Will PM Manmohan Talk Tough to His President on Gujarat Massacre


By Sampathkumar Iyangar

AHMEDABAD, India, September 20: President Kalam’s blatant attempt to cover up the role of former Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee in the shameful anti-Muslim carnage unleashed by the Gujarat government in 2002 is coming unstuck.

While Kalam’s sense of gratitude to the politicians who installed him in the august office may be considered by many as commendable, the Judicial Commission consisting of Justice Nanavati and Justice Shah probing the state-sponsored genocide is not much impressed by his display of loyalty.

On September 5, the Commission dismissed the grounds on which Rashtrapati Bhavan had claimed privilege to the correspondence between Kalam’s predecessor KR Narayanan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s predecessor Vajpayee. This significant order effectively pours cold water on Kalam’s desperate attempts to shield Vajpayee from valid criticism that he failed to listen to the advice of the former President to act promptly to prevent or at least limit the madness.

Narayanan had severely indicted the Vajpayee government that was in power in New Delhi for inaction during the terror campaign unleashed by fundamentalist zealots against minorities in Gujarat in 2002. The ex-President had said in an interview published in a Malayalam magazine Manva Samskriti (Humane culture): “I gave several letters to PM Vajpayee in this regard. I met him personally and talked to him directly.

But, Vajpayee did not do anything effective. I requested him to send the Army to Gujarat and suppress the riots. The Center had the constitutional responsibility and powers to send the military if the state government asked. The military was sent, but they were not given powers to shoot. If the military had been given powers to shoot at the perpetrators of violence, recurrence of the tragedies in Gujarat could have been avoided. However, both the State and Central governments did not do so. . . . I feel there was a conspiracy involving the state and central governments behind the Gujarat riots.”

In his response to a query by the Shah-Nanavati judicial commission probing the state-sponsored terror about these remarks, the former President wrote a brief letter on April 8. In this letter, Narayanan categorically stood by the revealing statements he had made in the interview. He however could not produce the relevant papers for examination by the Commission as the Vajpayee government had succeeded in ejecting him from Rashtrapati Bhavan in order to install a pliable incumbent.

The query had emanated from an application moved before the Commission on March 9 this year by Ahmedabad-based advocate Mukul Sinha on behalf of Jan Sangarsh Manch, desiring examination of the former President after quoting excerpts from the interview.

Based on Narayanan’s response, the Commission then wrote to Rashtrapati Bhavan asking it to locate the correspondence and forward copies so that it may probe the role of the Central government in not averting the genocide.

The President is supposed to be the Supreme Commander of the armed forces but apparently all appeals of the then President got the short shrift from the government of the day. The only effect was that Narayanan lost the chance of having a repeat tenure as President! The Vajpayee government, controlled by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Samiti (RSS) that aims to reestablish Hindu Empire in South Asia, found him an impediment in implementing its well-known agenda.

It pulled a smart one by announcing APJ Abdul Kalam as the ruling party candidate when Narayanan was due for a repeat term by convention. The Congress Party, then relegated to the opposition in pro-Hindutva wave, had to necessarily go along and ditch Narayanan. That was because it was the Congress that had meticulously built a halo around Kalam. High-pitch PR campaigns had been mounted by the Congress politicians to sell Kalam to the gullible masses as “brilliant world-class scientist” to fool the electorate into believing that India will soon be a “developed country” by such science bureaucrats.

Not many people are aware that the so-called “nuclear scientist” has no record of ever enrolling himself as a research scholar in any university. Also, he had had nothing to do with India’s nuclear program until he got superannuated upon completion of a perfect bureaucrat’s career in Space Application Center

It is of note that when some top scientists of SAC and ISRO were framed in fake spying cases (Their “crime’ was to have inadvertently come upon a gigantic scandal of siphoning off public funds in importing junk cryogenic engines costing several million dollars from Russia!), Kalam never cared to lift his little finger for them in his position as Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister He apparently thought that would have embarrassed the powers that be in New Delhi and he always wanted to be on the right side of powers that be. Eventually, the space scientists underwent a hellish harassment for three years until they could earn reprieve from the Supreme Court, which exonerated them.

Kalam showed his gratitude to his sponsors by allowing himself to be paraded in the streets of Ahmedabad, flanked by the perpetrators-in-chief of the 2002 pogrom. His shameless pliability symbolically demonstrated to the minority community the level of influence wielded by RSS just before e act just before the elections. This kept Muslim voters away from the polling booths and paved the way for a landslide victory to communal elements. See Shrewd Move by Extremists to Trap President Kalam

President Kalam once again failed to display an integrity equal to his intelligence and caliber by deciding not to cooperate with the judicial commission in fixing responsibility. The President’s secretariat wrote back to the Commission plainly refusing to make the correspondence available for scrutiny. It claimed “privilege” over the correspondence on the basis of article 74(2) of the constitution. Any inquiry by any court into what advice was tendered by the council of ministers to the President is barred by this article. Kalam’s secretariat claimed the exchange between the President and the cabinet the in the course of his discharge of his functions as head of state comes under the article’s purview.

No doubt this was a clear attempt by a grateful Kalam to put a screen over the role of Vajpayee government in Gujarat Pogrom. The Genocide Probe Commission has seen through the design and rejected the arguments advanced by the President’s secretariat. It requested the President not to hide the correspondence it and to cooperate in dispensing justice.

Taking cognizance of the “high position of the President” the Commission made a “request” to the President’s secretariat instead of instead of issuing a “directive” to produce the letters written by Narayanan to Vajpayee in the month of March 2002. The commission noted in its “request” that these letters were relevant to the inquiry and that the information contained in the correspondence was not likely to adversely affect security or the interest of the State.

Will Kalam see reason and comply with the Commission’s “request” or will he continue to scuttle justice being meted out to the riot victims for shielding his sponsors? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must gather the same courage he displayed in sacking powerful goons from his cabinet for their role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and do some do some tough talking to the President.

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