In a biography released this week, former IPS officer K.P.S. Gill talks about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the 2002 riots.
riots were at a peak in Gujarat; police was not able to control (the situation) and there were reports in the media that "The CM was ineffective for the challenge, or he simply lacked the will to stop this violence, or to say worse, he is himself, along with other BJP and VHP leaders, organising all these riots."
Seeing the sensitive situation and the negative publicity it was generating for the BJP, L.K. Advani, the then Deputy Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister, was busy finding ways to end that mayhem. The situation was confusing since it was not becoming clear what the root cause of the problem was. Was it Modi himself or the ineffective administration of Gujarat! Anyway, the first priority of Advani was to end this violence at any cost...
It struck Mr Advani that there was a man who was no more in active service but who was never away from the service of the nation who could be trusted to bring peace in Gujarat at that time. That was KPS Gill. So the only solution which seemed plausible to the Union Government was the appointment of former DGP Punjab KPS Gill as incharge of Police in Gujarat. But Gill was retired. Advani then came to the conclusion that Gill should be requested to become Security Advisor to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi...
Dr Chandan Mitra met Mr Gill and broached the subject. On understanding the proposal, Mr Gill expressed his willingness to undertake the assignment but had one reservation. He said, "Chandan, you know I cannot be an armchair theorist, what will I do, if I am not given any freedom to control the affairs? What if my advice is not implemented? As a result Muslims will continue to get killed and then, I will also be held responsible for the killing of innocent people despite not having any power to stop it?" Mr Modi through Dr Mitra assured Mr Gill that he would not interfere in his work and would provide him all possible support to end the riots.
When news spread that Gill would be joining as Advisor to CM Gujarat, his former boss and former Punjab Police chief, J.F. Ribeiro, in his praise, said, "Gill can solve the Gujarat problem in a week but he will have to arrest VHP members and Muslim criminals. If Modi allows that, he will be signing his own death warrant."
In the first one to one meeting between Mr Gill and Mr Modi, what Mr Modi told Mr Gill, expressed the sincerity which he had towards the whole episode which was going on in Gujarat at that time.
Mr Modi said, "Gill Sahib, we have been talking to each other through Mr Mitra or Mr Advani but I want to request you now in person that I am not finding any solution to this violence, I am not getting a fit police response which could end the riots, I sought more force from the neighbouring States which happen to be Congress-ruled States, but they refused. Media, opposition parties and activists have launched a false anti-Modi campaign that I am behind all these riots, which is not true. My first principle as a devout Hindu and as a politician is 'Sarve Janah Sukhino Bhavanthu (May all the people in the world be happy and peaceful).' I believe in this prayer and I start my day as a politician with it. I have lot of faith in you, the country is indebted to you for saving Punjab from going out of the Union. Without cops like you there can be no democracies, there can be no political leaders and there can be no kings. I will personally be thankful to you for my life if you can help ending this mayhem at the earliest. The onus now is on you to fail me or make me successful as a democratic leader."
Mr Gill says, "After meeting Mr Modi, I was moved by his sincerity. I found him to be fair and sincere in terms of his intention to end the riots. He seemed worried and sad because his police had failed him in ending this violence; he wanted me to take whatever steps I deemed fit to end this violence and assured me whole-hearted support."
To make a proper assessment of the situation, Mr Gill started touring all those places which had witnessed communal riots. He listened in detail to the victims of violence, the constables, the officers and the locals to assess where the problem or the weakness lay. After a detailed assessment of the challenge which lasted for one week, Gill says, "I found the police force unequal to the challenge; majority of the policemen themselves had become communal in their duty as they were enraged with the killings of so many kar sewaks (fellow Hindus) at the hands of Muslims in Godhra. Similar was the condition of the civil administration. Since Mr Modi had become the CM only a few months back, the administration and the police force were not in his proper grip and it takes time to develop such a grip when you are at such a top position. I found that in the previous two months Mr Modi had made all efforts to stop riots, he had called in the army with swiftness, he sought forces from the neighbouring States and the Centre.
Narendra Modi with Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the early 2000s.
"I realised that people of all political parties who were anti-Modi and anti-BJP were taking advantage of this mayhem and making all efforts to defame Modi one way or the other.
"The so called dharam-nirpeksh (secular) parties were taking advantage of the fact that Mr Modi follows the principles of Hindutva. They were portraying Hindutva as something anti non-Hindu religions. My understanding was that Mr Modi's practising of principles of Hindutva in no way meant that he would allow killing people of other religions.
"An American journalist asked me, What do you mean by Mr Modi's Hindutva?'
"I said, 'In Christianity you have a Christian way of life, where some standard norms have been laid out for Christians; similarly in Hinduism there is a Hindu way of life where norms have been laid out for Hindus; but neither the former nor the latter means anything against any religion.'
"Today Gujarat is one of the best administered States not only for Hindus but for all religions and all castes. The credit for this goes to only and only Mr Modi."
Mr Gill's assessment was that the problem which needed an immediate solution was to cut this communal bug from the minds of the policemen and those who could not be freed of this bug should not be allowed to sit in sensitive posts...
The first step Gill took within three days of joining there was transferring all those officers who failed to prevent the riots in their areas. Mr Gill interacted with all those officers and based on his assessment of their competency and intentions he got them transferred from sensitive posts. Those officers expected to be fair in their working were given sensitive posts.
Mr Gill says, "Mr Modi provided me full freedom to transfer those officers whom I considered ineffective in terms of preventing violence as per their record of the past few days. The kind of free hand Mr Modi gave me to apply my strategies was given to me in Punjab by Sh. Beant Singh and through the pages of this book I want to make it clear to one and all that Modi was never communal in his conduct during this whole mayhem. He only conducted himself as an able administrator, whether it was during my tenure as Security Advisor or before it...
"My observation is that when things like riots, terrorism, natural calamities, etc. happen then sometimes the administration or the Government gets stupefied by it. In those circumstances the administration is not able to find an appropriate solution to the problem which leads to inordinate delays.
"This delay is sometimes used by the opposition parties to tarnish the image of the Government. Media also plays a negative role by being judgemental and describing those false statements by the opposition leaders or other people who are anti-Government, as facts. The allegations may be proved false later on but this false propaganda created through media initially, goes a long way in developing wrong perceptions about that Government or the leader and this happened with Mr Modi in 2002. Moreover, the stupefaction was compounded by the fact that Mr Modi was new to Chief Ministership.
"What I feel is, the media should not only behave as a critic of the Government all the times, they ought to sometimes understand the crisis situation for the Government and act as a supporting arm to it, which unfortunately media failed to do in 2002 vis-à-vis the Gujarat riots. From my first-hand experience of the Gujarat situation I can say with conviction that the Gujarat riots were not the failure of Mr Narendra Modi; instead it was the failure of the Gujarat Police as well as the intentions of the Chief Ministers of the neighbouring States which had then denied forces to Gujarat when the riots started."
Extracted from KPS Gill: The Paramount Cop by Rahul Chandan, Maple Press, 244 pages, Rs 295, paperback.Extracts: 2nd Nov 2013 Sunday Gaurdian