God that failed

The resignation of suspended Gujarat DIG of Police DG Vanzara,  accused along with a number of other officers in cases of fake encounter killings in the state,  and his charge that the state government has failed to protect them can be seen from different angles.

Vanzara and other officials have been in jail for over five years and the CBI investigation is continuing. His charge has been dismissed by the BJP as an expression of frustration after long years in jail.  His charges against the political leadership, especially against the then minister of state for home Amit Shah, who is himself facing charges, have no legal value as evidence. It can also be rightly asked why officials accused of serious wrongdoing should be protected by the government whose duty is to enforce the law and ensure that those who violate it are punished.

But Vanzara’s charges assume a different meaning in the light of his claim that the jailed officers were implementing a policy of zero tolerance for terrorism adopted at the highest levels of government. This would show that the political leadership, including chief minister Narendra Modi, was not only aware of the officers’ actions but had a more active responsibility for them. Vanzara makes this clear when he says the actions had the explicit sanction and encouragement of the government which, in order to hide its culpability and save its skin, is making scapegoats of its officers. His strongest criticism is directed against Amit Shah and he even has a good word about Modi.  But Modi was holding the home portfolio when the encounters took place and Shah was and still is his right hand man. Therefore Vanzara’s charges would  implicate Modi too. Modi had shown that he is not above ditching his supporters when the state government decided to seek death sentence for a former minister Maya Kodnani,  who was convicted in a 2002 riots case, though this decision was withdrawn later.

The claims and complaints of an accused have only limited value. But given the available information about the series of extra-judicial killings in Gujarat during 2002-2007 and the state government’s record of handling the cases related to them, the charges will strengthen public perceptions about the involvement  of the political leadership in them. A recent charge, made in a sting operation, of an attempted cover-up by some BJP leaders of one of the encounter killings, will further strengthen those perceptions.

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