September 4, 2013


[Mr. Modi has not been charged in the Vanzara case, but he has long been suspected of having played a role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat, in which nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. In previous trials, witnesses have testified that Mr. Modi discouraged the police from intervening.]

By Hari Kumar
Picture courtesy: The Times of India
NEW DELHI A high-ranking Indian police officer awaiting trial on suspicion of staging extrajudicial killings and passing them off as shootings committed during major terrorism arrests accused political leaders in the state of Gujarat on Tuesday of approving the executions.
The officer, D. G. Vanzara, said that two leaders of India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party — Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister, and a lieutenant, Amit Shah — had sanctioned the shootings, then allowed him and 32 other police officers to take the blame.
Mr. Vanzara’s accusation could prove damaging to Mr. Modi, the de facto prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party, which hopes to win a majority in the 2014 parliamentary elections.
In a letter announcing his resignation from the Gujarat police force, Mr. Vanzara described his bitter disappointment with Mr. Modi, “whom I used to adore like a god.”
“But I am sorry to state that my god could not rise to the occasion under the evil influence of Shri Amitbhai Shah, who usurped his eyes and ears and has been successfully misguiding him” for 12 years, he wrote.
Mr. Vanzara and nearly three dozen other officials are accused of killing Muslim suspects from 2002 to 2007, then telling the public that the victims were important terrorists killed in “encounters” trying to elude arrest.
Mr. Vanzara said the police officers were carrying out the Gujarat government’s “proactive policy of zero tolerance for terrorism” during a period when Islamic militants threatened Gujarat.
He did not directly acknowledge staging encounters, but said that if the charges were true, “we, being field officers, have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions.”
Mr. Modi has not been charged in the Vanzara case, but he has long been suspected of having played a role in the 2002 riots in Gujarat, in which nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. In previous trials, witnesses have testified that Mr. Modi discouraged the police from intervening.
Many of the victims’ families have successful pushed for trials, with some cases reaching the Supreme Court of India.
Jay Narayan Vyas, a spokesman for the government of Gujarat, played down the importance of Mr. Vanzara’s letter, saying it “has no value.”
“He is a defendant; he is not a victim,” Mr. Vyas said in comments to NDTV, an independent news channel, referring to Mr. Vanzara.
The letter came as good news for officials from the governing Congress Party, who are preparing for a tough electoral challenge from Mr. Modi, who presents himself as a pro-business, pro-development candidate.
“It further strengthens our view on Narendra Modi and what we have said in the past,” said Ajay Maken, a Congress Party general secretary. “The kind of misuse of police that has taken place during Mr. Modi’s regime is unfortunate.”
Ellen Barry contributed reporting.


Russian President says evidence must be submitted to UN Security Council before the use of force can be considered

By Steve Anderson Author and Adam Withnall
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia could agree to back military action in Syria if the UN received proof that Bashar al-Assad's regime had used chemical weapons against its citizens.

Mr Putin said that he “doesn't exclude” the possibility of backing force, but at this stage does not even accept that a chemical weapons attack took place.

And as one of Syria’s key allies on the ongoing international debate around the conflict, the Russian president warned the US that to act without the approval of the UN Security Council would be a display of “aggression”.

Speaking in an interview with the Associated Press, he said: “If there are data that the chemical weapons have been used, and used specifically by the regular army, this evidence should be submitted to the UN Security Council.

“And it ought to be convincing,” he added. “It shouldn't be based on some rumours and information obtained by special services through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations and things like that.”

Asked what kind of evidence on chemical weapons use would convince Russia, Mr Putin said “it should be a deep and specific probe containing evidence that would be obvious and prove beyond doubt who did it and what means were used.”

Though comments about not ruling out action will be seen as a reconciliatory move ahead of the G20 summit, Mr Putin added that he thought even the idea the Assad regime could have used sarin nerve agents or other chemical weapons was “ludicrous”.

He said: “From our viewpoint, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces, the regular armed forces, which are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that in these conditions they would start using forbidden chemical weapons while realizing quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force.”

In spite of this hint towards continued backing of the Syrian government forces, Russia has now frozen further missile defence system shipments to the country in crisis, Mr Putin said.

He admitted Russia has previously provided the Assad regime with some components of the S-300 air defence system, but said: “The whole delivery is not finalised; we have suspended it for now.”

In a veiled threat, he hinted at completing the delivery if “international norms” were broken by an attack on Syria without UN backing. Western governments fear the S-300 system could be used to shoot down their planes.

Mr Putin said it was “too early” to talk about what Russia would do if the US attacked Syria.
Nonetheless, the overall tone of his comments paves the way for one on one talks with US President Barack Obama this week.

Planned discussion between the pair were derailed after Russia granted asylum to US fugitive Edward Snowden, but Mr Putin told reporters: “I'm sure that even if we hold a meeting... on the sidelines of the summit, it will be useful in itself. In any case, we have many issues that we have been working on and we are interested in settling them.”

The interview with the Russian president comes as in the US Congress builds up to a vote on whether or not to authorise military action with or without UN Security Council sanction.

In Britain, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron gave Downing Street's reaction to Mr Putin's comments.

He said: “If members of the international community are willing to play their full part in shouldering their responsibilities, that would be welcome. We continue to engage with all G8 and G20 partners.”

Asked if Mr Cameron believes the Russian president's remarks indicate a greater willingness to contemplate approving action against Mr Assad by the UN Security Council, the spokesman said: “From the reports I have seen today, we clearly remain in very, very different places around the responsibility for the chemical weapon attacks.

“We are in very different places, but we will continue to engage with all our partners. We have been working with international partners, including Russia, for some time.”