Zakia Jaffry, widow of the former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffry killed in the 2002 riots, has made a serious allegation that there was plenty of evidence to suggest there was a State-sponsored conspiracy to expand the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident across Gujarat, but a Special Investigation Team (SIT) tasked with looking at this completely ignored the facts before it.
Ms. Jaffry’s counsel Mihir Desai on Thursday tore apart the SIT’s report that gave Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a clean chit in the 2002 riots and pointed out that there was a conspiracy from day one — February 27, 2002 — to spread the outrage over the Godhra incident across the length and breadth of Gujarat. He questioned, before a metropolitan court here, why the SIT appointed by the Supreme Court glossed over damning evidence.
Citing the SIT report, he stated when Mr. Modi was asked about the Gujarat bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on February 28, 2002, the day after the Godhra train attack, Mr. Modi replied he came to know about it at 9 p.m. When told that his own party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, had supported the bandh, Mr. Modi claimed that he came to know about it from the newspapers on February 28, 2002. “And the SIT believes this, without questioning further,” wondered Mr. Desai.
The VHP had given the call for a Gujarat bandh on the day the Godhra train-burning occurred. The very same day, evidence suggests, a decision was taken at the highest level, in the presence of the Chief Minister, who had arrived in Godhra, to hand over the bodies of the dead to VHP general secretary Jaideep Patel and his assistant Hasmukh Patel. The bodies were brought to Ahmedabad in four trucks and one tempo van.
“The very decision to hand over the bodies of those killed in the Godhra train carnage to VHP office-bearers and then allowing them to parade them in Ahmedabad smacks of a conspiracy to spread violence across the State,” Mr. Desai argued. He condented that “all this cannot be treated as an administrative lapse, but is a deliberate action” to whip up communal passions across the State.
Zakia’s counsel cited the statement by Jaideep Patel before the SIT that he brought out the bodies from the burning train and even took them to Ahmedabad. Officials of the Gujarat Government, including the then District Magistrate Jayanti Ravi, are on record that the VHP leader took the bodies out and to Ahmedabad.
Mr. Desai wondered how private persons could be handed over charge of matters which were completely in the domain of the police and the government.
Mr. Desai pointed out that this proved that the VHP cadres had already been mobilised on Day One, including for removing and transporting the bodies from Godhra, while this should have been the job of the police and the administration. Citing evidence after evidence that the SIT already had to prove that the State Government “actually wanted” a post-Godhra backlash, he argued that the investigation agency deliberately ignored them like a “greenhorn school student.”
During the arguments on Wednesday, he said that instead of functioning like a dispassionate investigating agency, the SIT had gone on to negate that the former MOS Revenue Haren Pandya and former DCP-Intelligence Sanjiv Bhatt were not present at the meeting that took place at Mr. Modi’s residence on the night of February 27, 2002, where the latter allegedly asked his officials to allow a Hindu backlash to the Godhra incident.
Mr. Desai argued that this meeting, called a law and order review meeting, went on for almost two hours but the SIT that gave a clean chit to Mr. Modi, instead of putting the “variegated evidence in its final report has shown its bias when all it has done is tried to state that inflammatory, criminal and unconstitutional words were not spoken by Narendra Modi who was also the chief minister that day.”
He expressed surprise that various officials gave contradictory versions the presence of Mr. Bhatt at the controversial February 27, 2002 meeting, but pointed out that it proved that such a meeting did take place. Mr. Desai wondered why, after having established that this meet did take place, no officer from the Intelligence department was called here.