K. Chakravarthi, Director-General of Police during the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, on Saturday, refuted the statement of IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt that he (Bhatt) was present at the February 27, 2002 meeting held at the residence of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, Mr. Bhatt swore that he was present at the meeting, where the Chief Minister asked that Hindus be allowed to vent their anger against Muslims.
This is the second time Mr. Chakravarthi has contradicted Mr. Bhatt. In his depositions before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team too the former DGP had disputed Mr. Bhatt's presence at the February 27 meeting.
However, in a statement to The Hindu on Friday, Tara Chand Yadav, the police driver who escorted Mr. Bhatt to the meeting, confirmed that the police officer went to Mr. Modi's house to attend the meeting, and indeed that he himself had stayed on until the meeting ended. He said he drove Mr. Bhatt to the police headquarters, where he (Mr. Bhatt) got into DGP Chakravarthi's car, signalling Mr. Yadav to follow in his car. Mr. Yadav followed the DGP's car to Mr. Modi's residence and waited for Mr. Bhatt to emerge from his meeting. Also present in the second car with Mr. Yadav was K.D. Panth, an Assistant Intelligence Officer with the State Intelligence Bureau. (On Saturday, the police driver reiterated the sequence of events to a news channel).
In his affidavit, Mr. Bhatt said he had named Mr. Panth as a witness who could corroborate his presence at the meeting. However, he added that Mr. Panth was threatened and coerced by the SIT into not giving a statement.
On February 12, 2011, Tehelka magazine which scooped the SIT's report, quoted SIT chief R.K. Ragahavan as saying: “The inquiry clearly established that such a meeting was in fact held at the Chief Minister's residence.”
SIT inquiry officer A.K. Malhotra, confirmed the presence of eight men at the meeting: Chief Minister Modi, Acting Chief Secretary Swarna Kanta Verma, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ashok Narayan, DGP K. Chakravarthi, Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police P.C. Pande, Secretary (Home) K. Nityanandam, Principal Secretary to CM P.K. Mishra and Secretary to CM Anil Mukim.
Quoting from Mr. Modi's testimony to Mr. Malhotra, Tehelka said: “Asked about who was present [at the February 27 meeting], Modi named the seven officers, apart from himself…However without further prompting from the inquiry officer, he [Mr. Modi] went on to assert ‘Sanjiv Bhatt, the then DC [int] did not attend as this was a high-level meeting.”
Asked about Mr. Bhatt's presence at the meeting, two of the seven officers, Mr. Verma and Mr. Narayan, pleaded loss of memory. Mr. Mishra, did not refute Mr. Bhatt's presence but said he could not recollect if he was there. Out of the remaining four, only DGP Chakravarthi categorically denied Mr. Bhatt's presence.
Mr. Malhotra, who also checked with each of the seven officers if Mr. Modi had given a call to let Hindus vent their anger, described their testimonies as unreliable because two officers, Mr. Verma and Mr. Narayan, pleaded loss of memory. Mr. Mukim, whose presence was confirmed by the SIT, testified that he was not present. Three officers, Mr. Pande, Mr. Mishra and Mr. Narayan, had been rewarded with lucrative post-retirement assignments by the Modi government. Mr. Nityanandam continued to serve in the Gujarat government. Mr. Mishra was posted as Chairman of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission. Mr. Pande became Chairman of the Gujarat State Police Housing Corporation while Mr. Narayan was appointed State Vigilance Commissioner.