The timing could not have been worse for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Just when the decks are being cleared, or so it seems, for his elevation as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate come damaging revelations from jailed Gujarat DIG DG Vanzara that several of the fake encounters carried out by him and his men were at the behest of the Gujarat government, in particular Mr Modi and his right-hand man Amit Shah. The encounters showed the Gujarat administration in a positive light for taking on jihadi terror head on and, according to Mr Vanzara, made the success of the Gujarat development model possible. An emotional Vanzara has even gone to the extent of calling Mr Modi his god. Now as far as histrionics goes, this is vintage stuff but his confessions raise more questions than they answer.
First of all, the timing of making this letter public is suspect and clearly politically motivated to put a spoke in the works for Mr Modi. But that apart, it does prima facie suggest that the bureaucracy and police, far from carrying out their duties impartially, were no more than handmaidens of the political establishment. It is possible that pushed to the wall, Mr Vanzara is being less than judicious with the truth, but the fact remains that there were far too many fake encounters in Gujarat to be a coincidence. From Mr Vanzara’s anguish it is also clear that he and his men expected protection and patronage for carrying out the wishes of the politicians, even though these were patently illegal. While this is shocking, the use of the police and bureaucracy or attempts to coerce them into doing things which are outside the law is nothing new. Those officers who have insisted on upholding the rules and regulations have often been made to suffer. The case of SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal in Uttar Pradesh is a case in point. Powerful mafias are able to exert such influence on the political administration as to subvert the careers of honest officers. In Mr Vanzara’s case, it is clear that he was a willing pawn in the game but when he found that he and his men were being made scapegoats, he decided to turn against his mentors. Or at least this is what it seems like at the moment. His confessions also raise the worrying issue of encounters. This extra-judicial elimination of inconvenient people seems to have public sanction. So much so that encounter specialists are actually feted and considered heroes. In the past, such specialists have played both sides of the game as we have seen in the case of many of them in Mumbai. This is a dangerous trend, not to mention illegal, and must be stopped.
Mr Modi now has to do a considerable amount of firefighting to contain the damage. If even unintentionally, Mr Vanzara’s outburst can effect a change of policy towards the police and bureaucracy, he will have done a signal service.