The resignation letter of Deputy Inspector General of Police DG Vanzara, who is under suspension for his role in four alleged fake encounter cases, isn’t quite the smoking gun the rivals of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi think they have against him. This is because Vanzara hasn’t admitted that the four encounter cases – infamously remembered by the names of victims – Shohrabuddin, Tulsiram, Isharat Jahan, and Sadique Jamal – were fake and the dead innocent. In fact, Vanzara claims just the opposite in his letter – their killing ensured Gujarat did not become another Kashmir, infested with jihadis acting at the behest of neighbouring Pakistan.
Yet Vanzara’s letter is significant because it busts the Modi myth, a myth the Gujarat chief minister has expended tremendous energy and spent crores to create. For one, it depicts Modi as an ungrateful, cynical politician as any. Two, Vanzara discredits Modi’s style of governance. Three, the suspended police officer renders a tad bit hollow Modi’s boast that it was he alone who rooted out terrorism from Gujarat.
In the letter, Vanzara claims the Godhra incident and the 2002 riot in its wake created an atmosphere in which Pakistan wanted to fan terrorism in Gujarat. It prompted the State government to adopt “the pro-active policy of zero tolerance for terrorism.” It was this policy the Gujarat Police implemented, busting terror modules and killing those who had allegedly slipped into the State to foment violence.
Vanzara says the action of Gujarat Police “elevated” the image of the government and created the path for development in the State. He notes sarcastically, “I state with all my humility that but for the sacrifices made by me and my officers in thwarting the onslaught of initial disorder in the state, the ‘Gujarat Model of Development’ which the government is so assiduously showcasing at the national level would not have been possible.”
Instead of expressing his gratitude through assistance to police officers who had been arrested, the Modi administration is accused of abandoning them to their plight, not even “bothering to provide lip service” to Vanzara’s family. Yet, in contrast, the State government commissioned Ram Jethmalani, arguably the most expensive lawyer in the country, for representing former minister of state for Home Amit Shah, who too had been arrested for his role in the alleged fake encounter cases. Jethmalami successfully managed to secure bail for Shah in what Vanzara calls “record three months.”
The comparison between the treatment accorded to Shah and Vanzara and his colleagues projects Modi as an opportunist who callously sacrificed officers who implemented his policy. This Modi did because he had begun to project himself as an impartial, no-nonsense administrator unwilling to protect those accused of perpetrating dastardly, abominable crimes. Assistance to Vanzara could have consequently undermined his effort to create a new image for himself.
So why didn’t Modi ditch Amit Shah? We can only speculate. For one, he is crucial to Modi for realising his ambition, evident from the appointment of Shah to oversee the electorally crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. He is known for his political acumen, organising skills, and electoral tactics. Second, alienating Shah could have led him to desert Modi and disclose aspects of the administration damaging to the man wishing to become Prime Minister.
No wonder then Vanzara and other officers were abandoned, and Shah protected. Does not Modi’s policy reek of opportunism and cynicism?
Vanzara’s letter also demonstrates that Modi’s much-vaunted governance style is as hollow as any chief minister’s, for Shah was allowed to run amok with the home ministry. Vanzara accuses him of becoming a “mere custodian of the political interests of the Gujarat government”, a charge the BJP and Modi often fling against their political rivals. Such was the discord in the home ministry that officers turned against each other, and every officer suspected the other to be a spy, presumably of Shah, who, Vanzara says, deliberately adopted a policy of divide-and-rule in the police department.
Obviously, Vanzara doesn’t confess to killing people in fake encounters. However, since the CBI investigators claim that he and other officers, the police officer argues, were engaged in fake encounters, then those who formulated ant-terrorism policy should also be arrested. Vanzara explains why, “… we, being field officers, have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our action from very close quarters.”
Vanzara’s is an attempt to bust the myth of Modi being the Iron Man, who only boasts the capability of combating the menace of terrorism the country countenances. It was not he but the police officers who fought terrorism. Implicit in Vanzara’s letter is also the message: the general who claims to have vanquished terrorism in Gujarat has thrown his loyal soldiers who fought for him to the wolves.
Vanzara’s is also a veiled threat to Modi: Should the court declare the accused officers guilty of faking encounters to kill innocent people, then Modi too should be arrested and tried, for the government was “inspiring, guiding and monitoring” their action.
Perhaps nothing is more damaging to Modi’s image than Vanzara’s assertion that he and other officers played a crucial and stellar role in building the persona of the chief minister. It erodes the myth of Modi being a man innately different from his competitors. What other conclusion can you draw from these lines that Vanzara penned: “The Chief Minister of Gujarat has very rightly been talking of repaying the debt he owes Mother India. But it would not be out of context to remind him that he, in the hurry of marching towards Delhi, may kindly not forget to repay the debt he owes the jailed police officers who endowed him with the halo of a Brave Chief Minister among a galaxy of other CMs whose names do not carry the same adjective.”
Beyond busting the Modi myth, in writing and releasing his resignation letter, Vanzara has become one more name to the list of those who assisted Modi in his quest for power but subsequently found him turn viciously against them. It was LK Advani who ensured, post-2002 riots, that then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee did not sack him. Modi has now turned implacably against him. Again, VHP leader Praveen Togadia was once an admirer of Modi, but he, like many other Sangh leaders in Gujarat, doesn’t dither from shooting arrows at him now. Might not Narendra Modi take your vote next election and forget you, framing policies favouring to big business and abandoning the common man?
By Ajaz Ashraf