It has been more than a decade, but the ugly chapter in Gujarat’s modern history, which killed many of its people, continues to haunt memories. The post-Godhra communal violence of 2002 has been mentioned by retired IAS officer of Gujarat-cadre Javid Chowdhury in his autobiography titled The insider’s view – Memoirs of a Public Servant, published in 2012.
In 2002, the 1965-batch IAS officer was posted as secretary in Union ministry of health and family welfare in the then NDA government headed by BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The 18th chapter of the book ‘Discharge of Rajdharma? 2002’ recounts how the Narendra Modi government browbeat prime minister Vajpayee’s offer of medical aid for the victims and summarily maintained that the situation was ‘normal’ in state, despite the PM’s information that it was not.
Modi did not allow the then Union health minister to visit Shah Alam relief camp nor did he go there himself, despite explicit orders by the PM to do so. Chowdhury says, the then state health minister, late Ashok Bhatt, threatened to jump out of the moving car if the central minister insisted on visiting the Shah Alam camp.
He also recounts the events and incidents, which bring out in no uncertain terms, the discomfort of the NDA regime at the incidents in Gujarat, particularly Vajpayee, who is already known to have chastised Modi for not following his ‘Rajdharma’.
Over and above highlighting the sequence of events that betray the Modi government’s partisan attitude towards minority community’s victims of violence, Chowdhury lets out a heartfelt lament at the failure of civil servants in the state to discharge their duties towards the Constitution of the country and its people.
On Sunday, former DGP of Gujarat RB Sreekumar wrote a letter to the Nanavati-Mehta Commission and chairman of Special Investigation Team RK Raghavan, highlighting specifics from Chowdhury’s book, which he claims corroborates the many facts cited by him in his nine affidavits and other documents submitted before the Commission.
“The narration (in Chowdhury’s book) would also authenticate the unethical strategy of the state government to suppress facts about the then precarious situation in the state, in order to make the central government and citizens to believe what the state government wanted them to believe,” Sreekumar has said in the letter.
SIT has not considered his affidavits and submissions as evidence in the reports submitted by them, especially in the case of Gulbarg Society where Modi is one of the accused, for want of corroboration of facts.
Chowdhury also recounts a review meeting in Delhi with Vajpayee after the riots, where the PM is distinctly uncomfortable with Modi’s ‘powerpoint presentation’ giving the impression that the situation in Gujarat is normal. In fact, he writes that Vajpayee, in that meeting, categorically disagreed with Modi for shutting down riot camps so soon after the incident as also the very small amount of compensation given to the victims, and was concerned about how they would rebuild their lives.
A defiant Modi argued that extended camps heightened tension and delayed the return to normalcy. “The PM had pushed his point to the maximum. If he pushed it more, there would be an open rift,” Chowdhury has observed. Union home minister LK Advani present in the meeting “did not utter a word. He was reported to be suffering from laryngitis – no one clarified whether it was viral or diplomatic!” the book says.