Exclusive Headlines today, Ashish Khaitan  April 16, 2013

In the past 10 years, the Gujarat government and senior BJP leaders have often said that the riots that broke out in the state in February 2012 were an ‘instantaneous reaction’ to the carnage at Godhra. The chief minister himself in an interview on March 1, 2002 had said, “What we are witnessing in Gujarat at this time is a chain of action and reaction. We want that there neither be action nor reaction.”

But now Headlines Today has uncovered the police control room messages and the state intelligence bureau reports which show that the police had received a constant stream of inputs from its field officers about VHP leaders making provocative speeches, about crowds being mobilised and warnings about the possibility of major riots breaking out. Despite the flurry of ground reports and advance warnings, no curfew was imposed in Ahmedabad till noon the next day. The BJP government supported the VHP called bandhs that, as events turned out, proved to be the pretext under which violent mobs were mobilized. VHP leaders were not warned or put under preventive detention.

But the most intriguing aspect of these messages is that while they have been produced before the court as annexures, they don’t find any mention in the 541 page closure report filed by the SIT. No attempt has been made by the SIT to reconstruct the sequence of events as they unfolded immediately after the news of Sabarmati train incident broke. The SIT did not assess the adequacy or appropriateness of the state’s response in a chronological fashion as the law and order collapsed in large parts of the state.

 Perhaps, that’s the reason that the facts that emerge from these messages are hard to reconcile with the conclusions drawn by the SIT.

There were two centralised police control rooms in Ahmedabad in 2002 – Ahmedabad Police Control Room situated at Shahibaug in the heart of the city.  Naroda and Gulberg Society, where around 150 people were burnt to death on the 28th of February lay within a radius of 6 KMs from this Police Control Room 9Gulber was 2 to 3 kms from the control room while Naroda was roughly six kilometers).

The second one — the State Police Control Room — located at Police Bhawan in Gandhinagar.

The Ahmedabad Police Control Room received messages of the build up taking place in Ahmedabad City. The State Control Room got messages from different districts in the state.

In February 2012 the SIT submitted before an Ahmedabad court, in a sealed cover, only the Ahmedabad City PCR messages… a copy of these are now with Headlines Today. The State Control Room messages are still missing.

There was also a third control room…this was at the State Intelligence Bureau Headquarters situated inside Police Bhawan, Gandhinagar…the  same building where the State DGP’s office is located. The SIB Control Room was also flooded with field intelligence reports filed by its intelligence units located across the State including Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. These SIB reports too have been submitted before the Court by the SIT. A copy of these too is now in the possession of Headlines Today.

By the afternoon of February 27, the Gujarat home department was being bombarded with messages from cops on the ground about mobilisation of VHP and Bajrang Dal cadre.

Rightwing activists across the state were holding public meetings, making provocative speeches and inciting mobs. All this is documented in hundreds of wireless messages sent by policemen to the state intelligence bureau. But the State failed to take any effective steps to prevent the imminent massacres. Within a few hours after the Godhra tragedy, the three senior-most office bearers of Gujarat’s VHP unit -Jaideep Patel, Dilep Trivedi and Kaushik Patel– issued a statement declaring a state wide bandh and containing remarks that were designed to incite the mobs.

A field level officer faxed this statement to SIB headquarters at 20:38 hours on the 27 Feb 2002.

February 27, 2002

Time: 8:38 pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message No: Page No. 188 (Annexure III, File XVIII)
VHP general secreatary Dilip Trivedi & VHP joint secretaries Jaideep Patel & Kaushik Mehta issue a statement.

VHP declares Gujarat bandh to protest killing of kar sevaks.

Statement says Muslims pre-planned Godhra attack.

Innocent ladies were molested and compartments were set on fire and Ramsevaks were burnt alive.

Through out the day on 27th February the SIB control room received messages of provocative sloganeering and mobilisation by the VHP.

February 27, 2002

Time: Not Known

State Intelligence Bureau Message No: Page No. 345, Order No. 24 (Annexure III File XIX)

Sender: D.O, Ahmedabad

Recipient: Intelligence Office, Virangam (Ahmedabad)

75 VHP & Bajrang Dal members gathered at Virangam Town Chali & Golwada area.

Situation in the area very tense.

The PCR messages warned about the tension that was spreading from the moment sabarmati express (the same train that was attacked by Muslim mobs at Godhra and later after detaching the burnt bogies made its way to Ahmedabad) arrived at Ahmedabad station.

