Gujarat Deputy Inspector-General of Police Sanjiv Bhatt, who is claimed to have spilled the beans on Chief Minister Narendra Modi's alleged controversial orders to the police on the eve of the 2002 communal riots, appeared before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) here on Monday.
Mr. Bhatt was summoned on the directive of the Supreme Court, which asked the SIT to ‘re-check' his earlier statement in view of the “contradictory” reports filed by it on the Gujarat riots inquiry. SIT sources said Mr. Bhatt was questioned for over six hours and recording of his statement could continue on Tuesday. If necessary, he would be summoned again later.
The 1988-IPS batch officer, who was posted as Deputy Commissioner in the State Intelligence Bureau during the riots, was questioned on the Gulberg Society massacre following the court directive to the SIT to look into the possibility of further investigating some riot-related cases, particularly the complaint of Zakia Jaffrey, wife of the former Congress member of Parliament, Ehsan Jaffrey, who was among the victims in the Gulberg Society massacre.
Mr. Bhatt is currently posted as principal of the State Reserve Police Training Centre in Junagadh.
Mr. Bhatt is believed to be the only second police officer in the State to have made revelations about an alleged “high-level meeting on law and order” convened by the Chief Minister, soon after the February 27, 2002 Godhra train carnage, to discuss arrangements for the next day's Gujarat bandh. The bandh was called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and supported by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. At the meeting, Mr. Modi, it was alleged, had asked the police officers to “allow” Hindus “to vent their anger” against Muslims for some time before action was taken to curb the riots.
Earlier, the retired Additional Director-General of Police, R. B. Sreekumar, told the G. T. Nanavati-Akshay Mehta Judicial Inquiry Commission about Mr. Modi's “order” but his revelation did not carry much weight. For, he told the commission that he was personally not present at the meeting and was “informed” of it by the then DGP, K. Chakravarthi.
When summoned by the Commission, Mr. Chakravarthi, however, denied knowledge of any such order from the Chief Minister and that he had ever told Mr. Sreekumar anything about the meeting.
But Mr. Bhatt reportedly told SIT officials, during his previous appearance in February 2010, that he was “present” at the meeting held at the official residence of Mr. Modi, at which the Chief Minister had told the police officers that a “balanced approach” against Hindus and Muslims “might not work this time” and that “it is necessary that the anger of the people be allowed to be vented.”
However, Mr. Bhatt insisted that his statement to this effect was “off the record” and the SIT, accordingly in its report to the court, maintained that the allegations against Mr. Modi “could not be substantiated” as none of the police officers present at the meeting was prepared to confirm any such directive from the Chief Minister. This prompted the court to ask the SIT to look into the possibility of “further investigating” Ms. Jaffrey's complaint and the riot-related massacres.