Lt Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah said there was a day’s delay in deploying the Army in Gujarat in 2002. Zafar Sareshwala asks why he kept mum so far.
New Delhi: Days after retired Army officer and academician Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah said there was a delay in deploying the Army during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Zafar Sareshwala, a prominent Muslim businessman from Gujarat believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has questioned his 16-year silence.
“If you knew something so damning and so malicious, why did you keep silent for 17 years (sic)?” Sareshwala asked. “And why are you speaking about it now – just six months before the election?”
In a recent Walk the Talk interview with ThePrint’s editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, Shah said the Modi-led Gujarat government at the time had delayed the deployment of the Army by one day, which caused an extra day of rioting.
Shah, whose recent book The Sarkari Mussalman has stirred up a controversy over sections relating to the riots, was leading the Army in quelling the riots in the state.
“This is exactly what a ‘Sarkari Mussalman’ does — when in position of power, he remains quiet just to establish his secular credentials,” said Sareshwala, clarifying that he had the “highest respect” for Shah as an Army officer and academician.
“I have met him on three occasions myself, and Gujarat would invariably come up in our discussion. But he never ever uttered a word about the delay.”
Lost opportunities to speak up
In the aftermath of the riots, three commissions were set up to probe the carnage — the U.C. Banerjee Commission, the Nanawati-Mehta Commission, and the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Sareshwala, a former vice-chancellor of Hyderabad’s Maulana Azad National Urdu University, said Shah could’ve spoken up on any of these three occasions.
“Why did he not say anything when these reports were being made? What is the point of speaking now?” he asked. “He can’t say ‘I was not called by these commissions’… If a horrible crime is committed and you are witness to it, will you wait for the court to call you or will you go and depose as a witness yourself?”
Sareshwala added that in 2015, he himself had set up a meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Shah — who was then vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University — to discuss the issue of the university’s minority character.
“At that time, he met the PM and praised him immensely. Even then he didn’t bring this up. So why now, at a time when he has written a book?” Sareshwala asked.
‘Gujarat’s Muslims have moved on’
Sareshwala said as a victim of the riots himself, he didn’t “want this issue to be raked up now…If you said it when it would have made a difference, I would have appreciated it, but not now”.
He also asked why Shah has never come forward to help the Muslims of Gujarat by mentoring young Muslims to join the Army, or set up schools or coaching centres.
“If you rake up 2002 in 2018, it will only cause damage to the Gujarati Muslim, who has moved on now.”