July 04, 2020
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A Midnight Meeting On Feb 27 And A Murdered Minister

Haren Pandya knew he'd be killed if Outlook said it was he who told us of Modi's instigation of the '02 riots. He was killed anyway.

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A Midnight Meeting On Feb 27 And A Murdered Minister
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A Midnight Meeting On Feb 27 And A Murdered Minister
In May 2002, less than three months after the Gujarat riots, Haren Pandya, then revenue minister in the Narendra Modi government, made a startling revelation to Outlook. He told the magazine (Jun 3, 2002) that on the night of February 27, Narendra Modi held a meeting at his official bungalow in which he specifically instructed bureaucrats and senior police officers, including Ahmedabad police commissioner P.C. Pande, to allow "people to vent their frustration and not come in the way of the Hindu backlash". The VHP had announced a statewide bandh on February 28 to protest the torching of the two bogies of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra which killed 59 persons, including kar sevaks, the previous day.

Pandya's disclosure to Outlook kicked up a storm. It was for the first time that charges were being levelled directly implicating Narendra Modi for his role in the riots that claimed over a thousand victims, mostly Muslims. At that point, Outlook had chosen not to reveal Pandya's identity since he had spoken to us in strict confidence—it's only now that we go public about it. Despite this, many in the Gujarat government suspected him to be the "minister" quoted in our report. Pandya felt that under the circumstances it would be best if he resigned from the government. This he did on August 2, 2002. Seven months later, on March 26, 2003, he was mysteriously murdered. The case is still under investigation.

Before he quit as minister, Pandya had spoken again to Outlook (Aug 19, 2002). This time we recorded the conversation (the tape of which is with the magazine). The former revenue minister implored us not to reveal his identity under any circumstance since he feared the worst. "Don't disclose my identity even verbally," he had said. "My name should not be quoted in any story, not even as minister or BJP leader. If you write BJP leader, I will die. If you write minister, even then I will die."

The Gujarat government had vehemently denied that any meeting took place on February 27 at Modi's residence. Pandya, however, confirmed what he had told Outlook earlier. "The time, the place (of the meeting)," he said, "was correct. Ask them to get the officers present to deny it. Let them say there was no meeting, no direct or indirect orders. Let them say it on paper with their signatures." He went on to say: "I can't tell you how much I have been harassed (after the Outlook story appeared).... See, whatever I told you, it was not as if some disgruntled man was saying it. I didn't say all those things because I was unhappy. There is nobody in my position who can fight him (Modi). Outsiders can't do anything. So, it's important I remain an insider, in power, in position. That's why I want my identity protected."

Earlier, Pandya had deposed in camera before the Concerned Citizens' Tribunal headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Krishna Iyer. There, he testified that a meeting had taken place on February 27 at Narendra Modi's residence and that police officials and bureaucrats were instructed to allow Hindus to vent their anger over Godhra. Justice Hosbet Suresh, retired judge of the Bombay High Court, who was also on the tribunal, confirmed to Outlook that Modi's cabinet colleague had made this shocking deposition.

Before concluding his interview with us, Pandya had warned the Outlook correspondent to be careful when meeting Modi's men. "Be careful when you meet these people," he said. "They are such guys that they'll extract my name from you. Be careful. Violence has just ended, but it may flare up again."

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