NEW DELHI: Lt. Gen. (R) Zameer Uddin Shah, a retired general of the Indian army, who was sent to control the Gujarat riots that occurred in February 2002, has said that the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi (now the Prime Minister of India), was responsible for the Gujarat riots. Many hundreds of Muslims are said to have been killed in the riots.
The burning of a train in Godhra on February 27, 2002, carrying Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, is cited to have instigated the violence.
On February 28, Lt. Gen (R) Zameer Shah was ordered by the Indian Chief of Army Staff, General Padmanabhan to take as many troops as he could and put a stop to the riots taking place in Ahmedabad.
Lt. Gen. (R) Zameer Uddin Shah says he arrived at the Ahmedabad airfield at 10 pm on the night of February 28 and waited for vehicles to take his troops into the city. He made repeated requests to the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, but none arrived.
The General has said in the interview that the Indian army lost crucial hours on the day communal violence began in Gujarat.
The text of Lt. Gen. (R) Zameer Uddin Shah’s interview, conducted by Arfa Khanum Sherwani of the Indian TV channel, The Wire in November 2018, has been carried by SouthAsia Magazine as a part of its January 2019 cover story titled ‘Modi’s Mission.’
The interview appears under the headline “While Gujarat Was Burning” on page 25 of the magazine.
Lt. Gen. (R) Shah has asserted in the interview that most of the Home Guard commanders were members of right-wing organizations and were totally complicit in the riots. He said the police did not take any action against the rioters and their actions were utterly parochial and one-sided.
He said wherever a mob of rioters appeared, the police excused themselves by saying they had work in another area and left everything to the army. According to Lt. Gen. (R) Shah, police never confronted the rioters directly and homes of the few police officers who belonged to minority communities were also burned in the Police Lines area.
Lt. Gen. (R) Zameer Uddin Shah last served as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Personnel & Systems), in the Indian Army. After retirement, he served for some time as the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. He is the brother of noted Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah.