Indian Civil Services – Role and Strategy of Muslims


Muslim officers must prioritise the nation’s needs over personal gain or fleeting interests. The nation places great expectations upon them, and it’s essential not to disappoint.

Mohammad Alamullah | Clarion India

THE emotional resonance in the Indian Muslim community may stem from a complex interplay of historical injustices endured since independence, alongside persisting socio-economic challenges. Whether attributed to the scars of past atrocities or the struggle against contemporary adversities, this emotional depth invites nuanced discourse and reflection.

It’s often observed that Indian Muslims, upon glimpsing even a flicker of hope, eagerly invest their hopes and efforts, embodying a dedication to national prosperity that garners widespread admiration. Their achievements become the subject of widespread discussion, celebrated as emblematic of the nation’s potential and unity. However, a poignant dilemma arises when those for whom the nation has expressed pride and happiness find themselves at a crossroads. When the call of duty beckons them to stand alongside the oppressed and the marginalised, or to champion truth and justice, a painful reality unfolds. The lofty expectations associated with their community are sometimes shattered, as they are perceived to falter or even betray their principles, akin to historical figures like Mir Jafar. Some among them are not averse to exploiting their people, prioritising personal gain over national integrity. This discordance between aspiration and action underscores the complexity of their position within the national narrative.

Numerous instances exemplify this phenomenon, particularly in light of the recent civil services exam results. Within Muslim circles, there’s an ongoing dialogue regarding the achievements and active participation of Muslim youth in these exams. Hence, it’s pertinent to frame our discussion against this backdrop.

R.B. Sreekumar, a retired IPS officer from the Gujarat cadre, penned a compelling narrative titled ‘Gujarat Behind the Curtain’ in 2016. He unveiled the intricate web of government, police, administration, and even the judiciary surrounding the harrowing events of the 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots, delving into the layers that lie beyond. As one reads through the lines of this poignant account, penned by a seasoned IPS officer, it’s impossible not to be moved by its gravity and integrity.

Sreekumar emerges not only as a relentless advocate for truth and justice during the tumultuous times of the riots but also as a solitary figure confronting the modern-day Pharaohs in the aftermath. His depiction of the attitudes and predicaments faced by Muslim bureaucrats following the Gujarat riots is particularly poignant, evoking a visceral response that transcends mere words. Through his narrative, Sreekumar compels us to confront the harsh realities with eyes unclouded, leaving an indelible mark on our collective conscience.

According to the account in the book, seven IAS and eight IPS officers from the Muslim community opted for the path of least resistance and compliance. They refrained from providing substantive evidence to investigators and failed to aid those assisting riot victims. Shockingly, some of these officials advised victims to overlook the injustices done to their honor, lives, and properties, instead urging them to embrace Narendra Modi’s development agenda. Their actions led many complainants and genuine witnesses of grave crimes to compromise with wrongdoers, ultimately resulting in the closure of numerous cases or the acquittal of the accused due to insufficient and unreliable evidence. (Refer to page 147 for further elaboration.)

Likewise, the author dedicates a significant chapter titled “Assisting and Cooperating in Collective Crime: Bureaucracy and Compliant Law Enforcement Officers.” Here he unveils the accounts of approximately 21 officers who, under governmental pressure, actively obliterated evidence and openly aligned themselves with the administration. In this context, Srinivasan specifically addresses the case of a Muslim IPS officer, A.I. Syed (1978), who played a pivotal role in orchestrating support and garnering popularity for Narendra Modi among the Muslim populace. Syed’s efforts were rewarded with a promotion to the position of Additional Director General of Police (ADGP). Following his retirement, he transitioned into the political arena by joining the BJP. (Refer to page 158 for further elaboration.)

The author further elucidates in the book that senior officers, entrusted with upholding the rule of law, often exhibit a cautious reluctance to take action against government-backed perpetrators, instead opting to passively witness incidents such as riots, fake encounters, and corruption. A disturbing pattern emerges, exemplified by a series of unchecked fake encounters perpetrated by a group of police officers in Gujarat from 2002 to 2007, which escaped detection by the regular police surveillance system until judicial intervention in 2007. Shockingly, the perpetrators remained unapprehended.

This trend sheds light on the behaviour of Sikh officers who bore witness to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Muslim officers and officials following the 2002 Gujarat massacres. Despite being privy to the planning and execution of these riots, the Muslim officers chose not to testify against the responsible high-ranking political, administrative, and police officials. In contrast, three senior IPS officers in Gujarat —ADGP PRB Sreekumar, SP Rahul Sharma, and Sanjeev Bhatt — demonstrated exemplary courage by holding the state government accountable for the riots without fear of reprisal. They presented compelling evidence, including detailed data and testimonies implicating relatives and several officers. However, the six Muslim IAS and IPS officers, akin to their Sikh counterparts in Delhi, maintained a stoic silence.

It’s essential to emphasise that discussing these issues doesn’t entail promoting racism or unfairly supporting any particular party or community. Rather, it raises critical questions about the role of public servants in safeguarding the interests of the general populace, underscoring the heightened responsibility incumbent upon them. (Refer to pages 18-19 for comprehensive insights.)

The primary aim of this discourse is to instill a sense of duty and responsibility in all civil servants, reminding them of their obligation to the nation at large. It’s also a plea directed specifically to Muslim officers, urging them to prioritise the nation’s needs over personal gain or fleeting interests. The nation places great expectations upon them, and it’s essential not to disappoint. As educated individuals holding esteemed positions, their accountability is even greater. Rather than distancing themselves from national concerns, they should strive to maintain a meaningful connection.

Moreover, it would be beneficial to advise them to study the lives of exemplary figures from recent history, such as Syed Hamid, Syed Shahabuddin, and Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood among the living. These individuals serve as inspirations, embodying the values of service, integrity, and dedication to the nation.

There’s also a pressing need to appeal to national leaders and organisations to systematically identify and engage with such individuals, informing them about the nation’s challenges and officially endorsing their involvement in national development initiatives. Building strong connections with these individuals is paramount for collective progress.

Furthermore, while there’s a growing interest among Muslims in pursuing civil services, attention must also be directed towards other fields. Guidance and support, especially in areas like law, are crucial. National organisations should prioritise this, mirroring the approach taken in establishing numerous coaching centres for civil services preparation. Similarly, efforts should be made to connect talented youth with opportunities in science and other social and civic fields, ensuring a holistic approach to national development.

To access this article in Urdu, click Read in Urdu. The author holds a PhD and is affiliated with the Dr KR Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

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