Pressure is mounting on the government to release the findings of the N.N. Vohra Committee on the nexus between criminals and politicians, nearly 23 years after the report named some key politicians who were working for the organised crime syndicate led by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. The report was submitted to the then Congress led Union government, but is still under the wraps and according to senior officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), no moves were made to make the findings of the report public.
According to Intelligence Bureau (IB) sources, the Committee, in its report, had named several leaders, based mostly in Gujarat and Maharashtra, who were working closely with Dawood Ibrahim. The list included a former minister from Maharashtra, a Congress leader and a clutch of state leaders that included a Chief Minister, a state president of a prominent political party and state ministers.
The Narinder Nath Vohra Committee, led by former Home Secretary N.N. Vohra, who is presently the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, was constituted in July 1993 soon after the March 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts “to take stock of all available information about the activities of the crime syndicates/mafia organisations which had developed links with, and were being protected by Government functionaries and political personalities.” The findings of the Committee were submitted to the government in October 1993. However, it was not until August 1995, when the Central government, facing the heat in the Naina Sahni murder case, agreed to table the report before Parliament. However, the government, under political compulsion, refused to share the major findings of the report and later went to the Supreme Court and took a stay order from making the findings of the report public.
Fewer than 12 pages were made public of the 100-plus-page report, which was submitted on 5 October 1993. The Committee, which interacted with senior officials from Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), CBI, IB and officials from the Revenue Department, had noted in the report that “criminal elements have developed an extensive network of contacts with bureaucrats, government functionaries at lower levels, politicians, media personalities, strategically located persons in the non-Governmental sector and members of the judiciary; some of these criminal syndicates have international links, sometimes with foreign intelligence agencies.”
Officials said that the documents submitted by the RAW and the IB to the Committee at that time had clearly shown the nexus between Dawood and Indian politicians. The documents showed how close to Rs 70 crore were paid to a Maharashtra politician by a Dawood supported hawala operator in the 12-year period between 1980 and 1992. The last tranche of this huge amount, Rs 5 crore, was transferred to the politician in May 1991 just before the Maharashtra elections. The documents also revealed that the same minister transferred Rs 70 crore between 1990 and 1991 to a foreign bank by using the same hawala operator. The said hawala operator was later arrested for his alleged role in the Mumbai case and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
However, despite intense media pressure, the then Union government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao refused to reveal the names of the political leaders and media personalities who were named in the report. In fact, the government was successfully able to bring a stay order from the Supreme Court in 1997 against the release of the report, thus countering a petition filed by Rajya Sabha member Dinesh Trivedi in 1995.
A senior MHA official said that the N.N. Vohra Committee was a “forgotten file” and he had not heard of any kind of inquiry coming from anyone about it. “The ramifications of the names being made public are huge, no party can do it. Some of the people (politicians) who worked with Dawood and his associates and were named in the report, continued to work for him for many years and some of these people still interact with him. The report will open a Pandora’s Box. Twenty three years have already passed and in some time, the memories of the existence of any such report will be gone forever from the public mind,” he said.
Former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, who had filed a petition seeking directions to make the findings of the report public, stated that he was not aware as to why the report was not made public. “I am convinced that from the days of the Vohra Committee report till today, the situation has worsened. Criminalisation of politics has now been institutionalised. Whatever the Vohra Committee said, it is palpable now. Criminals go scot-free and nothing happens. This country has gone to the rich and the musclemen and the mafias. There is no rule of law, somewhere down the line it is ‘you scratch my back, I scratch your back’,” he said.
The petition filed by Trivedi later led to the birth of the MHA . According to Trivedi, he expected the present government led by Narendra Modi to make the report public. “The whole system itself is involved and they don’t want to allow the Committee findings to become public. Criminalisation is rampant, cutting across political spectrum and that is why the CBI is used and misused by successive governments for blackmailing. We protect the criminals rather than punish them. Unfortunately it is evident across political lines and the political system will never be interested in exposing themselves. I, however, expect that the present government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will put the report in the public domain. He has nothing to lose in exposing these (pro-Dawood) politicians,” Trivedi said.
Former CBI director Joginder Singh, who headed the agency from July 1996 to June 1997, stated that the findings of the Vohra Committee should have been made public long back. “Many politicians would be in jail, which is why they don’t want to make it public. There are criminals in many governments; there were criminals in the Cabinet of P.V. Narasimha Rao,” he said.