The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Saturday questioned the former Gujarat general-secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Nalin Bhatt, in connection with the 2002 communal riots in the State.
Emerging after a three-hour session with SIT, Mr. Bhatt declined to give details as “it was improper to disclose the details of the questioning that was held behind closed doors.” However, he had come prepared to “tell the SIT only the truth” about his knowledge of the riots and “I have done so.”
SIT's summons to Mr. Bhatt attracted much media attention because like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, he too was summoned in connection with the Supreme Court petition filed by Zakia Jaffrey, wife of the former Congress MP, Ehsan Jaffrey, who was burnt alive during the Gulberg Society massacre.
Mr. Bhatt figured along with 62 others Ms. Jaffrey named in the petition as accused of rioting, beside Mr. Modi. And like the Chief Minister, this is the first time that Mr. Bhatt has been summoned by any investigating agency in the connection with the riots.
Mr. Bhatt's answers could assume political significance. Mr. Bhatt, party general secretary at the time of the riots, was among the early visitors to the Godhra train carnage site on February 27, 2002, and had, since then become a bitter critic of the Chief Minister. Mr. Bhatt's criticism of Mr. Modi's alleged “high-handed style of functioning” led to his suspension from the party.