A Report on Harassment of Whistle Blowers and Social Activists - IAMC

A Report on Harassment of Whistle Blowers and Social Activists

In a deeply troubling trend led by Gujarat state, civil servants and police officers who speak out against complicity of state administration officials in violence against Muslim minorities are subjected to harsh and vindictive actions aimed at suppressing dissent and discouraging such whistle blowers. The following cases illustrate the harassment of such whistle blowers — the brave men and women who have borne the brunt of government’s wrath for upholding their duty and the law.

Sanjiv Bhatt is an Indian Police Service Officer (IPS) who provided material information to the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team, revealing Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat State Government’s complicity and abetment of anti- Muslim riots in 2002. In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court Bhatt has stated that he was present in the emergency meeting held at Modi’s residence on Feb 27, 2002, during which the Chief Minister instructed the state officials to allow the rioting

Hindu mobs “to vent their anger” and wanted “Muslims to be taught a lesson”1. In the days following the meeting, anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat left 2000 dead and displaced over a hundred thousand Muslims2. Bhatt has further disclosed that as the then intelligence officer, he had informed Modi about the impending attack on Gulberg Society apartments and requested police protection for its residents. However Modi not only ignored the information, but also asked the Gujarat police officials to ignore calls from Muslims for help during the riots. Subsequent attack on Gulberg Society killed sixty nine Muslims3. Such revelations have earned Bhatt vindictive reprisals from Modi who is using all means available in the state machinery to silence whistle blowers like Bhatt.

Bhatt’s security cover was withdrawn in April 2011 despite the threats to life he faced owing to his disclosures of Government’s complicity and abetment of anti-Muslim riots. Bhatt was then suspended from duty on August 2011 on grounds that his conduct was unbecoming of a police officer4. In October 2011, Bhatt was arrested and kept in detention for seventeen days on charges of fabricating false evidence. While Bhatt was in jail, Gujarat Police repeatedly raided his residence and searched the premises on spurious reasons, harassed the family and ransacked his home5.

Rahul Sharma is another such IPS Officer facing the Chief Minister Modi’s ire for protecting Muslims during 2002 Gujarat riots and cooperating with the investigating agencies probing the riot cases. Sharma is credited with saving about 300 Muslim children from a rioting Hindu mob in Bhavnagar in 20026. Sharma was then transferred out of Bhavnagar to a low key posting at Police Control Room, Ahmedabad where he procured cell phone call details of the political leaders, bureaucrats and the marauding gangs of rioters, all of which expose systemic collusion and complicity at the highest levels in state administration. Sharma has since provided these call records to Nanavati Commission, the Banerjee Commission and the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team investigating into the 2002 Gujarat riots cases. These phone records form a crucial evidence for the investigation teams and show that the rioters on the streets where in constant touch with the police and politicians7. In August 2011, alarmed by the evidence provided by Sharma and its potential impact on the State’s politicians including Chief Minister Modi, the Gujarat government issued a chargesheet to Sharma that accused him of gross misconduct and violation of his Service Rules. Commenting on Sharma’s case, fellow IPS Officer Sanjiv Bhat (whose own accounts of reprisals by the Gujarat Govt. is stated earlier) noted “If anyone likes to speak out the truth the government ensures that there is strong message to other officers that we will not tolerate truth coming out.”8

Kuldeep Sharma is yet another IPS Officer in Gujarat facing harassment and retaliation from Chief Minister Modi’s administration. Sharma had directed the submission of the interim report of Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case before the Supreme Court, which eventually led to the arrest of senior IPS officers and Amit Shah, the powerful Gujarat Minister of State for Home Affairs9. In retaliation to Sharma’s cooperation with the investigating agencies and helping bring the culprits behind fake encounter killings to justice, Sharma was transferred to a non-descript job at State Sheep and Wool Development Corporation, which is generally considered a punishment posting for officers incapable of tackling anything more challenging. Prior to his run-in with the Modi administration, Sharma was consistently graded “Outstanding’ by all chief ministers and several high level state officials. Under Modi, Sharma’s Annual Confidential Report (performance review) was withheld for five years and then downgraded.

Rajnish Rai was the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ahmedabad in April 2007, when he took over investigation into the fake encounter killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi, and associate Tulisram Prajapati. Investigations have subsequently revealed that all three were murdered by the Gujarat police in cold blood, quashing the administration’s claims that they were shot during a police encounter. Rai collected details of phone call records of three senior police officers D G Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian, and Dinesh M N pertaining to the period of the alleged encounter and established that the victims were murdered at the behest of senior political leadership of Gujarat with tacit support of police officials from Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh10. Upon collecting these evidences, Rai promptly arrested the above three police officers who have since been jailed for the past four years. However, Rai’s prosecutorial successes at arresting the murderers who were associated closely with Gujarat’s political leadership, and bringing them to justice has incurred serious recriminations from Chief Minister Narendra Modi that included frequent transfers to insignificant posts that have nearly ended Rai’s career. Following the arrests, the administration accused Rai of insubordination of his seniors, promptly relieved him of the investigation and transferred him to a low key desk job at State Crime Records Bureau11. In 2008, he was again transferred to State Reserve Police Training School at Junagadh. Not content with the transfers and assignments to low key desk jobs, the Gujarat administration summarily downgraded Rai’s Annual Confidential Report (performance review) which negatively impacted his chances for future promotions. Rai has since proceeded on study leave and no longer active in the Indian Police Service.

