New Delhi: Lt. General Zameer Uddin Shah (retd) reiterated on Saturday that the Army was delayed transport for over a day despite a request made to the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi during the 2002 Gujarat riots. He was speaking at the launch of ‘The Sarkari Mussalman’, unveiled by former VIce President Hamid Ansari.
Shah said he has written the ‘Gospel truth’, adding that the sequence of events has been recorded in the “war diaries” of the Army.
“When the time comes, these diaries will be provided. What I have reported is the Gospel truth,” he said.
The memoir is published by Konark Publishers and was unveiled at the India International Centre (IIC) by former Vice President Hamid Ansari.
The book has courted much controversy over its portions relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots. Shah, who led the Army in quelling the riots, has said in his memoir that after about 3,000 troops landed at the Ahmedabad airfield by 7 am on March 1, they had to wait for over a day to receive transport and other logistical support from the state government in order to fan out to the cities and towns which were engulfed in violence.
This delay, according to him, happened despite a request by the Lt. General to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi at 2 a.m. on March 1 in Ahmedabad, in the presence of Union Defence Minister George Fernandes.
The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigative Team (SIT) report, that had cleared Modi’s name, had concluded that there was no delay “in requisition and deployment of the Army”, based on testimony of Ashok Narayan, Additional Chief Secretary (Home).
“I was not aware of the SIT report until a few days ago when this was pointed out to me. Let me say again, it is a blatant lie. I have told the truth. I don’t think there’s a better qualified person than me to talk about it,” he said.
General S. Padmanabhan, the then Chief of Army Staff, speaking to IANS earlier, had backed the assertions of Shah. Shah says he “could not be surer” about the events leading to the deployment of Army in Gujarat as he had mentioned every detail in the After Action Report on Operation Aman.
The SIT never called the Lt General for questioning. It looks apparent from its report that the SIT did not look at Shah’s After Action Report submitted to Gen Padmanabhan, which was subsequently forwarded to the central government.
According to Shah, the Army put an end to the mayhem during the 2002 Gujarat riots within 48 hours (March 4) by “resolute, firm and fair action”, but he holds the “bias” and “politicisation” of the police responsible for the uncontrolled violence.
Although Shah does not make any political statements and calls the delay in the deployment of the Army “an administrative failure”, Ansari, during his brief address at the book launch, asked “where does the responsibility lie if the civil administration failed to respond?”
Ansari praised the book and pointed out portions that appealed to him personally. The evening also witnessed a brief reading about the life of wives of men in service.
The SIT was headed by former CBI Director R.K. Raghavan (present Ambassador to Cyprus). When contacted by IANS on the phone, Raghavan said he is “not prepared to talk”.
Questions sent to him and his attache at the Indian High Commission in Nicosia seeking his views on whether the Army or it’s After Action Report was considered before reaching to the conclusion that there was “no delay in requisition and deployment of the Army” have not been answered.
A panel comprising former Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad; actor Naseeruddin Shah; Jamia Hansard Vice Chancellor, Syed Ehtesham Hasnain; senior journalist Seema Mustafa, Satish Jacob and Vinod Dua later participated in a panel discussion on the book.