BJP has lost grounds in Gujarat says Rahul Sharma IPS
Rahul Sharma IPS speaks on Gujarat Politics, Fascism and his own way of fighting the communal killings backed by the government during the genocide in 2002. He was known as one of the few district police chiefs to have responded vigorously to control the violence when he was a Superintendent of Police in Bhavnagar district. Rahul Sharma opted for an early retirement after he had crossed swords with narendra modi government over the probe of Gujarat genocide. Rahul Sharma is currently practising as a lawyer in Gujarat High Court
As an officer who handled Gujarat genocide effectively, do you think that all culprits behind the crime were booked and punished?
No. I don't think so. Many of the investigations conducted were inadequate and did not take a comprehensive view of the evidence.
What were the crises you faced for taking a courageous stand in handling the cases and riot?
They did try to harass me in service by raising very frivolous issues. I was served with overall 2 charge-sheets for misconduct and about 39 Show Cause Notices. Subsequently, they served me with another charge-sheet after my retirement.
Was your voluntary retirement forced by Gujarat government's revenge acts for your stands on riot?
Not really. That is just one part of the story. Being in the service, I was finding myself stifled by service rules and regulations. I feared being rendered ineffective had I continued in service. Moving out of the service was a better option to fight the forces that I was fighting in my service. Moreover, there were also personal issues.
Does Gauri Lankesh's murder prove that rationalists, activist and journalists are considered to be disturbing by communal outfits in the country ?
I do not know if Gauri Lankesh was a victim of communal outfits. Nevertheless, communal outfits do have a problem with activists and brave and courageous journalism. Such a brand of journalism exposes the true colour of communal elements. Actually, communal elements are criminals, who justify their cowardly acts by branding nationalism in the name of (usually) religion. Exposure of such elements generates awareness in the public of the real intentions and colour of the communal elements, which is resented.
What damages do Hindu extremist outfits pose to the secular fabric of our country?
Hindu extremists are as bad as any other extremists. A country divided on grounds of religion is a country sitting on a volcano, which can erupt anytime.
What is your prediction about forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat? Do you think that BJP will retain power or some miracles will happen?
The BJP has lost substantial grounds in Gujarat, which is a community dominated by businessmen. Demonetisation and GST has hit the common businessman very hard and in the Gujarati context, this is inexcusable. There are other factors also – the likely moving away of Patidar voters being the most significant. Patidars constitute about 12% of the electorate and had for long been very loyal to the BJP. A substantial chunk of these voters is likely to move away from the BJP. The second most important voter bank is that of the dalits and after Una, the BJP will see a substantial erosion in their support in this community. The dalits constitute 7% of the votes. The third most important factor is that of the Thakor community led by Alpesh Thakor. Alpesh is weighing in his options. However, with the Patidars and Dalits openly aligned against the BJP, I do not think that Alpesh has any option other than aligning against the BJP. The only factor that may come in favour of the BJP is Narendra Modi himself. However, there has been considerable erosion of his persona following demonetisation and GST and his "silence" on various important issues, including the "grow-rich-fast" endeavour shown by Jay Amit Shah, son of Amit Shah, the BJP President.
Why did you choose law as a profession after taking voluntary retirement? Please share your experiences as a lawyer?
A lawyer gives you a lot of freedom. You don't have a boss. You are your own boss. Having served in the police for nearly 23 years, I am familiar with the Criminal Justice System in our country. That given me an advantage. To me, the legal profession is a very noble profession. You can really stand up for any kind of injustice and lend that crucial helping hand to the poor. You can pursue injustice of any kind – human rights violations, exploitation, gross irregularities in government administration, etc. The legal profession is intellectually stimulating and you can continue to work as long as you want. Job satisfaction for me is very high.
After BJP came to power, lynching and murder in the name of cow have drastically increased. Do you think that the BJP government keeps mysterious silence on the issue?
It is the duty of every government to administer the country as per law. The government is that for the whole of India or the State as the case may be. The government cannot commit itself to the thoughts of any particular religious group. Violence in the name of the cow is what I call a "soft communal politics". It causes divisions in the hearts and minds of people. Such violations have to dealt with a very strong hand. A silence on the issue will raise suspicions of the governments acquiescence in such acts, which lowers its credibility over time. The nature of crime is such that it grows in magnitude and variation. Acquiescence, overtly or covertly, is an invitation for crimes of more serious nature.
You have participated in the program 'Gauri Lankesh remembrance' held in Kochi, Kerala. Likewise, are programs organized in Gujarat against fascism?
There are such programmes organised in Gujarat also. I have attended one such programme called "#NotInMyName" in Ahmedabad.
Do you have any memories with Gauri Lankesh to share?
I'm afraid, I have not known her personally. It is a missed opportunity. I was not lucky enough.
Do you think that a secular government will come to power in centre in the next election?
I am a born optimist. I do believe that a visibly secular government will come to power at the Centre in the next general elections. I believe so because India is essentially a secular country. Aberrations apart, we have lived over centuries in peace.
How does fascism affect all areas in our life?
It disturbs your mental peace and tranquillity. Your attention is focussed on to things and issues not important for growth and development. There can be no development without a calm in peace in the mind and in the heart.
What is the need of the hour to fight fascistic forces?
The intelligentsia needs to take up the fight. It helps nobody by confining ourselves to our rooms or mere social activism. Protests by the intelligentsia will have to be the most visible if India is to resist the aberrations in our society.
how caste works in police department especially when lower caste police officers are used for fake encounters?
I have worked for long in the police force in Gujarat. And, to the best of my knowledge, officers and men involved in such "fake encounters" cannot be distinguished on the basis of caste alone. In Gujarat, even upper caste officers have been arrested and implicated in fake encounters. Any caste manifestation that may have occurred in such fake encounters is more of a coincidence than a purposive game-plan.