Andalib Akhter / New Delhi
Former vice president Hamid Ansari on Saturday raised more questions as why the infamous Gujarat riots could not be nipped in the bud. “Why was Article 355 of the Constitution not invoked by the then Union government at that time even when its defence minister was on the spot” asked Ansari while releasing the book — ‘The Sarkari Mussalman’ by Lt Gen. (retd) Zameer Uddin Shah, who had led the Army Division that subdued the Gujarat riots.
The former vice president asked why the book is silent “about the role of the political leadership”, after reading out a part from the book “ The initial reaction of the civil administration was tardy; curfew had been ordered but not enforced; no attempt were made to convene peace committees and attitude of police was partisan.”
“If the civil and police administration fails to respond to a massive failure of law and order, where does the responsibility rests in a democratic and parliamentary system,” he asked.
“Why was Article 355 of the Constitution that makes it a duty of the Union to protect a state against internal disturbance not invoked even when the Centre had the benefit of Raksha Mantri on the spot?” he asked.
Article 355 pertains to ‘duty of the Union to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance’.
The reportage of Gujarat happenings in the national and international media was extensive and even the NHRC took note of it, he said.
“In an interview to a Malayalam weekly in 2005, former president K R Narayanan had revealed his remonstrations with the government and observed, and I quote (Narayanan) — ‘Military was sent but not given the power to shoot. And, there was a conspiracy involving the central and the state government behind the Gujarat riots’,” he said.
Shah book has kicked up a controversy, alleging that transport and other logistics support “arrived a day later” for the army troops that had landed in Ahmedabad after communal riots broke out in the state.
On the occasion, Lt Gen. Shah, said he had met then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and then defence minister George Fernandes at the CM’s residence at 2 AM on March 1 and sought transport and logistics support.
Shah, who led the troops to Ahmedabad in 2002 to control the riots, has narrated several incidents of administration apathy towards curbing the violence. He writes Army reached Ahmedabad on March 1, came only the following day, and the Army lost “crucial hours” before soldiers were deployed to control violence.
“But, the transport rolled in only on March 2,” he alleged, adding “hundreds of officers from my formation can speak on that, and there are war diaries of the battalion”.
The former vice president also said there were “no military solutions to insurgency” as normalcy can be restored only by winning the hearts and minds of people.
Shah’s memoir also speaks about his time in the Northeast and his time as the vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.