Mumbai: While India revisits the Naroda Patiya case afresh following the acquittal of Maya Kodnani, a book, originally written in English whose Urdu translation was recently released, claimed that a Muslim IPS officer could have averted the brutal massacre but unfortunately he didn’t.
R.B. Sreekumar, who was the Additional Director General of the Gujarat Police (ADGP) in the Intelligence Department in 2002, in his book ‘Gujarat: Behind the Curtain’ also claimed that not only the Muslim IPS officer but also his wife, an IAS, and his subordinate, who too was a Muslim, all were rewarded with plum posts after the anti-Muslim riots in which more than 2,500 Muslims, including 96 in Naroda Patiya, were killed.
“At about 10.30 AM (28th February 2002) while I was in my office chamber in Police Bhavan, Gandhinagar, Shri Khurshid Ahmed, IPS (Gujarat, 1977 batch, belonging to Bihar) Commandant, SRPF [State Reserve Police Force], Group-II, headquartered in Saijpur area, near Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad city, informed me that a group of about 500 Muslims, including women and children were knocking at the gates of SRP entrance and requesting for shelter as they were pursued by VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] led armed violent mobs”, Sreekumar recalls in his book.
“From my office I ordered for immediate opening of gates and housing the refugees in the barracks which were vacant as men had gone out for bandobast. I had also directed the Commandant to permit all citizens seeking shelter inside the SRP camp. A fax message was sent to the Commandant, confirming my above instructions. The Second-in-Command to Shri Khurshid Ahmed was one Shri Qureshi. Both the officers were quite shaky and worried about permitting the Muslim refugees inside the SRP campus”, he added.
“So, I told them that in case anybody was questioning them they could explain that they were complying with ADGP’s written orders (I was ADGP, Armed Units, supervising administration of 11 SRP battalions)”, Sreekumar wrote in his book.
“Later, the State Government had claimed that they saved 500 Muslims by sheltering them in the SRP campus. But there was pathetic, unfortunate and deplorable postscript in the whole affair”, he added.
“It is learnt from SRPF officers that by afternoon of 28 February 2002, under pressure from higher authorities and local leaders, the Commandant had closed the gates to the refugees, without informing me. Consequently, in front of SRPF, Group-II entrance, nearly 100-130 Muslims were (reportedly) killed, many women were gang raped and dead bodies were reportedly dumped in a nearby abandoned well. In fact, the Hindu mobs found the Muslims gathered outside the SRPF entrance as an easy target, available at a single spot”, he said.
“It is pertinent to note that after the riots, Shri Khurshid Ahmed was posted as Deputy Commissioner of Police in Surat city, a coveted post by SP level officers, considering the prosperity of the area and prestige attached to the post. Shri Khurshid Ahmed’s wife Mrs. Shamina Husain (IAS, 1997, Gujarat, belonging to Madhya Pradesh) was posted as District Development Officer (DDO) in the rich Valsad district. Later, she was posted as Collector, Surendranagar district”, Sreekumar said.
“There are practically no instances of Muslim officers, that too belonging to outside States, getting such priced postings”, Sreekumar observed in his book.
“Significantly, Shri Qureshi, Dy Commandant, was soon promoted as Commandant and posted in Group-XIII in Rajkot city. He was also given the second police medal, for distinguished service, which is rarely awarded to SRPF officers. In the bureaucratic circles, it is whispered that these postings were given as rewards for facilitating Naroda Patiya massacre”, Sreekumar said.
Besides the details about Naroda Patiya case as mentioned above, Sreekumar’s book also has chilling accounts of the violence unleashed on Muslims in other parts of Gujarat. “The non-enforcement of curfew imposed in the area by Commissioner of Police (Ahmedabad city) led to armed men freely attacking minority habitats and killing 96 persons. The local police did not arrest anybody for curfew violation and prosecuted them under Section 188 IPC. Was it not blatant connivance to the commission of crimes?” Sreekumar asked at other place in the book.
Sreekumar had completed writing the book in 2013 but its publication was delayed because two leading publishers had refused to publish it. The book’s launch planned in 2015 was also cancelled in the last minute. It was finally released in September 2016. The book’s Urdu translation was published and released by New Delhi’s Pharos Media in the last week.
Sreekumar’s account of how Khurshid Ahmed and the Second-in-Command Qureshi defied his order which could otherwise have averted the Naroda Patiya massacre has also led to a debate about the representation of Muslims in the Indian Civil Services. Noted journalist M Wadood Sajid quoting the excerpts from the book has opined that the problems for Muslims in India are deeper than what is generally believed. “I just can’t believe that the one-sided and systematic targeting of Muslims in riots and after riots is only because of poor representation of Muslims in the police force”, he wrote in a recently published article.
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