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Lessons from the Gujarat Carnage

Army’s Robustness in Aid of Civil Authority

When the army is called in aid of civil authority, robust action taken by the army in a timely manner can prevent civil disturbance from exacting a strategic cost. The recent revelations on army inaction in the critical first 24 hours during the Gujarat carnage in 2002 are examined.

The release of the memoir, The Sarkari Mussalman: The Life and Travails of a Soldier Educationist (2018), written by Lieutenant General Zameer Uddin Shah (retired) was with a degree of publicity not usually associated with autobiographies of military men. Shah’s life story was slightly different from most military men, since it culminated with him heading a leading academic institution, Aligarh Muslim University. But, his significant contribution is drawing national attention to his revelations in The Sarkari Mussalman in the chapter, “Operation Parakram and Operation Aman” (Shah 2018: 114–33), on the Gujarat carnage in 2002.

Shah was commanding the Bison division that was earmarked to respond to the call for aid to civil authority made by the Gujarat administration. The Godhra incident on 27 February 2002, in which a railway coach carrying Hindu kar sevaks (volunteers)—returning from the purnahuti yajna organised by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) at Ayodhya (Hindu 2001)—was burnt and the bodies of the victims were taken to Ahmedabad and handed over to the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, led to an explosive situation. The orders for the handing over of these bodies repor­tedly originated in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government under Narendra Modi (Hindu 2012).

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Updated On : 26th Nov, 2018

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