On 18 September, the appointments committee of the prime ministerial cabinet—which comprises the prime minister and the home minister, and is tasked with filling top posts at government agencies—named the Indian Police Services officer YC Modi as the next director general of the National Investigation Agency. YC Modi previously served on a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court. The SIT was charged with looking into three cases arising out of the riots in Gujarat in early 2002—the massacres at Gulburg Society, Naroda Patiya, and Naroda Gam on 28 February that year, in which over 150 people were killed. At the time the riots took place, the state was under the rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party, helmed by the chief minister, Narendra Modi.
The Supreme Court constituted the SIT in 2008, in a case arising out of a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, the wife of Ehsan Jafri—a veteran Congress politician who was among at least 59 people killed in the Gulburg Society massacre. Jafri’s petition accused 63 persons, including Modi and other senior state government officials, of being complicit in the violence, and alleged that the state machinery had remained deliberately inactive. The first of 30 allegations levelled by Jafri, the SIT noted in a later report, was that Modi convened a meeting of senior police officers and bureaucrats in the evening on 27 February 2002, and directed them to allow the mobs to “give vent to the Hindu anger on the minority muslims.”
In a report he submitted to the Supreme Court in 2011, Raju Ramachandran, the amicus curiae for the investigation, described these allegations against Modi as “the most important.” Ramachandran submitted that a prima facie case could be made out against Modi, under the offences of promoting enmity between groups, assertions prejudicial to national integration, the disobeyance of the law by a public servant, and statements conducing to public mischief.
In 2012, the SIT submitted a closure report to the apex court, stating that the allegations against Modi “are not made out.” The report noted: “the allegation about the inaction on part of the State Govt. as well as police department is … not established.”
In the report, the SIT listed the names of nine people present at the meeting at the chief minister’s residence. In addition to Modi, these included: the state’s acting chief secretary Swarna Kanta Varma; the additional chief secretary for home affairs Ashok Narayan; the director general of police K Chakravarthi; the Ahmedabad police commissioner PC Pande; the home secretary K Nityanandam; the principle secretary to the chief minister PK Mishra; the secretary to the chief minister, Anil Mukim; and the additional secretary for law and order Prakash S Shah.
In a preliminary enquiry report submitted to the court in May 2010, the SIT had noted that the attendees either claimed a “loss of memory” regarding the details of the meeting, or refuted the allegations against Modi. The preliminary report also stated that the testimony of some among the attendees “lacked credibility” because they were given “good post-retirement assignments,” and that serving public servants did not want to incur the “wrath” of politicians in power, “which affected their frank response.” (The preliminary report did not include Shah among the list of the attendees of the 27 February meeting.)
Below is a list comprising several people who were associated with the investigation of the violence: senior police officials, state bureaucrats, and government officers who were named in the SIT report, as well as the members of the investigating team. The list details the various appointments these officials have received since 2002, and after the release of the 2012 SIT report. A look at the list reveals that YC Modi is only the latest in a line of several people associated with the investigation to be given a prominent posting.
Raghavan, an IPS officer who served as the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation between 1999 and 2001, was appointed in 2008 to head the SIT. In April this year, the Supreme Court approved Raghavan’s request to resign from his post in the SIT. On 30 August 2017, the ministry of external affairs issued a press release announcing that Raghavan had been appointed the next high commissioner to Cyprus. Several media reports noted that the appointment was political—ambassadorial positions are normally reserved for members of the Indian Foreign Services.
A senior IPS officer, Venkatesham served on the SIT until April this year, when, along with Raghavan, he was granted a recusal by the Supreme Court. Venkatesham submitted to the court that he wanted to devote his time to his police duties. In August 2016, Venkatesham had been appointed the commissioner of police in Nagpur.
Johri, too, is a senior IPS officer who served on the SIT. She was in charge of the investigation into the alleged encounter killing of the gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife, Kauser Bi, in 2005. Senior police officers in Gujarat, as well as Amit Shah, who was a minister of state for home affairs in Gujarat at the time, were accused of having been involved in the crime. (Shah was discharged in December 2014.)