February 27, 2002

Time: 6:10 pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message: No. 531 Page No. 19 (Annexure III, File XVIII (D-160)

Sabarmati Express arrived at Ahmedabad station from Godhra at 4:30 pm.

Karsevaks armed with rods & sticks, shouting slogans ‘khoon ka badla khoon’.

At 10:12 pm, Police Inspector of CID, Intelligence in Bhavnagar sent a fax to Inspector General, Gujarat State Intelligence Bureau in Gandhi Nagar saying that Sadhu Samaj president Gopal Nand and local VHP leaders exhorted crowds at Junagadh to retaliate. The message said that the VHP leaders delivered hate speeches and called on all Hindus to unite.

 February 27, 2002

Time: 10:12 pm

State Intelligence Bureau Fax Message: 311/02 Page No.: D-1/ HA/Jaher Sabha/Junagadh

Sender: CID, Bhavnagar

Recipient: IG, Gujarat & Intelligence Bureau, Gandhi Nagar

Sadhu Samaj president Gopal Nand gave provocative speech at Junagadh Kadva Chowk between 7:30 pm-9 pm.

Gopal Nand questioned lack of response from Hindus even 12 hours after burning of train.

Gopal Nand questioned Muslim patriotism to India and incited mobs to attack them.

By the afternoon of the 27th, the riots had begun.

February 27, 2002

Time 17:45

State Intelligence Bureau Fax Message No 273 File XIX Annexure III

Sender: B M Mohit Anand Centre

Sabarmati Express reached Anand Railway Station at 1500 hrs

Karsevaks from the train stabbed 4 Muslims present at the station.

One victim named Abdul Rashid aged 65 years, resident of Anand, died.

Remaining were hospitalised at Anand government hospital.

Reports of violent attacks by karsevaks came from across the state. A VHP mob was reported as swelling at Vadagam village in Modasa that was to become another epicentre of violence. There were desperate SOS messages seeking reinforcements. Mobs were on rampage through the night, setting ablaze houses and vehicles.

February 27, 2002

Time: 11:59 pm

State Intelligence Bureau Fax Message: Com/HM/550/ Out No. 398

Sender: ACP, Gandhinagar Region

Recipient: IG, Gujarat & Intelligence Bureau, Gandhi Nagar

50 kar sevaks on special bus from Ahmedabad reached Modasa, Vadagam village at 6:30 pm.

500-strong mob received kar sevaks.

Karsevaks told mobs about attack on Sabarmati Express.

Crowds swelled to thousands by 9:30 pm.

Police presence insufficient to maintain order.

10 shops owned by Muslims & several vehicles set ablaze by mobs.

Despite these warnings there was no clampdown by the Gujarat government on the mobilisation being carried out by the VHP leadership and neither were VHP and Bajrang Dal members taken under preventive detention.

The Speical Investigation Team in its report accepted that the Modi government supported the bandh called by the VHP.

Page 134 of SIT closure report: “Shri Vijay Badheka, Under Secretary to Home Department has stated before the SIT that both Gujarat bandh on 28.02.02 and Bharat bandh on 01.03.02 were supported by the BJP.”

The bandh allowed the VHP cadre a free run even as the SIB kept sending signals of impending riots and sought preventive action.

February 28, 2002

Time: 9am-10am

State Intelligence Bureau Message No: 73/02 Page 365 (Annexure III File XXI (D-166)

Sender: ACP (Intelligence) Surat

VHP, BJP leaders gave provocative speeches at Sardar Chowk, Vapi Town.

VHP’s Dinesh Behri, Bajrang Dal’s Acharya Brahmbatt, BJP’s Jawahar Desai & RSS member Vinod Chowdhary present Speakers exhorted crowds to take revenge for Godhra.

When the Ahmedabad police commissioner P.C. Pande and State DGP K. Chakravarty were questioned by the SIT, they were not confronted with these specific SIB reports. P.C. Pande was not asked why curfew was not imposed in Ahmedabad city on the 27th afternoon itself, particularly in the face of such specific intelligence inputs.

Pande told SIT on page 7 of his statement recorded on 24.03.2010: “The circumstances did not exist on the 27.02.02 or even on 28.02.02 to warrant the imposition of curfew and any hasty decision would have led to panic in the city. Even otherwise with limited forces available imposition of curfew becomes a serious problem and large scale breach becomes common.”

Pande and Chakravarty were also not asked why VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders were not put under preventive arrest even as they were threatening violence.

But the SIT has not explained what these specific measures were. General and vague claims made by Gujarat State Officials that all possible efforts were made to control the riots have been accepted by the SIT.

