Former Gujarat Police chief R.B. Sreekumar, who had locked horns with then state chief minister Narendra Modi over the 2002 riots, has asked the Anandiben Patel government to make public the inquiry commission report on the massacre.
The report was submitted by retired Supreme Court judge G.T. Nanavati and former Gujarat High Court judge Akshay Mehta 12 years after it concluded the inquiry with 25 extensions.
The Modi government had on March 6, 2002, appointed justices Nanavati and Mehta to look into the February 27 Sabarmati Express train coach burning episode that left 59 people dead and the subsequent riots that killed 1,169 people in the state.
The commission submitted the final report to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel last year soon after she took over the reins of Gujarat from Modi after he became the prime minister.
In a letter to the chief Minister, Sreekumar, who as additional director-general of police (intelligence) reported that Modi’s comments after the riots could prove incendiary in an already communally surcharged atmosphere, said he found it “painful” that no legislator in the state had shown any hurry to ensure an early public release of the commission’s report.
Sreekumar’s letter dated November 18 asserts that this was an “obvious instance of breach of legislature’s privilege by the executive wing of the government”.
He pointed out that the Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952, stipulates that a probe report should be laid before the house of the people or, as the case may be, the legislative assembly … together with a memorandum of the action taken thereon, within six months of the submission of the report.
The commission submitted its report on November 14, 2014, after getting 25 extensions.
Sreekumar had submitted “nine affidavits to the commission, four while in service and five after my superannuation on February 28, 2007 (in all 498 pages), relevant to the terms of reference to the commission”.
He was cross examined by the commission on August 31, 2004 and September 30, 2011.
He pointed out that during the protracted communal clashes in 2002 (February 27 to May 31), “most gruesome mass killings and destruction of property” took place, including of historic religio-cultural monuments of the 15th century in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Anand, Godhra, Sabarkantha, Kheda, Mehsana, Banaskantha and Dahod districts.
“Significantly, while the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 affected the whole of Delhi city, in Gujarat … ghastly high voltage manslaughter was reported from 11 districts only”, he said.
“The commission must have probed into the enabling factors and ambience responsible for varying degree of violence in different geographical segments of the state.
“The public, riot victim-survivors, human rights activists, state government functionaries in criminal justice system, sociologists, criminologists, jurists and so on would be naturally anxious and keen to comprehensively study the commission’s wisdom in this aspect and related matters of riots,” Sreekumar said.
The commission was tasked by the government “to recommend suitable measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents (Godhra train fire incident and subsequent riots) in future” and would surely have provided “suitable suggestions” to be “incorporated in the edifice of regulatory architecture of the rule of law in Gujarat”.
Even today, he said, hundreds of riot victim survivors are not in a position to return to their pre-riot habitats for want of resources and other reasons, beyond their control and capacity.
This is one reason why the commission’s recommendations “on relief, reconciliation, rehabilitation and re-settlement will be helpful to the sufferers to emerge out of current state of poverty and privation”.
He said: “The state government’s intransigence in non-publication of the commission report would debilitate and erode the stamina and vigour of democracy and its institutions in Gujarat.”