Mr RB Sreekumar - a tireless crusader for social justice

Mr RB Sreekumar - a tireless crusader for social justice

The Indian Administative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) are considered among the crème-de-la-crème of the Indian bureaucratic arrangement. Despite all kinds of socio-political changes, people belonging to these services still have public respect and public faith towards them, though for many reasons, a kind of visible erosion is being perceived and there is a perception that the so-called Steel frame is no more of the same sterling quality it used to be.

Yet there are persons whose acts and whose deeds make one think twice before arriving at such a conclusion. The Gujarat incidents of 2002 threw up many such heroes whose tales of courage, conviction and dedication towards service have made it into the folklores. One such person is Mr RB Sreekumar, the then Additional Director General of Police, heading the Intelligence Department in Gujarat during those troubled times.

This is what Teesta Setalvad, a noted social activist, said about Mr Sreekumar during her acceptance speech of the Nani A Palkhivala Civil Liberties Award, 2006-

“But only one man has remained a stoic and principled dissenter until today, refusing to cave in even as weeks lapsed into months and months into years. This man that I dedicate today’s honour to. His only quality-- that many but his co-travellers have seen as a fault-- is that he refused to sit by and let the mass crimes planned at the highest level go unchallenged. He suffered for these acts by being denied due promotion to the post of Director General of Police, Gujarat, the highest post in his field that as a policeman and thrice Presidential Award winner for bravery, he would and should aspire to. Mr RB Sreekumar, Additional Director General of Police, the state of Gujarat, I salute you.”

While it is true that the person whose speech has been produced here has earned lots of controversies in her enthralling and eventful journey, having earned an equal number of admirers and detractors but when she praises Mr Sreekumar in no uncertain words doesn’t it fill the hearts of all the fellow IPS officers with pride? If this is not true valour and heroism, what else is?

Mr Sreekumar later compiled his experiences in a book named "The Diary of a Helpless Man" where he termed the State government as "cruelly communal" and its officers "sophisticated sycophants" but everyone knows that there is not much bravery and valour in writing books after retirement because the fear of persecution is much diluted. But what makes Mr Sreekumar stand out in the crowd is the fact that he refused to toe the line expected of him even during the service where he had to undergo through a Departmental enquiry and finally got his promotion only through the intervention of the Court. This 1971-cadre officer and a person holding Post-graduate degrees in three subjects got superceded in the aftermath of his depositions before the Nanavati panel.

An Article in 'The Hindu' dated Sunday, 4 March 2007 titled- "Sreekumar retires from service, but not his battles" portrays the turmoil he had to go through- "He, however, scored a victory of sorts with the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) ruling in his favour against the Government's "refusal" to grant him promotion. But the CAT order came only a few hours before 1971-batch IPS officer ended his innings in the State police cadre on February 28. Also, the order could not be implemented as a related case is still pending in the Supreme Court. His pension will not be cleared until the court order is received.” As per the report in Hindu, he was denied promotion on the ground that a charge sheet against him, related to the period he was Superintendent of Police (SP) in Kutch way back in 1987, was pending in court. The high court later found the order illegal and reinstated him as Director General of Police (DGP) on May 3, 2008, with retrospective effect from February 23, 2005. He now lives in Gandhinagar and is working actively for justice to the victims of Gujarat genocide.

Our due regards to this brave officer of the Indian Police Service.

Amitabh Thakur

(The author is a senior police officer serving as Superintendent of Police (Intelligence), and can be contacted on mobile phone: 94155-34526)