TAMIL NADU

An indictment

ON APRIL 24, 2002, R.B. Sreekumar, the then Additional Director-General, Intelligence, sent a note titled "An Analytical note on current communal scenario in Ahmedabad" to two persons — the Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Ashok Narayan, and the Director-General of Police, K. Chakravarthi.

Mr. Sreekumar talked about the nature of odds against Muslims in Ahmedabad who felt they had been "left at the total mercy of the radical communal elements led by Hindu organisations such as the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad." He addedthat the members of the Muslim community were developing a grudge against the criminal justice system because they felt that it was heavily biased against them.

What made a senior intelligence officer come to this conclusion? This opinion was formed "judging from the line of action taken by the investigating officers of their [Muslims] complaints and other segments of the criminal justice system."

Reasons for insecurity

The document listed four major reasons for the growing feeling of insecurity among Muslims in Ahmedabad: (i) Unfair pressure in recording FIRs, so that the extent of offence could be minimised. This included pressure on victims not to name specific persons. (ii) Worse still, "the complaints are registered on behalf of the victims by the police officers themselves, so that the police can favour the accused persons ... " (iii) Many crimes were clubbed together in a single FIR, so that it compromised evidence and provided loopholes to the accused during investigations. (iv) Investigating officers desisted from arresting Hindu leaders accused of offences. This led to a lowering of deterrence among the rioters of the majority community.

Mr. Sreekumar's analytical note, then, proceeded to list specific modes and instances of intimidation of Muslims by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.

Intimidation

Certain VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders were demanding protection money from merchants and commercial establishments of both communities, it said. Merchants and businesses were being intimidated against employing members of the minority community in any vocational employment.

If members of the minority community went to areas that were Hindu-dominated for work, they were being driven out by VHP/Bajrang Dal activists, and sent away to minority inhabited localities, the note said.

If the minority community members attempted to restart their businesses in areas from which they had been driven away, they were prevented from resuming their business and from reconstructing their establishments destroyed during the riots. The VHP and the Bajrang Dal were responsible for this as well, it said.

The commercial and economic vacuum created by driving out the minority community was being filled by commercial interests close to and sponsored by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal leaders. The VHP was systematically distributing pamphlets that contained elements of communal instigation, the note pointed out.

Mr. Sreekumar evocatively described the failure of the Ahmedabad City Police to contain and control the communal violence as creating "an atmosphere of permissiveness." "It eroded the credibility of the police and gave an upper hand to lumpen elements and segments of the underworld," he said. Describing this state of nature-like situation, he said "even ladies belonging to respectable upper middle class indulged in looting articles of their choice from shopping centres ... "

Mr. Sreekumar will record his testimony before the Justice Nanavati-Justice Shah Commission of Inquiry towards the end of this month. The analytical note he sent in April 2002 is appended to the affidavit he has filed before the Commission.

Comments on the police

Apart from all the details given above, the most damaging part of the note are his comments on the police force itself.

Indicating the complicity of several senior officers in carrying out "verbal instructions from the senior political leaders of the ruling party," Mr. Sreekumar said they had "become quite adept in the art of deceptive law enforcement for the benefit of their political friends."

This is in sharp contrast to the testimonies of some senior officers who have suggested in their affidavits that they did whatever was in their powers to contain the riots while tacitly admitting their failure to contain the scale of the riots. — J.S.