Gujarat riots: Not scared, I am ready, says Sreekumar
A few hours before his detention by Gujarat police, whistleblower police officer R.B. Sreekumar had vowed to continue his fight regardless of “more personal losses”.
The former IPS officer made the assertion during an interview given to the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi on June 25, a day after the Supreme Court delivered the judgment in the Gulberg massacre case, and published on Tuesday. A few hours after the interview was conducted, Sreekumar was detained and later arrested.
In the interview, the former intelligence chief of Gujarat made it clear that his allegiance was to the Constitution, not to any political party.
Sreekumar, the additional director-general of Gujarat police’s armed unit during the 2002 riots who was later shifted to the intelligence wing, was being interviewed by K.A. Johny for the Mathrubhumi in the context of the release of the latest edition of his book Gujarat: Behind The Curtain.
Sreekumar said he was not scared and was ready to face any consequence for taking on the powerful. “I am not scared. I am ready (for any action),” he told the daily.
“Certainly. The fight will continue even if I suffer more personal losses and face more trouble. Several colleagues had asked me why I was destroying a good career by taking on these extremely powerful people,” Sreekumar said.
Sreekumar and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad were arrested last week for allegedly conspiring to implicate top government functionaries, including then chief minister Narendra Modi. Former police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who is already in jail in a custodial death case, was also named in the FIR.
“I was made the intelligence chief soon after the Gujarat riots. It is generally assumed that an intelligence chief is usually the right-hand man and conscience-keeper of the chief minister. But my loyalty has always been to the Indian Constitution. I am following the Constitution and not the rule books of the Congress or the BJP,” Sreekumar said.
Referring to his book, Sreekumar alleged that the then Gujarat government headed by Modi had paid Rs 10 lakh to the lawyer of classical danseuse and social activist Mallika Sarabhai to derail her petition in the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into the Gujarat riots. Mallika had made the same allegation at a media conference in 2011.
“Yes, that case was undermined by buying the lawyer…. Mallika’s lawyer had presented a very weak argument before the Supreme Court. With that, the Supreme Court dismissed Mallika’s plea,” Sreekumar said.
“I have explained this in the eighth affidavit filed before the Nanavati Commission (that probed the riots). It was on April 10, 2002 (in the aftermath of the riots), the chief minister summoned me and Sanjiv Bhatt, who was the deputy commissioner in the state intelligence bureau. It was Sanjiv Bhatt who took me to the chief minister. Those days Modi and Bhatt were on good terms. The meeting was at the chief minister’s office,” Sreekumar said.
He said the police would not be able to find any evidence to implicate him. “You should understand one thing. I retired from service in 2007. But the government has not been able to find even a shred of evidence against me,” Sreekumar said.
Asked if the Congress-led UPA at the Centre had passed up an opportunity to get to the bottom of the Gujarat riots, Sreekumar said he had written to two senior ministers and the then Prime Minister seeking a detailed probe.
“I had written to A.K. Antony, who was defence minister in the first UPA government, and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. But neither of them showed any interest in probing the Gujarat riots. With no response from them, I wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Prime Minister’s Office responded by informing that it has instructed the defence ministry and the home ministry to take further action. But there was no follow-up action,” Sreekumar said.
Sreekumar predicted another term for Modi as Prime Minister since the Opposition is too fragmented. “No doubt (Modi will win in 2024). That is the strong possibility seeing the pathetic condition of the Opposition,” Sreekumar said.