R. B. Sreekumar was the Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) during the 2002 Gujarat riots that left over 2000 dead and displaced over a hundred thousand people, majority of whom were Muslim minorities. In his depositions to the Nanavati- Shah Commission inquiring into the riots, Sreekumar alleged that the government had ordered the police to be partisan during the riots. Retaliating to Sreekumar’s testimony, the Gujarat government denied him promotion to the rank of Director General of Police to which he qualified on the basis of his seniority in the police service. Sreekumar took his case to the Central Administrative Tribunal which ruled in his favor and directed his reinstatement even after his retirement, an order that was upheld by the Gujarat High Court12.

Himanshu Bhatt was the Superintendent of Police at Banaskantha during the Gujarat riots in 2002. He was among the few honest police officers who resisted the government’s pressure to resist action against the rioters and suspended a police sub- inspector when he caught him brandishing a sword and assisting the rioters. Bhatt’s actions were met with recrimination by the government and he was transferred to the intelligence branch, which is generally considered a punishment posting for young officers. Bhatt took a study leave to pursue a course at Harvard University but upon his return Bhatt was denied any posting. He has since left the police service and the suspended sub-inspector has since been reinstated and allowed to resume duty at the same jurisdiction where was a caught rioting 13,14.

Satish Chandra Verma was the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Border Range) at Kutch-Bhuj districts during the Gujarat riots. He issued arrest order for BJP MLA Shankar Chaudhary for involvement in the riots and killing of two Muslims. Verma was subsequently transferred to State Reserve Police Training Center at Junagadh and never received an executive or field posting after the arrest. In similar act of recrimination, the Bharuch Superintendent of Police M D Antani, who refused to carry out official orders to go easy on the rioters and instead stopped the mob of rioters, was promptly transferred out to Narmada district. He is now assigned a low key desk job as a passport officer in Ahmedabad15.

K. K. Shahina is a reporter with Tehelka, a New Delhi based newsweekly. On December 4th, 2010, she wrote an investigative article for the weekly alleging that the Karnataka State Police fabricated testimony from witnesses to justify the arrest of suspect Abdul Nasar Madani a popular Islamic cleric and political leader from Kerala16. According to the article, Madani has already spent 10 years in jail without trial and repeatedly denied bail even as police witnesses have repudiated their testimonies and alleged that they were tortured by the police to give false statements against Madani. Since the publication of her article, the Karnataka police have tried to discredit her reporting and charged her with two counts of criminal intimidation of witnesses in connection with the people she interviewed for her article. She faces up to seven years in prison on these two charges, and the police have now added a third charge under the “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)”, a counter-terrorism law, with vague definition of terrorism and heavy penalties that leave it open to abuse such as allowing courts to detain suspects without bail17,18.

End Notes

1 Gujarat Police Officer Sanjiv Bhatt.s affidavit http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/gujarat- police-officer-sanjiv-bhatt-s-affidavit-100775
2 India: Justice, the victim – Gujarat state fails to protect women from violence http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/001/2005/en/14c18905-d53a-11dd- 8a23-d58a49c0d652/asa200012005en.html
3 Timeline of Gulberg Society massacre case http://www.hindustantimes.com/India- news/Gujarat/Timeline-of-Gulberg-Society-massacre-case/Article1-744672.aspx
4 IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt suspended by Guj govt http://ibnlive.in.com/news/ips-officer- sanjeev-bhatt-suspended-by-guj-govt/174085-3.html
5 Suspended Gujarat IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt arrested http://ibnlive.in.com/news/suspended-gujarat-ips-officer-bhatt-detained/189027-3.html
6 Incidents of Post-Godhra violence – Bhavnagar http://www.sabrang.com/tribunal/volI/incbhavnagar.html
7 Guj riots: Top cop Rahul Sharma chargesheeted for misconduct http://www.indianexpress.com/news/guj-riots-top-cop-rahul-sharma-chargesheeted-for- misconduct/831527/0
8 Gujarat govt targets another IPS officer http://ibnlive.in.com/news/gujarat-govt-targets- another-ips-officer/175473-3.html
9 Gujarat Cops in Modi.s line of fire http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/gujarat-in-modi- government-line-of-fire/1/147826.html
10 Narendra Modi govt on its knees before Rajnish Rai http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-10/ahmedabad/30138946_1_fake- encounter-rajnish-rai-rajkumar-pandian
11 Downgrading of Gujarat IPS officer’s ACR quashed http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article1718622.ece
12 Gujarat Cops in Modi.s line of fire http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/gujarat-in-modi- government-line-of-fire/1/147826.html
13 Modi.s revenge on Good Cops http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2011/05/3968
14 Here.s the smoking gun. So how come the SIT is looking the other way? http://www.tehelka.com/story_main48.asp?filename=Ne120211coverstory.asp
15 Modi.s revenge on Good Cops http://www.hardnewsmedia.com/2011/05/3968
16 Why is this man still in prison? http://www.tehelka.com/story_main48.asp?filename=Ne041210Why_is_this.asp
17 Police in India must drop charges against Tehelka reporter http://www.newswatch.in/violation/police-in-india-must-drop-charges-against-tehelka- reporter.html
18 Scribes Allege Framing of Reporter by Karnataka Police http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=703582