SIT has appreciated the efforts of Govt), so I don't think this can be made a major point against state Govt.
  • VHP and Bajrang Dal participated in riots. Not only their activists, but some of their top leaders had been arrested, charge-sheeted and are presently facing court cases. In fact some leaders are repeat offenders. It appears that, VHP and BD supported the riots as an organization.
  • At some places, SIT's conclusions seem to be highly flawed. There are also some ignoring of vital evidence. SIT seem to have made some  glaring mistakes too, and at times, it becomes very hard to believe that those are just some genuine “mistakes”. 
Now here goes my detailed, point-by-point objection to the conclusions, and my own views on some of the allegations investigated.

Page 59. Allegation no. -II: (regarding decision to transport dead bodies to Ahmedabad and VHP leader being allowed to accompany the bodies)
Why were VHP men even allowed to accompany the victims' body!! Why not put the blame on collector too?? VHP calls for bandh on 28th and VHP leaders allowed to accompany the victims' bodies which were to reach on 28th morning !!! Is it a sensible decision?? You are handing over bodies to the very people who have called for bandh on the very same day!!!
Furthermore, it concludes- "the allegation that the dead bodies were handed over to Jaydeep Patel of VHP is NOT established". It concludes so bcoz Police team was always there with them and so "custody" of bodies were with police only. It says that Jaydeep Patel merely "accompanied" the bodies.

Now let's ponder over the word "handed over". The VHP leader was issued in his name, a letter (of authority) by an executive magistrate, stating clearly the no. of bodies and some other information. In short, the letter contained information about the bodies, the receiving authority at the other end etc. The letter was issued in the name of Jaydeep Patel. So he went with that letter and submitted the letter at the other end to the concerned official.
Still, SIT report concludes that, Jaydeep Patel was NOT "handed over" the bodies. He merely "accompanied" them.

Ironically enough, the same SIT report, states a few pages earlier that the issuing authority (of the letter) stated that "the dead bodies were officially handed over to Jaydeep Patel and.....".
So issuing authority himself feels it was "handed over" to Jaydeep Patel and his one other VHP friend, but SIT feels he merely "accompanied"!!

In short, in my view, SIT conclusion is quite flawed on this particular issue. Yes, CM Modi can't be blamed directly for this, but so many others could have been blamed.

Page 78 Allegation no.- VI : (regarding transfer of honest police officers to facilitate riots)
Highly UNSATISFACTORY conclusions drawn. Read pages 78- 83 and you will agree with me.
"Unsatisfactory", because SIT didn't try to cross-check the facts stated by those IPS officers. If what IPS Rahul Sharma and others have alleged there, comes out to be true, then no doubt the "Allegation No. VI" could come out to be true also. But SIT tried to come to conclusion too quickly without undertaking much deserving investigation into the statements made by those IPS officers.

Furthermore, the conclusions made in the end, on Shri RB Shrikumar, is also quite unsatisfactory. Just because someone kept hiding the evidences, you won't consider the evidence!! Just because someone started collecting evidence against Govt officials and ministers, so you will accuse him of trying to prepare false allegations!!
And even  if someone is trying to collect evidence to prepare false allegation, or even to blackmail, so his evidence collected doesn't deserve attention and investigation!!! And this is what SIT thinks!!!

Page 113.Allegation no.- IX:  (regarding Bilkis Bano case and the Best Bakery Case)

Regarding this allegation, SIT didn't make any conclusion/finding because both the cases mentioned in this allegation, are still under court. The convicted people have challenged lower court's order in HIGH COURT. So SIT was legally binded NOT to make any conclusions (as to whether state Govt and Police were to be blamed or not).
But there is no such legal binding on me and hence I am making some very obvious observations.

In Bilkis Bano case, the SIT report writes- "On completion of investigation Shri XYZ, Circle PI, filed a closure report on 'flimsy' grounds, and was recommended by Dy SP Shri ABC for acceptance in the court....". Catch the word "flimsy" there.
Now, Smt Bilkis Bano ji went to SC, there SC observed- "Mukul Rohtagi, the ASG appearing for respondent accepts that in view of serious allegations, the case may be handed over to CBI, though he doesn't concede that Gujarat police is incompetent to investigate the matter". and then the case was handed over to CBI. Finally, the case which was being closed by Gujarat police, in that very same case, 11 accused people were CONVICTED by a Mumbai court Judge.

