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2002... when babus, cops 'followed' Modi's orders

By Rajiv Shah
As days pass by, Gujarat's 2002 riots and the alleged role of chief minister Narendra Modi appeared to become even more curious. What began with slain BJP leader Haren Pandya's "anonymous declaration" in front an NGO-sponsored "independent commission" that Modi had "directed" police officials to remain indifferent to the rioting crowd at a meeting on February 27, 2002 has by now become a full-blown legal tangle, being fought in India's top courts.
Despite Pandya's decision to remain anonymous, all knew what he had said and talked about, off the record. About a fortnight before he was mysteriously murdered in 2003, he told me, as he did to others, informally during a dinner at Gymkhana Club in Ahmedabad, that he had indeed made the statement in front of the commission – but on the condition that his name would not be made public. A known Modi rival, Pandya was sidelined for opposing Modi, yet his spirits looked strong.
Statements and counter-statements on the 2002 riots and role of Modi have been made ever since. The latest in the series by IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt is already in the news. Interesting though it may seem, things have come to such a pass now that Gujarat's top babus, privately, have stopped disagreeing that Modi "may have" made the statement. Talk to them, and even in extreme cases, they are in the "we-have-no-knowledge-of-what-may-have-happened" mode, or just say, "Ask those present at the February 27 meeting."
Even those surrounding Modi do not want to be counted as being in the denial mode. Who knows, where they may be quoted. A top Modi aide, whom I interacted with the other day informally, gave a rather interesting explanation to what may have happened. The effort was clearly to defend Modi, which is his job. But this aide, who has partially looked after the state's home affairs, too, never sought to deny what Modi may have said. He said, the CM then "perhaps lacked political acumen of an administrator", as he had just taken over the reins of power, adding, "He didn't have administrative experience needed to direct officials what to do. He didn't know whom he was dealing with. It was the duty of those who surrounded him to tell the truth."
The aide, who has also been in the midst of some controversy, said, "Modi may perhaps have been driven by the emotion of any Hindu leader in a given situation, when the train burning led to the death of kar sevaks in Godhra. Obviously, he had his constituency in mind – the Hindu voters. But one should ask as to why IPS and IAS officials, who attended the meeting, did not act the way they should have. As serving officials, they are supposed to act firmly when the situation demands them to. They should not be guided by the political thinking of their bosses."
The aide blamed things directly on the type of officials who surrounded Modi then. He described at length the characteristic of each of them. He called then DGP K Chakravarthi "the man acted as if he was never in the field", one who was clearly "incapable" of taking tough decisions. As for the then Ahmedabad police commissioner PC Pande, who has been in the eye of storm for his "indifferent role" in the Gulbarg Society massacre in which ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri was killed, the Modi aide said: "He was too mild. He is known to have never taken any firm decision, either."
Then, this aide turned to IPS officer MK Tandon, who was joint commissioner of police, sector 2, Ahmedabad, during the riots. "I know him since long. He is well-known for evading tough decisions. He would just disappear when he was most needed", the official said, recalling his "personal experiences" from the field. The aide made a similar remark on PB Gondia, the IPS officer, who was accused by riot victims of dereliction of duty, as he was DCP in-charge of Meghaninagar area where the Gulbarg Society is located.
"On top of these officials, we had the chief secretary (G Subba Rao), who always acted in an over-cautious manner, and was afraid of facing difficult situations. How could one expect him to act tough and ask cops to act with a strong arm?", the aide asked, adding, "Then, we had the additional chief secretary, home (Ashok Narayan), who was more busy in analyzing Bhagwad Geeta than looking after the home department. How do you expect him to direct IPS men to go strong? With these types of officials, and crowds running amuck during riots, things were bound to happen as they had."
"What could Modi do, surrounded as he was by such officials?", this aide concluded, adding, "If Modi went wrong, what stopped these officials to act? It was a situation very similar to the 1984 Sikh riots. Rajiv Gandhi was a novice in handling administrative affairs, and the police officials in Delhi went indifferent." The aide insisted, "Not Modi, but these officials are to be blamed. As a politician, Modi is will naturally see his constituency. But as serving officers, how could they act like this?"
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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/true-lies/suggested-heading-2002-when-babus-cops-followed-modi-s-orders/

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