SIT report on Gujarat riots a blatant lie, reiterates ex-army officer
Retired Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah reiterated yesterday that authorities delayed making transport arrangements to the army by over a day despite a request made to then chief minister Narendra Modi during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Shah was speaking at the launch of his book The Sarkari Mussalman, unveiled by former vice president Hamid Ansari.
The former officer said he has written the ‘gospel truth’, adding that the sequence of events has been recorded in the “war diaries” of the army.
“When the time comes, these diaries will be provided. What I have reported is the gospel truth,” he said.
The book has courted much controversy over its portions relating to the riots. Shah, who led the army in quelling the riots, has said in his memoir that after about 3,000 troops landed at the Ahmedabad airfield by 7am on March 1, they had to wait for over a day to receive transport and other logistical support from the state government in order to fan out to cities and towns which were engulfed in violence.
This delay, according to him, happened despite a request by the Lt General to Modi at 2am on March 1 in Ahmedabad, in the presence of then defence minister George Fernandes.
A Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigative Team (SIT) report, that had cleared Modi’s name, had concluded that there was no delay “in requisition and deployment of the army”, based on testimony of Ashok Narayan, additional chief secretary (Home).
“I was not aware of the SIT report until a few days ago when this was pointed out to me. Let me say again, it is a blatant lie. I have told the truth. I don’t think if there’s a better qualified person than me to talk about it,” he said.
General S Padmanabhan, the then chief of Army Staff, speaking to IANS earlier, had backed the assertions of Shah. Shah says he “could not be surer” about the events leading to the deployment of army in Gujarat as he had mentioned every detail in the After Action Report on Operation Aman.
The SIT never called the Lt General for questioning. It looks apparent from its report that the SIT did not look at Shah’s After Action Report submitted to Gen Padmanabhan, which was subsequently forwarded to the central government.
According to Shah, the army put an end to the mayhem during the riots within 48 hours (March 4) by “resolute, firm and fair action”, but he holds the “bias” and “politicisation” of the police responsible for the uncontrolled violence.
Although Shah does not make any political statements and calls the delay in the deployment of the army “an administrative failure”, Ansari, during his brief address at the book launch, asked “where does the responsibility lie if the civil administration failed to respond?”
Ansari praised the book and referred to the portions that appealed to him personally. The evening also witnessed a brief reading about the life of wives of men in service.
The SIT was headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan (now ambassador to Cyprus). When contacted by IANS on phone, Raghavan said he was “not prepared to talk”.
Questions sent to him and his attache at the Indian High Commission in Nicosia seeking his views on whether the army or it’s After Action Report was considered before reaching the conclusion that there was “no delay in requisition and deployment of the army” have not been answered.
A panel comprising former Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad; actor Naseeruddin Shah; Jamia Hansard Vice Chancellor Syed Ehtesham Hasnain; senior journalists Seema Mustafa, Satish Jacob and Vinod Dua later participated in a panel discussion on the book.