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Vanzara's letter points to the danger of police taking on political agendas, eroding institutional decorum.
Gujarat IPS officer D.G. Vanzara's resignation letter has focused uncomfortable attention on Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his former minister Amit Shah. Imprisoned since 2007, for his alleged role in the staged encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Vanzara has accused Modi and Shah of profiting from his actions and then abandoning him and other officers, who, he claims, had merely been carrying out the conscious policy of the state government. These are still mere assertions, and the case is ongoing. But Vanzara's letter may point to the disturbing phenomenon of encounter killings, even fake encounter killings, being systematised and normalised in parts of India. It is a shame and a scandal that such killings have occurred under different political regimes at different times.
This letter comes at a time when Modi is on his way to getting himself declared the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, and Shah is out on bail, managing the BJP's 2014 campaign in UP. In the 2007 assembly election campaign in Gujarat, Modi drew political mileage from the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, held to be a gang leader and an extortionist. Vanzara has said that if he and his officers could be arrested for allegedly fake encounters, so should the government that was "inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters".
One of the more disturbing aspects of Vanzara's letter is the extent to which he apparently sees the police and government as twined together, in a relationship of "mutual protection and reciprocal assistance". He casts himself and his officers as "loyal soldiers" of the government of the day, fighting an incessant war on "Pakistan-inspired terrorism". He feels let down by Modi, whom he "adored like a god". When senior police officers lose sight of their institutional mandate, and become missionaries of a "cause", if they internalise a political impulse to the extent of subverting rule of law, the state government has something to answer for. Gujarat may not be the only site of such distortions. And certainly, Modi cannot be put in the dock for Vanzara's uncorroborated allegations. But as a contender for prime ministership, he should feel obliged to confront the controversies surrounding his administration, and clear the air.
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