The Gujarat government overlooked “ghastly and violent attacks” on Muslims in the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra carnage, and Chief Minister Narendra Modi “tried to water down” the seriousness of the situation by contending that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
This and several other key findings pertaining to the role of Mr. Modi and his government in the anti-Muslim pogrom are contained in the 600-page report submitted to the Supreme Court by the R.K. Raghavan-headed Special Investigation Team. The report was scooped by Tehelka magazine in its latest issue.
The pogrom had followed the February 27, 2002 killings of Hindu pilgrims in Godhra. Mr. Modi was among those who testified before the Court-appointed SIT.
The SIT's inquiry officer noted in the report: “His [Mr. Modi's] implied justification of the killings of innocent members of the minority community read together with an absence of strong condemnation of the violence that followed Godhra suggest(s) a partisan stance at a critical juncture when the State had been badly disturbed by communal violence.”
For his part, Mr. Raghavan recorded that the State government had placed two ministers — Ashok Bhatt and IK Jadeja — in the Ahmedabad city police control room and the State police control room during the riots. The ministers had “no definite charter,” fuelling speculation that “they had been placed to interfere in police work and give wrongful decisions to the field officers.” Further, “the fact that he [Mr. Modi] was the Cabinet Minister for Home would heighten the suspicion that this decision had his blessings.”
However, Mr. Raghavan concluded that of the 32 allegations probed by the SIT, only a few could “in fact be substantiated,” adding that “the substantiated allegations did not throw up material that would justify further action under the law.”
One of the significant findings of the SIT was that the Chief Minister did hold a meeting with the State Director General of Police, the Chief Secretary and other senior officers on the night of February 27, 2002. The Chief Minister held the meeting at his residence after returning from Godhra. In her complaint to the Supreme Court, Zakia Jafri, widow of Congress leader Ahsan Jafri — who with dozens of other Muslims was hacked to death during the riots — had alleged that at this meeting, Mr. Modi asked his officers to allow Hindus to freely vent their anger against Muslims.
However, the SIT, which summoned the officers, pleaded its inability to establish whether Mr. Modi had given such instructions at the meeting. The inquiry officer gave the following reasons for not being able to do this. 1. Some of the public servants who had retired earlier, claimed loss of memory as they did not want any controversy. 2. Some others, who had recently retired and who had been provided with good post-retirement assignments, felt obliged to the State government and the Chief Minister, and therefore their testimony lacked credibility. 3. The serving public servants, who had been empanelled for higher posts, did not want to come into conflict with the politicians in power and incur their wrath.
Among the SIT's other findings: Mr. Modi displayed “a discriminatory attitude by not visiting the riot-affected areas in Ahmedabad where a large number of Muslims were killed, though he went to Godhra on the same day.” The Modi government appointed Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated advocates as public prosecutors in the riots cases. The government did not stop the illegal bandh called by the VHP on February 28, 2002. Police officers who took a neutral stand during the riots and prevented massacres were transferred.
Keywords: Godhra riots