In 2010, the Supreme Court had transferred the case from the state police to the CBI, noting that Johri “had not been carrying out the investigation in the right manner.” Johri herself was chargesheeted by the CBI for conspiracy and destruction of evidence—though she, too, was later discharged. In April 2010, after the non-governmental organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace, led by the activist Teesta Setalvad, alleged that Johri was conducting a biased investigation, the Supreme Court directed the IPS officer to dissociate herself from the SIT’s inquiry. In April this year, Johri was appointed the director general of police in Gujarat. She is also the managing director of the Gujarat Police Housing Corporation, or GPHC.
In his comments on the SIT’s preliminary report, Raghavan had noted that Narayan, PC Pande and PK Mishra “had been accommodated in post-retirement jobs, and are therefore obliged not to speak against the Chief Minister or State government.” Indeed, Narayan was appointed as the state’s vigilance commissioner in April 2003. Though he reached the retirement age in July 2004, he continued to serve—after receiving five extensions of his term—until 2008.
When Pande was questioned regarding the meeting on 27 February 2002, he denied the allegation that Modi had asked the officers to allow Hindu mobs to continue rioting. In 2006, Pande was appointed as the DGP of Gujarat, but was removed the subsequent year on the direction of the Election Commission, ahead of the state assembly elections. After Modi swept the polls, Pande was reinstated as the DGP, in January 2008. In 2009, Pande retired as the director of the state’s anti-corruption bureau. After his retirement, he was appointed the chairperson of the GPHC—his term ended in 2012. According to news reports, after his retirement, he began working as a security officer with the Adani group.
Nityanandam, too, had denied the allegation regarding Modi’s statement at the February 2002 meeting. In 2005, he was appointed the commissioner of police of Rajkot city. Two years later, he was appointed the managing director of the GPHC.
Mishra continues to hold positions close to Modi—within a month into Modi’s appointment as prime minister, Mishra was named his additional principal secretary and has retained the post since then. In July, the magazine Bureaucracy Today, which is popular among government administrators, conducted a survey to determine who is considered the most powerful bureaucrat in the Modi regime. Over 80 percent of the 16,000 respondents picked Mishra.
The SIT’s preliminary report noted that Mukim, an Indian Administrative Services officer, was the only person among the attendees who denied that he was present at the meeting at Modi’s residence. However, the closure report noted that he attended the meeting for a short while and left, with Mishra’s permission. In 2013, Mukim was appointed the principal secretary of the Gujarat government’s finance department. In 2016, he was named a director on the board of the Gujarat State Petronet Limited—a state-owned natural gas transmission company. That year, he was also transferred to the position of the additional chief secretary (ACS) of the state’s finance department, while holding the additional charge of the ACS (Personnel) in the general administration department.
Chakravarthi was the director general of the Gujarat police when the riots broke out. The SIT’s closure report noted that RB Sreekumar, who was serving as the additional director general of the Gujarat police in 2002, submitted to the SIT that Chakravarthi had told him about the meeting convened by Modi and that the chief minister had made a statement about letting the Hindu community “vent” their anger. Sreekumar recounted this admission in his 2016 book, Gujarat: Behind the Curtain. He writes in the book that he met Chakravarthi on the afternoon of 28 February. “I found him to be quite perturbed, helpless and stress-ridden,” Sreekumar wrote. According to him, Chakravarthi “lamented that things were taking a bad shape and activists of VHP, Bajrang Dal, and BJP were leading armed crowds.” The former ADG of police writes that Chakravarthi then told him about the meeting, and said that Modi told the attendees: “In communal riots, police normally takes action against Hindus and Muslims on one-to-one proportion, this will not do now, allow Hindus to give vent to their anger.” Before the SIT, however, Chakravarthi refuted Sreekumar’s submission. The former director general of police appears to not be holding any post-retirement positions.
Arshu John is an assistant web editor at The Caravan. He was previously an advocate practicing criminal law in Delhi.