So dear Mukul Rohtagi ji, you thought that Gujarat Police was fully competent to investigate the case!! What do you mean, that police is competent, but they were pressurized by Govt ministers to sweep it under carpet? A senior police officer of rank 'Dy SP' recommends closure of the case and the same case investigated by CBI gets 11 accused convicted. So accept it- either Gujarat Police was incompetent, or they were pressurized by state Govt ministers to follow their lines. What could be the case is anyone's guess.

The other case was "Best Bakery case", in this case the combo of a 'fast track' court and a public prosecutor led to all accused being acquitted. On being taken to SC, the case was transferred to Bombay, and finally 9 were convicted. Supreme court while giving order passed strictures against public prosecutor, trial court and High Court. Now, who can influence "public prosecutor" is anyone's guess. If public prosecutor himself turn biased, then obviously you can guess what will happen to the result of case. Furthermore, the Bombay judge who passed order convicting the accused, made very adverse comments and passed strictures against K. kumaraswamy, the then joint CP, Baroda city. Later on page 356, SIT holds K. Kumaraswamy responsible(says that "allegations against him stand established"). Notable thing is that neither state Govt, nor he himself have filed any appeal or petition, for expunction of those adverse comments/strictures made by judge. It's exactly like S.Swamy making serious allegations against Sonia Gandhi, and neither Sonia Gandhi, nor Congress bothering to appeal in court against the allegations. You see where it's leading?

In short, regarding Allegation no. IX, there was shady investigation, and shady prosecution, most probably under pressure from ruling party's ministers. SIT didn't conclude so only because both the cases are still in court. Otherwise, had the cases been finally settled by SC (resulting in some conviction), then I am sure the SIT would have taken the same view I am taking.

Allegation no. XII: (regarding Modi's "action-reaction" comment in Zee TV interview)

The conclusion (page 133) made regarding This allegation is totally unsatisfactory. Narendra Modi blames the "action" of late Shri Ahesan Jafri for the "reaction" taken place at Gulberg society. The "action" was firing in self defense by Mr Ahesan Jafri, and the "reaction" was the burning of Gulberg society and murdering of more than 60 people.

What Modi means to say is that, had Mr Jafri not fired, he would have been alive. The fact is that after initial dispersing  of small mob by police, 5000 agitated, riotous people had again surrounded the society, and obviously they had not assembled there to garland Mr Jafri. Having panicked, Mr Jafri must have fired in self defense (police force was highly inadequate there). In short, instead of blaming his own police officers, Narendra Modi blames Mr Jafri himself for his killing. How callous!! And you people consider him a "humane (sic) being"!!!

Unfortunately, SIT too supports Modi implicitly; it concludes that “in case Mr Jafri fired at the mob, this could have been an immediate provocation to the mob”. So it calls "selt defense" as "provocation", and instead of stating objecting to Modi's statement, it implicitly supports Modi.

Ironically enough, SIT itself, in the same report, has held police officials responsible for Gulberg massacre. It you read pages 95-100, then you will know how much SIT has criticized two top cops for inefficient handling of Gulberg massacre. MK  Tondon (Jt CP) and PB Gondia (DCP) have been heavily crilicized for their handling of Gulberg society and Naroda  Patia cases. In fact, both These officers were in continuous  touch (on phone) with accused rioters on the very same day (of riot). So they might have even colluded with rioters (though no such proof found by SIT). Moreover, SIT  itself has also indicted The investigating  officers of Naroda Patia and Gulberg  Society massacre (page 181 & 182) for deliberately NOT Taking into account call records of accused persons. 
So SIT has very clearly reported that both Naroda Patia and Gulberg Society cases were not only very poorly controlled, but their investigations too were carried out very carelessly. (SIT has also strongly recommended strict departmental actions against the four officers in question).  

In spite of all these facts, Narendra Modi doesn't mince a word about failure of his senior police officials, and instead blames Mr Jafri himself!! What should have happened is that Modi should have stated in interview that "There seems to be  some serious lapses on part of police officers and they will he investigated properly". BUT instead, the fact is that, the tainted officer was rewarded and given undue benefits later!! (read Allegation No.- VII on page 84). Quite sadly SIT Too didn’t think it appropriate to mince any words against Modi's "action-reaction" comment.

