Dangerous liaisons

Oct 15 2013, 16:25 IST
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SummaryThe problematic relationship between politicians and the police is one aspect of the dysfunction that assails Gujarat Police

The problematic relationship between politicians and the police is one aspect of the dysfunction that assails Gujarat Police

Last month, D.G. Vanzara, former Gujarat “super cop” who had been arrested in 2007, sent a letter of resignation in which he said: “To the best of my knowledge, nowhere in any part of the country, such

a big number of police officers were/ are arrested and continuously being kept in the jails for such a long period of time, except in the state of Gujarat.”

Vanzara may be right, given the large number of Gujarati policemen in jail — 32, according to the letter. The behaviour of the state police has been problematic for years. In 1985, they participated in the caste-turned-communal riots. At that time, members of the BJP became their victims. But on April 22, 1985, a policeman was killed in Khadia, the constituency of BJP MLA Ashok Bhatt, who was accused of having been part of the violence. In reaction to this, policemen attacked and burned the Gujarat Samachar office — the newspaper had been accused of portraying the police action without objectivity.

When the BJP came to power in 1998, the party was keen to improve the law and order situation and reform the police. That was part of the mandate given by voters. But the situation only seems to have deteriorated. Human rights organisations allege that in 2002, the police sent a message to Muslims that the force had no orders to save the community. Police officer Sanjeev Bhatt has been under constant attack after testifying that the chief minister had instructed the police to let the Hindus react to what had happened in Godhra. Rahul Sharma, then SP in Bhavnagar district, said he was transferred to an innocuous post after having protected a mosque from a mob. Vivek Shrivastava, then SP of Kutch district, met with the same fate for having arrested a BJP leader on charges of attacking a Muslim family. So did Himanshu Bhatt, SP in Banaskantha district at the time, allegedly because he took action against one of his sub-inspectors, who had participated in the violence.

Vanzara and his men are in jail for their alleged involvement in fake encounters that took place immediately after the 2002 riots. Between 2002 and 2006, 21 people, mostly Muslims, were victims of these alleged encounters. Among these, the cases of Sadiq Jamal Mehtar (2003), Ishrat Jahan (2004) and Sohrabuddin

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