The State Intelligence Bureau repeatedly pressed the panic button, sending SOS’ to the home department about the possibility of riots. Bodies of kar sevaks in public display and funeral processions by mobs…proved to be the trigger. But records show the VHP and its cadres succeeded in stoking mass hysteria.

30 minutes past midnight on the 28th of February 2002, the state intelligence bureau received a fax giving a specific warning about possibility of riots with bodies being brought to Ahmedabad. Then VHP state unit president Jaideep Patel was already on his way escorting the 54 bodies from Godhra to Ahmedabad.

February 28, 2002

Time: 12:30 am

State Intelligence Bureau Fax No. 525

Bodies will be brought to Kalupur Railway station, Ahmedabad.

Dead bodies will be carried in funeral processions VHP gave a bandh call.

High possibility of riots in Ahmedabad. Take preventive action.

February 28, 2002.

Time: Not Known

State Intelligence Bureau report to Home Secretary and all Police Commissioner, all SPs

VHP has given a call for “Gujarat Bandh”.

Appropriate vigilance be exercised.

The motorcade carrying bodies finally reached Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad at 3:34 AM. By then there was a already a mob made up of VHP and RSS members outside Sola Hospital.

The PCR Van positioned at Sola Civil Hospital sent a message to City Police Control Room situated at Shaibaug. The distance between Hospital and Control Room was 11 kilometres.

February 28, 2002

Time: 4:00 am

Page No. 5790 (Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob of 3000 RSS members gathered at Sola Hospital.

February 28, 2002

Time: 7:14 am

PCR wireless message (Sola Hospital)

Page No. 5796 (Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob assembled at Sola Hospital.

The crowds were getting restless. Soon violence sparked off.

February 28, 2002

Time: 7:17 am

PCR wireless message (Sola Hospital)

Page No. 5797 (Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob of 500 people holding up traffic.

At 8:10 there is a message from the Control Room saying that 3 SRP Companies have been sent to Sola Hospital for extra bandobast.

 February 28, 2002

Time: 11:55 am

PCR wireless message: Page No 5894(Annexure IV, File XIV)

Mob set vehicle on fire, arson on highway.

February 28, 2002

Time: 11.55 am

PCR message

State Intelligence Bureau: Page No.6162 (Annexure IV File XV)

Riots have started at Sola Hospital & near High Court where bodies were brought.

February 28, 2002

Time: Not known

PCR message (Sola Hospital)

State Intelligence Bureau: Page No.?6172

Sola Hospital staff surrounded by 500-strong mob Please provide security at hospital urgently.

These revelations show how mobs were allowed to congregate at the hospital to take out funeral processions. Though violence had erupted, curfew was still not clamped.

Pande claimed in his statement before the SIT that he visited the Hospital at 10 am and found everything to be normal.

“I went to Sola Civil Hosptal around 10:00 and found that doctors were under pressure to complete the documentation wheras relatives were in a hurry to take the bodies. However, I didn’t find anything alarming and as such returned around 11:00 am.”

Pande also claimed there were no funeral processions, a claim accepted by the SIT. But the PCR messages show that there were not only processions but also riots at the hospital, nailing Pande’s lies.

February 28, 2002

Time: 11:58 am

PCR message (Sola Hospital)

State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 5907 & 5925(Annexure IV File XIV)

Funeral procession of 10 bodies taken out from Ramol Jantanagar to Hatkeshwar crematorium 6,000 people accompanied procession.

As funeral processions wound through the city, mobs ran amok at Gulbarg Society, Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaam in Ahmedabad.

February 28, 2002

Time: Not known

PCR message (Khedbrahma, Sabarkantha) Com/538

State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 258 (Annexure III File XIX)

Funeral procession allowed at Khedbrahma town in Sabarkantha district

Situation tense, 2 Muslims stabbed at Khedbrahma

February 28, 2002

Time: Not known

PCR message (Khedbrahma, Sabarkantha)

State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 262 (Annexure III File XIX)

150 Bajrang Dal members on way to Khedbrahma.

February 28, 2002

Time: 3:32 pm

PCR message (Khedbrahma, Sabarkantha)

State Intelligence Bureau: Page No. 254 (Annexure III file XIX) Com/574

Funeral procession organised for Godhra train victim Babubhai Patel in Sabarkantha.

Special Investigation Team in its closure report on pages 59 to 64 had concluded there were no funeral processions and gave a clean-chit to the Gujarat government on this count.

