To his colleagues, he is a Hindu scholar, a champion of spirituality “who used Hindu scriptures against the misuse of Hindu scriptures” by the Sangh Parivar. He sometimes identifies as an Ambedkarite and sometimes as a Gandhian
There are several answers to the question who RB Sreekumar is – he is a policeman who fought against the system he was supposed to obey under the terms of service; a human rights defender who fought a long battle for the victims of the Gujarat riots; and, a police officer who was promoted to the position of DGP of a state after his retirement.
For former colleagues, he was a Hindu scholar, a champion of spirituality “who used Hindu scriptures against the misuse of Hindu scriptures” by the Sangh Parivar. He sometimes identified himself as an Ambedkarite. He had once written to the Chief Minister of Kerala to incorporate the scholarly works of Ambedkar into the school curriculum. In the letter written to the Chief Minister of Kerala on September 12, 2017, he demanded the inclusion of ‘The Annihilation of Caste’ as a textbook.
Sometimes he identified himself as a “Gandhian” and wrote articles like “Practicing the Seven Sins Assailed by Mahatma Gandhi and the Fate of India”. He also spoke out against patriarchy that is rooted in “regressive customs glorified by holy books” that hold women back. In July 2017, he wrote to the Prime Minister to say “Thirukural‘, the Tamil classic, as the ‘National Book of India’.
Also watch: RB Sreekumar’s exclusive interview at The Federal in 2012
Clearly, Sreekumar is a man of many shades. In Kerala, where he was born and raised, he is also remembered for “wrong reasons”. He was allegedly involved in the incidents that led to the arrest of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the spy case. On the one hand, he is loved by all those who defend the ideals of secularism and human rights, on the other, some are skeptical of him for the role he would have played in the sad famous ISRO spy case.
Career in Gujarat
Sreekumar, an IPS officer from 1971, spent his entire career from 1972 to 2007 (until his retirement) as part of Gujarat. Although he was educated in Kerala, he was little known in his own state until he rose to fame by refusing to toe the line set by the then Gujarat government. He was reportedly instructed by the then BJP government in Gujarat not to testify against the government before the Nanavati-Shah Commission investigating the 2002 carnage. He not only testified against the government but also submitted a report to the Elections Commission citing that 154 of the state’s 182 precincts were affected by riots. This went against the government’s report that the law and order situation was under control and peace was maintained. Sreekumar’s report torpedoed the BJP’s snap election plan in the state.
Since then, Sreekumar has stuck to his view that the then Gujarat government let the riots happen by remaining silent. He alleged that the Chief Minister called a meeting of senior officers on February 27, 2002 to “let the Hindus vent their anger”. Although the Nanavati Commission gave Modi a hand of its own, Sreekumar, teaming up with Teesta Setalvad, continued to help riot victims fight for justice.
Inviting the displeasure of political bosses makes life difficult for any public servant. This was the case with Sreekumar. As he refused to follow the instructions of the government, the government of Gujarat sent him a letter on September 24, 2004, claiming that his promotion to the position of ADGP was wrong. As reported by Tehelka magazine, the letter blamed Sreekumar for failing to report the facts regarding a pending indictment against him while he was in central deputation. Despite this openly clear displeasure expressed by the Gujarat government at the time, Sreekumar submitted his second affidavit before the Nanavati Commission (October 6, 2004) and testified against the government regarding the alleged conspiracy in the riot. This move put an end to his career.
In February 2005, the government of Gujarat issued an order promoting three police officers to senior level, including one person who was junior in Sreekumar’s service. On the day of his retirement in 2007, the Central Administrative Court (CAT) ruled that he should be promoted to DGP. This order was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008.
The ISRO spy case
Regarding the 1994 ISRO spy case, Sreekumar was the Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau when Nambi Narayanan and others were arrested in the case. Narayanan believes officers, including Sreekumar, played a role in his hack. Narayanan then received a knockout from the Supreme Court in 2018.
The court not only ordered Rs 50 lakh compensation for Narayanan but also formed a committee, headed by Judge DK Jain, to look into the cops’ misdeeds in detail. The report of Judge Jain’s committee has been sent to the CBI and appropriate action in this regard has been recommended. CBI then filed an FIR against 18 people, including all of the cops involved in the investigation. Sreekumar was also listed as a defendant in the case. Last year, the Kerala High Court granted his request for early bail.
When the case was pending, Sreekumar had said The Federal that it had nothing to do with Narayanan’s arrest, nor with the alleged torture that the scientist had to undergo. Sreekumar said he only interviewed Sasikumar, another scientist involved in the case, and did not even meet Narayanan.
A Scripture scholar
Many of his former colleagues and friends testify that Sreekumar is a scholar of Hindu philosophy. “He was a man who quoted Bhagavad-Gita criticize the BJP and the RSS. His knowledge was his strength,” says a former police officer who worked with Sreekumar. In a letter written to the Chief Minister of Kerala in 2017, Sreekumar demanded that people belonging to all castes be eligible to be appointed as priests in all temples. He argued that “the inherently cardinal scriptures of Hinduism (Upanishads and Brahma sutras and Bhagavad-Gita) do not validate the birth-based caste system.
In the letter written to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in 2017, a copy of which he sent to The Federal also, he wrote: “The unbalanced understanding and the distorted interpretation of Purusha Sukta of Rig Veda Hindu caste speculators had resulted only in the creation of Smritis of Manu, Yagnavalkya, Parashara and Shankar, giving sanctity to caste discrimination and gender bias and consequent victimization of the lower caste”.
Also read: Learn about Teesta Setalvad, who fought for the victims of the Gujarat riots
Even after his retirement, Sreekumar continued to live in Gandhi Nagar in Gujarat. He did not move to Kerala where the BJP does not have much influence. “I am safe here because the people around me love me. I cannot abruptly end the legal battle leaving the victims behind and move to Kerala. I prefer not to do that,” he said. said The Federal in a conversation a few months ago.