2002 post-Godhra riots: Full text of Justice (retd.) G.T. Nanavati's interview

Updated - November 17, 2021 12:09 am IST

Published - November 19, 2014 10:17 pm IST

Q: Tell us a little bit about the structure of the report.

Justice Nanavati : It’s about 2,000 pages. It contains certain annexures also. The actual report part may be less. There are about nine volumes – the first one is an introduction, then there are volumes which deal with various incidents which took place in various districts, a volume on other material, which includes what steps were taken by the government, what was the strength of the police force, some persons coming and saying certain things against the government or the administration or the police department, and one volume on our findings and recommendations.

Your comments on the role of Mr. Modi

Naturally, ultimately riots are initially required to be controlled by the police. So obviously the police will be involved. The State being ultimately responsible for law and order, the State’s role is also to be considered. So we have to consider the role of the police force, the bureaucrats and also the top persons, namely the Chief Minister and the miniter.

Has the Commission given a clean chit to Mr. Modi?

That is a matter of the contents of the report and I would not like to disclose it at this stage. But I can only say that we have considered everything. We have considered what is the what is the material against the Chief Miniter and other ministers, the police department as a whole.

I cannot say if the report indicts Mr. Modi or no at this stage.

But you did not summon him…

Summoning requires some justification. Summoning a person to appear personally before the Commission is a responsible act. If someone is called without any justification just for fun, then it will be abuse of power. There has to be some justification for it.

Not even as a point of inquiry?

What inquiry. If there are nine allegations against you and if I find that almost eight allegations are false and there is only some substance in one allegation, should I call you to appear before the Commission personally if I can get answers in some other manner? And particularly at the last stage which could have led to a lot of problems, like the problem of security.

You were refused the letters of former president KR Narayanan (written to the Centre)

They claimed privilege and did not produce it. It was alright. We will proceed. Fortunately there is nothing in them; nothing adverse to the government.

Tell us about the Commission’s journey.

The Commission went on for a long time for various reasons. Till 2008, various applications were made and orders were passed. First we dealt the Godhra incident and that report was submitted in 2008. Thereafter we started considering the other material in respect of the incidents which happened thereafter. There were about 4,200 incidents. So material on each incident has to be considered.

Then there were some developments. In 2009, we wanted papers of investigation made by the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court, because we thought that that material will be relevant and useful to us.

The appointment of the SIT and investigation of some important cases was a new development. We called for the papers. Some papers were supplied to us in 2010, but the SIT did not give other papers on the ground that the Supreme Court has passed an order and said that the papers should not be given to anyone including the Commission. This state of affairs continued till September 2013, when they said there is no stay order but that they had already submitted the papers to the concerned court. Therefore, we have to direct the government to collect those papers and produce them before us. Ultimately some 9,000 pages were produced before us somewhere in the middle of 2014.

The SIT report is part of the record of the Commission.

Another development was one police officer claimed to be present at the meeting held at the Chief Minister’s residence. A number of points arose. He wanted some documents. The matter went to the High Court. There were writ petitions. We had to await the decision of the court. That process went on for a long time. Ultimately it became clear that some documents were destroyed by the government, some were produced and some were not.

Then there was some controversy over whether or not the documents were maintained and were available. Ultimately we told the officer that you can inspect the documents, but he did not inspect. This continued till September 2014. Then we concluded that we must put an end to it and no more time needs to be given to anyone. Then in a month’s time we completed our report, got it printed and submitted it.

Has the Commission pinned responsibility on any individuals or group or officials?

That was the terms of reference of the Commission. We did consider whether any political organisation or group was behind the riots.

Has the Commission tried to expose anything?

No question of exposing. We have looked at the material and on that basis given the findings.

In the first report, the Commission said that the train burning was a planned conspiracy. How does the Commission view the post-Godhra riots?

Post-Godhra riots took place within a very short time of the incident in the Godhra railway yard. In the Godhra incident itself one mob of Hindus and one mob of Muslims collected and were about to attack each other and curfew was required to me imposed in a very short time. What does that indicate? Did anybody come there? Did anybody incite them? There are all relevant acts that were considered.

This way we considered all the incidents, where and how they happened. Who were present at that time and how many persons were involved.

Since the mobs were present for the train incident, can we say that the following riots were spontaneous?

That is a matter of inference. And we have drawn appropriate inference.

There was some criticism about the appointment of Justice Akshay Mehta (Commission member). In a sting operation riots accused Babu Bajrangi had called him “our man.”

That does not affect the working of the judge in any manner. We kept ignoring criticisms.

Your comments on the response of the State and the police

They responded in a proper manner, in the sense that whenever we asked for something they supplied to us. Nothing was kept back.

How do you view the riots?

They were purely communal riots.

Do you think these riots were a blot in independent India since it was one of the most heinousness incidents?

I don’t know what you mean by one of the most heinous incident, because I am not aware of all the incidents everywhere. [About] brutality also I cannot say because I am not aware of all the incidents.

The communal riots obviously happened because of the Godhra incident. Whether one likes it or not, the fact remains that had the Godhra incident not happened, the riots would not have happened.

How do you think such riots can be prevented in future?

Gujarat has a history of communal riots. It all depends on the relationship between the two communities who fight against each other sometimes. You cannot guarantee that there will be not riots. No suggestion can prevent riots. If people become educated, they will not indulge in such things. Secondly, there should be enough police force as it is ultimately the police who have to deal with the law and order situation.

What about the complicity of the police?

We examined whether there was negligence, connivance, abetment.

There is some speculation that you have some strong comments on the police department.

That is all guesswork.

But according to you the State and the police did respond appropriately, as in the army was called in?

I would not like to get into the details, but whatever steps are required to be taken, we found that they were taken.

What type of action do you expect from the government?

I don’t know what type of action the government should take. The basic thing is to remove the hatred. The government will have to find out how to do it. The first thing that has o be done by the government is to see that enough policemen are recruited. These are the key recommendations also. Riots can be controlled provided there is enough trained police force.

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