The former Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah, had asked the senior IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, “not to reveal the truth” before the Supreme Court – appointed Special Investigating Team probing into some of the massacres during the 2002 communal riots in the State, according to Mr. Bhatt.
Mr. Bhatt, who created a flutter by submitting an affidavit before the Supreme Court attributing some anti-minority statements to the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, told the G. T. Nanavati – Akshay Mehta judicial inquiry commission here on Monday that on being summoned by the SIT in November, 2009, for questioning, he was “approached” by Mr. Shah who tried to influence him not to tell the truth to the investigating agency.
Mr. Bhatt refused to disclose the details of his deposition before the SIT stating that it was for the commission to secure the copies of his deposition from the SIT's records, but said Mr. Shah did try to influence him to hide the true facts from the agency.
His apparent reference was to the details about what transpired at the meeting convened by Mr. Modi on the night of February 27, 2002, in which the Chief Minister had reportedly “directed” the top police officers to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger” and said that the Muslims “required to be taught a lesson” in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage the same day.
The State government apparently was worried that the truth about the alleged official complicity in the riots would come out if he revealed the truth before the SIT. Mr. Bhatt, however, denied that Mr. Shah had in any way issued “threats” against revealing the “truth” before the SIT.
Mr. Shah has since been arrested by the police in connection with the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case and was currently on conditional bail but, under orders of the Supreme Court, was required to stay out of Gujarat till his bail application was finally disposed of.
The cross-examination of Mr. Bhatt was resumed by the commission which remained incomplete last week for want of some evidence. On Monday, Mr. Bhatt was cross-examined by B. M. Mangokia, the advocate for the Islamic Relief committee, which was also a party to the commission's proceedings, and the State government pleader. S. B. Vakil.
Asked who he held responsible for the alleged “police inaction” during the riots as mentioned in his affidavit before the apex court, Mr. Bhatt said his reference to the “high ranking State functionaries” in the affidavit included both the officers of the State government and the elected representatives of the people who also included the Chief Minister.
Replying to another question, Mr. Bhatt said Mr. Modi himself tried to “undermine” the riot-related affidavit filed before the Supreme Court by the Ahmedabad–based noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, known to be a strong critic of Mr. Modi. In a bid to coerce her into withdrawing the affidavit, the Chief Minister through a small time local dancer had filed a police complaint of “human trafficking” against Ms. Sarabhai, a case which was later found to be baseless and closed by the police after investigation, Mr. Bhatt claimed.
Mr. Bhatt who during the earlier cross-examination had claimed that Mr. Modi did not issue any specific instructions to quell the riots even after he was passed on the detailed intelligence information on the evening of February 28, 2002, about the mob violence in Gulberg Society, in which the former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jafri was among the 69 people massacred, said Mr. Modi had convened about 10 meetings between February 27 and March 3, 2002, and he himself was present at most of the meetings. He said the then Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Jhadafia, attended only “a few” of these meetings but “certainly was not present” in the first three crucial meetings held on February 27 and 28. But, he said, he was not aware if Mr. Jhadafia had “complained” to the Chief Minister that the police was “not listening” to him though he was holding the Home portfolio.
Mr. Bhatt said he was aware that the former Congress Chief Ministers, Amarsinh Chaudhary and Shankarsinh Waghela, had threatened to launch an indefinite fast from March 1, 2002, in front of the Chief Minister's residence in protest against the alleged police inaction to protect the minorities. He said he was present at the Chief Minister's residence when the two Congress leaders had arrived there and had passed on the information to Mr. Modi. According to him, Mr. Modi personally walked down to the front gate and took Mr. Chaudhary aside and advised him against launching any fast considering the “charged atmosphere.”
He said since he was also responsible for the Chief Minister's security, he was alongside him when he spoke to Mr. Chaudhary. He claimed that Mr. Modi told the former Chief Minister that “what is happening to the Muslims now, can happen to you and me also,” hinting that the Hindus were too charged up to tolerate any pro-minority sympathetic protest. He also told Mr. Chaudhary that the government was taking “necessary steps” to quell the riots and advised the Congress leaders to desist from indefinite fast.
Mr. Vakil during his cross-examinations questioned Mr. Bhatt on a memorandum issued by the Home department in 1990 on his handling a riotous mob in Jam-Jodhpur when he was the assistant superintendent of police of Jamnagar district. Asked by the commission chairman, Justice Nanavati the relevance of the 1990 memo, Mr. Vakil said he wanted to “demolish Mr. Bhatt as a credible witness” and that the IPS officer could go to “any extent for his personal benefits” which drove him to file the affidavit against Mr. Modi.
Mr. Bhatt, however, pointed out that all the three charges of misuse of TADA, police atrocity and wrongful imposition of indefinite curfew were subsequently dropped and the State government itself had refused sanction to pursue any case against him and had filed a review application when the judicial first class magistrate, Jam-Khambhaliya, committed the matter to the Jamnagar sessions court. He said the case was still pending but he was not aware if the State government had changed its stand now and allowed filling a FIR against him in connection with the case.