It cannot be presumed to be truthful, says BJP

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's alleged role in the riots that pockmarked the State in 2002 has once again become the focus of reaction and counter-reaction by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. This follows the filing of an affidavit in the Supreme Court by police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, stating that the Chief Minister, at a meeting on February 27, 2002, gave instructions to officers to allow Hindus to vent their anger and teach Muslims a lesson after the burning of several coaches of the Sabarmati Express in which more than 50 persons died.

The BJP was quick to say the affidavit cannot be presumed to be truthful, but the Congress suggested the affidavit had only focussed on what was “not a dark secret that the Gujarat government was involved in the massacre that took place.”

Cautious reaction

BJP spokespersons Ravi Shankar Prasad and Nirmala Sitharaman were cautious, suggesting that the matter was before the highest court of the country and one should await judicial pronouncements. Ms. Sitharaman did comment on the references in the affidavit to the Special Investigation Team having overlooked and ignored Mr. Bhatt's testimony before it. She said one should not forget that the SIT was set up by the Supreme Court and its functioning was monitored by it. “It is important that established institutions are not undermined. We have full faith in the Supreme Court,” she added.

It was Mr. Jaitley, addressing a press conference in Kolkata, who was more forthright in his defence of Mr. Modi. He was reported to have said that the judiciary was already looking into the riot cases and it was for the “judicial mechanism to look into it.” He did add that simply because an affidavit was filed by a police officer “there is no presumption that it is truthful.”

“It's no dark secret”

The Congress was quick to say “the affidavit had “brought out the truth.” Party spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “It is no dark secret that the Gujarat government was involved in the massacre that took place. If even after nine years those responsible for the massacre and those who allowed it to happen are not brought to justice, then it raises questions about the efficacy of the prosecution and conviction process.”

Mr. Tewari added that many of these issues were in the public domain since 2002 — that “what happened in Gujarat was a State-sponsored, well-orchestrated pogrom aimed at the minority community.” He said he expected the Supreme Court to take cognizance of the affidavit and “all those who over the years have been celebrating the Gujarat Chief Minister's virtues should ponder over this.”

Commenting on the affidavit, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said, “This is a serious matter. It should be taken cognizance of for an FIR and an investigation.”