Page 272: (regarding Modi's Hatred Speech allegation)

Modi says he didn't refer to any particular religion or community, but he clearly did make some statements targeted at Muslim community.
SIT concludes that there was "no criminality" on part of Modi. I am not quite sure about "criminality" because I don't have any legal expertise. But clearly, Modi lied in saying that he didn't refer to any particular community or religion. He did make some specific comments against Muslims and also made insulting comment against displaced community living in relief camps. His statements definitely had potential to increase the amount of dissatisfaction and anger in minority community against him. At that kind of juncture he should have kept his anger and emotions in control, and shouldn't have reacted exactly that way.

I wish SIT had acknowledged this thing about Modi. But SIT denies "criminality" and then skips away. Dear SIT, Why are you shying away from making a frank observation!!?? Haven't you made such non-legal observations at other places? Then why not here??!!
Page 324: 
It has a line- "..... tremendous pressure was put on police and revenue department to let the mobs do their work unhampered, but he and others were all praise for.....". The police officer, IGP Kuldeep Sharma, quotes this statement to defend himself. So in a way, he accepts that there was indeed pressure from higher ups. Now who all can try to put pressure on a police officer of such high rank, is anyone's guess.
(Later, all the statements made by IGP Kuldeep Sharma were rubbished by SIT on the ground that he has been under investigation by state Govt and thus "has an axe to grind" against State Govt)

Page 325: (the conversation between Pradeep Sharma and Arvind Sharma (both IAS officers))
This conversation is about what Modi wants to convey to IGP Kuldeep Sharma (don't act proactive, let the acts happen, no need of protection to muslims etc.).
SIT conclusion on this matter is not satisfactory. Why didn't SIT look into the call details of both person's (Arvind and Pradeep) mobile for just 3-4 days period?? Just because they have an axe to grind against state Govt, so their (Pradeep and Kuldeep) testimony doesn't deserve to be investigated properly!!! And hadn't Sanjeev Bhatt too 'had an axe to grind'?? Sanjeev Bhatt's call details were scrutinized in details, and his allegations too were investigated properly. Why didn't SIT do the same here??!! 

Page 338 &339: (regarding assaulting of Medha Patekar by BJP supporters)

On 7-04-02 Medha Patekar was assaulted by BJP activists. DCP VM Pargi handled the situation and in the process some BJP activists and press reporters got badly injured. Addl. CP Shivanand Jha too reached later and handled the situation. BJP activists later complained to higher ups against these two police officers and both of them got transferred and relieved on 9-04-02, i.e. exactly two days after the incident (quick response state Govt!!bravo!!)

Page 392: (regarding Jaydeep Patel issue)

Allegation II at page 59 and similar conclusions at page 237 clearly means that CM Modi was part of the meeting at Godhra Collectorate which decided on taking bodies to Ahmedabad (same thing also stated on page 392). Allegation II further states the Collector of Godhra as saying that "Jaydeep Patel too attended the meeting and it was decided in meeting that he be authorized to accompany the bodies to Ahmedabad."
But on page 392, it is concluded by SIT that "at no point of time Jaydeep Patel who was also at Godhra that day, met Modi"!! WoWw!!! He attended a meeting with CM but he didn't meet CM!! Do you mean that the word "meet" only means a "one-on-one", personal meet??
Clearly, either the investigation of Allegation II is totally incomplete and wrong, OR Jaydeep Patel did meet CM at least in the meeting.

Page 463: (regarding Jaydeep Patel)

When amicus curiae objects as to without order from some high ups, he couldn't have been handed over the bodies, SIT undertakes further investigation to ascertain the facts. Unfortunately, a shady investigation again. SIT again just blames the "Mamlatdar" Mr. ML Nalavaya. SIT leaves a mere guess that the MoS(Home) Mr Gordhan Zadafia might have pressurized district officials to do so.
Point 1- Since District Collector herself said that Jaydeep Patel had attended the meeting, then why didn't SIT try to get her statements corroborated by asking other persons who had attended the meeting??
Point 2- Why didn't SIT question the wisdom of district Collector on allowing VHP's Jaydeep Patel to even accompany the bodies, keeping in mind that a statewide bandh was announced on the very next day by VHP and BD?? On the bandh day, dead bodies are arriving in a sensitive city, and the bodies are being accompanied by the very people who have announced the bandhs (and later go on to indulge in riots)!! Is it a sensible decision??

That was it. The long and short of this lengthy blog-post is that SIT report is NOT good enough. Modi can still be blamed for so many things. No legal prosecution doesn't mean he is a good man. On moral grounds, Modi would be one of the worst CM in present times. 

P.S.- You can get a copy of SIT report from here-  cjponline.org .