The National Commission of Minorities (NCM) is searching for a “missing report” on the 2002 Gujarat riots after the retired IAS officer who was NCM secretary at the time claimed that her original submission, which she says was damning and recommended President’s rule in the state, has vanished from the records.
The officer, Sarita J Das, had visited Gujarat with an NCM team after the riots. She got in touch with the panel about her report last August and an inquiry was ordered after it could not be traced.
Das told The Indian Express that she went looking for the report more than a decade after the riots as she wanted to set the record straight.
“I decided to approach the commission after I saw some news reports on television, quoting Narendra Modi as being heartbroken about the riots. This left me flabbergasted. My conscience hurt,” Das said.
“But it was only after I went to the commission and saw the compendium on Gujarat 2002 brought out by the commission then that I realised that all traces of my report advocating President’s rule had been wiped out of the commission’s reports.”
Minutes of a NCM meeting briefed by Das last August say the panel decided to order a formal internal inquiry to trace the missing documents as it felt the institutional memory of the commission had been rendered incomplete. The inquiry is yet to conclude.
“Initially the file itself could not be traced. After much effort when we found the file, Ms Das’s report was not a part of it. Instead there was one by Mr Tarlochan Singh, which according to Ms Das is a thoroughly edited version of what she had submitted. There were some documents missing from the file. I had asked for an inquiry into the parts that were missing,” said the then NCM chairman Wajahat Habibullah.
Singh, another former NCM chief, however, contested Das’s claims and said bureaucrats are not authorised to make submissions.
“It’s totally wrong. One should understand how the commission works. A bureaucrat has no role in formulation of such reports. The report is of the commission. How can a secretary of the commission – be it minorities, SC or ST – give a report?” he asked.
“She may have given inputs as secretary but the report has to be drafted by the commission. The final report is of the commission. A bureaucrat always gives inputs, as they assist the commission in drafting reports. Whatever she may have even written, the commission is not bound to include it as it is the decision of the members,” Singh added.
“Why is she remembering all this after 10 years? May be there is some political reason. One wonders what is the motive?”
A 1966-batch Orissa cadre officer, Das said she is also trying to locate a copy of the report in her personal files.
Modi, she claimed, had tried to stop her from visiting relief camps in Gujarat during her two-day trip in March 2002, citing security concerns.
“I came back and wrote a report saying there is a complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery in that state and imposition of President’s rule should be recommended. That report was suppressed but some of the reasons for that statement can still be found in the letter I wrote to the then chief secretary of Gujarat G Subba Rao on April 8, 2002,” she said.