 PCR messages detailing incidence of violence in Ahmedabad clearly warned about a brewing unrest. Rioting was reported from Naroda and Meghani Nagar where Gulberg Society is located. The PCR messages of violence in Ahmedabad are contained in Annexure IV File XIV. Here are some samples of the several wireless messages sent by policemen on the ground.

Page No. 5798, 5803, 5804

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 12:30 am

PCR Message: Factory burnt at Ambikanagar on February 27

Area: Odhav

FIR No.80/02

Page No,: 5746

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 1:10 am

PCR Message: Between 2:30-3:00 pm on Feb 27, mob stoned bus, vandalized shop

Area: Bapunagar

FIR No.: 64/02

Page No.: 5768

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 2:38 am

PCR Message: Mob torched buses & rickshaws, damaged public property on Feb 27 at 5:15 pm

Area: Odhav

FIR No.:78/02

Page No.: 341, Order No. 534

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: 8:25pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Man succumbs to stab injuries on February 27 at 8:25 pm

Area: Meghani Nagar

FIR No.: 65/02

Page No.: 341, Order No. 534

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: Not Known

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Man succumbs to injuries on Feb 27 at 7:45 pm at Saralaben Hospital.

Area: Meghani Nagar

FIR No.: 65/02

Page No.: 347, Order No. 8535

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: 8:30 pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Man critically injured after attack at Ahmedabad railway station at 5 pm.

Area: Ahmedabad

FIR No: Not Known

Page No: 348, Order 541

Date: February 27, 2002

Time: 9:30pm

State Intelligence Bureau Message: Juhapura resident attacked at V.F Hospital.

Area: Ahmedabad

FIR No: 116

Page No.: 5807 & 5808

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 4:28 am

PCR Message: One critically injured near Kathwada Road, Naroda, on February 27 at 7:30 pm.

Area: Naroda

FIR No.: 97/02

Page No.: 5805 & 5806

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 4:20 am

State Intelligence Bureau Message: One critically injured near Law Garden on February 27 at 8:15 pm.

Area: Ellisbridge

FIR No: 116/02

Page No.: 5801

Date: February 28, 2002

Time: 3:50 am

State Intelligence Bureau Message: One critically injured in mob attack near Mahalaxmi Crossroad, Paldi on Feb 27 at 8:30 pm.

Area: Ellisbridge

FIR No.: 114/02

Inspite of all of this, the then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner told the SIT that he didn’t find the “circumstances on the 27th and 28th fit for curfew.”

PCR and SIB reports show that there were regular inputs of VHP and Bajrang Dal led mobs swelling at Naroda and Gulberg Society.

Pande admitted before the SIT that at both these places curfew was declared only after 12:50 pm …by then the mob had already swelled to between 10 and 15 thousand people in number. It is no wonder that the curfew that was finally imposed remained only on paper – it had no effect on the ground.

Hundred and fifty men, women and children were burnt and hacked to death at Naroda and Gulberg society in the four hours between 2 and 6 PM on February 28.

Police Headquarters at Shahibaug was only 2 to 3 kilometers from Gulberg Society and around 6 kilometers from Naroda Patiya.

Pande admitted before the SIT that through out the day he didn’t move out of his office and visited Naroda Patiya and Gulberg only late in the evening…by that time the massacre was over and done with.

SIB messages show that there were three alerts about the impending massacre at Gulberg.

Date: 28.02.02

Time: 12:15

Sender: Police Inspector CJ Bharwad To: State SIB Control Room

Muslims reside in Gulberg Society.

Mob is surrounding the place.

Strict watch should be kept there.

Date: 28.02.02

Time: 14:50

Sender: Police Inspector CJ Bharwad To: State SIB Control Room

Mob of 3000 rioters has surrounded Gulberg Society, take immediate action.

Date: 28.02.02

Time: 17:00

Sender: Police Inspector CJ Bharwad To: State SIB Control Room

Mob attacked the society from all sides Ehsan Jaffri and women and children burnt alive.

Houses are ablaze. Mob is looting from homes.

In his defence Pande said in his statement: “On 28.2.2002 requests were received from different police stations seeking additional force and SRP and whatever forces were available with me the same were dispatched. However, I found that no feedback had been received by any one of them. This led me to presumption that additional forces reached in time and they were able to control the situation.”

SIT accepted Pande’s defence and gave him and the Gujarat Administration a clean chit.

The state government told the SIT that the 2002 riots were a spontaneous reaction to the Godhra tragedy, but documentary evidence tells a different story.

Eleven years after the after the horrific incidents as Narendra Modi aspires for the prime minister’s chair, Headlines Today has tried to throw fresh light on why his ascension remains so contentious.