Updated: December 12, 2019 9:44:25 am
Even as the Nanavati Mehta Commission junked evidence provided by three former IPS officers in its detailed report on Ahmedabad incidents during the Gujarat riots of 2002, especially pertaining to Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya massacres, it has indicted the then Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP) MK Tandon over his failure to “assess the seriousness of the situation and bring in additional force to control the mob”.
The report in detail states the role of the then JCP (Sector 2) MK Tandon, under whose jurisdiction, Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society fell, mentioning how the senior police officer left the two areas just before violence erupted and returned only after the killings happened.
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A total of 97 persons (including one Hindu), were killed in Naroda Patiya on February 28, 2002, while 44 persons (39 Muslims and 4 Hindus), including former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, were killed in Gulberg Society massacre. The Commission, however, chose to ignore evidence provided by IPS officers RB Sreekumar, now retired, and Rahul Sharma, who took voluntary retirement and practises law in the Gujarat HC, and Sanjiv Bhatt who was dismissed from service and is in jail in a drug planting case.
12 years for probe, 5 years for report to be public
The Justice GT Nanavati Commission appointed by the Gujarat government, which took 12 years to complete its inquiry into the Godhra train carnage and the riots that followed, submitted its final report in November 2014. The Gujarat government took five years to make the report public, about which Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said it was “lengthy and needed time to study every aspect”. This was in sharp contrast to the Commission’s first report inquiring into the Godhra train carnage, which was submitted to the then chief minister Narendra Modi who had got a clean chit, in September 2008, and within days was tabled in the state assembly. Nanavati is the same judge who headed the one-man commission that probed into the anti Sikh riots of 1984, appointed by the then NDA government in 2000 and submitted its report in five years. The final report on Gujarat riots of 2002 has more than 44,445 affidavits, including 488 from bureaucrats.
Sreekumar had, through nine affidavits filed before the Commission suggested that the government had not done enough to control the riots. Sharma had collected records of calls made from February 27 to March 4, 2002, from two private mobile service providers — Celforce and AT&T — as evidence and presented before the Commission, while Bhatt had claimed he was in the meeting that then chief minister Narendra Modi called at his residence on the evening of the train carnage, where he had allegedly said “Hindus be allowed to vent their anger”.
Explained: What the Nanavati Commission says about Modi, IPS officers and NGOs
Tandon, now retired, is the only senior officer whose role in controlling the riots, has been found to be inadequate, by the commission. The sector under Tandon’s jurisdiction saw the maximum deaths in the Naroda Patiya (97), Gulberg (69) and Naroda Gam (11). These were among the nine cases re-investigated and tried by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). The Commission report quotes the observations made by the SIT on the role of Tandon.
“The records do not indicate any action taken by Shri MK Tandon at any of the location at Dariyapur. There is no record of any firing done at any place under his order. It appears that Shri Tandon had not been able to appreciate the situation professionally. As a Joint CP, Tandon was expected to monitor the situation properly and to keep a proper track of developments throughout his jurisdiction, particularly when he left the Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya, the situation was serious. However, he left these locations at the mercy of DCP in Naroda Patiya and the concern Police Inspector in case of Gulbarg Society and did not monitor the situation properly despite the fact that the gravity of situation was known to him. This reflects a thoroughly unprofessional conduct on the part of MK Tandon,” quotes the Commission report from the SIT findings.
The Commission report further states, “We are also in agreement with the conclusion drawn by the SIT. According to us, though there was no deliberate avoidance of discharge of duty of dealing with serious incidents of Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society, there was certainly error of judgement committed by him in assessing the seriousness of the situation at both the places. Even after leaving these places, he should have monitored the situation at both the places by remaining in constant touch with the officers performing duty there. That he did not do. This cannot be expected of such high ranking, experienced police officer.”
The report mentions in detail how MK Tandon first reached the Gulberg Society under Meghaninagar police station around 11.30 am on February 28, 2002, and then left the place around 12. Tandon then reached Naroda Patiya, requested the police commissioner of Ahmedabad city to clamp curfew in the area and left for Dariyapur area around 12.20 pm. Both Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society witnessed large scale violence between 12 and 2 pm as per the report, while the situation in Dariyapur was “not that grim”.
According to the report, Tandon returned to Gulberg Society only around 4 pm after the killings happened and the local police had rescued around 150 survivors. The report states that Tandon made no effort to inquire regarding the happenings at Gulbarg Society between noon and 3.45 pm on that day, he had no information regarding the violence at the society.
However, the report has given clean chit to the then local police force of both Naroda police station and Meghaninagar police station for the violence at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society respectively, on the basis that meager police force deployed at these two areas was not adequate to deal with the massive mob that had gathered that day.
“The Commission has reason that Police inspector KG Erda (Meghaninagar police station) and his men did not remain complacent and allowed the things to happen resulting in loss of lives and destruction of properties but they made every effort to avert the attack on the society. It was only when the rear crowd entered the society they were completely overpowered by the front crowd, things went beyond their control, the unfortunate incidents happened. Had the additional force arrived there in time, things might have been different,” it said.
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