Did Narendra Modi instruct officers to allow Hindus to give vent to their anger and unleash communal violence? IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt and assassinated BJP leader Haren Pandya alleged he did. Most of the officers who attended a meeting at the chief minister’s residence on February 27, 2002, say he did not. The closure report of the Special Investigation Team, released last week, appeared to give Modi ‘a clean chit’, holding that even if the CM made a statement ‘within four walls’, it would not amount to a cognisable offence. But the discrepancies and inconsistencies on record in the SIT reports of 2010 and 2012, some of which we list below, will continue to cast shadows over Mr Modi’s political future and his prime ministerial ambitions.
1. Who attended the controversial meeting?
Curiously, while in 2010, the SIT reported that seven officers, in addition to CM Modi, attended a meeting at the chief minister's residence on the night of Feb 27, 2002, but in 2012 the number has gone up to eight. Thus ironically, 10 years after the carnage, it is the SIT from whom we get to learn about a new name as being one of the participants of the crucial meeting.
|Officer’s Name||2010 Prelim Report||2012 Closure Report|
|Prakash Shah, then Additional Secretary (Law and Order)||His name does not figure among the participants anywhere, not even by Narendra Modi in his statement||“has confirmed to have attended…”|
|Anil Mukim, then Addl PS to CM||“denied to have attended the meeting but all other participants have confirmed his presence in the meeting”||"he said he attended the meeting for some time and then left after taking permission from Shri P.K. Mishra IAS (Retd)"|
2. Did Modi tell officers that Hindus be allowed “to give vent to their anger”?
No, said K. Chakravarthi, then DGP; P.C. Pande, the then C.P. Ahmedabad; K. Nityanandam, then Secretary (Home); and P.K. Mishra, the then Principal Secretary to CM, in both the reports submitted by the SIT. K. Chakravarthi also contradicted and denied that he had expressed any discomfort to his junior ADGP R.B. Sreekumar on Feb 28 about any instructions given by the CM in this meeting, as was documented by the latter in an affidavit (his fourth on the subject).
But some who were either not mentioned as having attended the meeting, or had denied attending the meeting or suffered from a lapse of memory earlier, sang a different tune this time. No reason was provided for this sudden shift:
|Officer’s Name||2010 Prelim Report||2012 Closure Report|
|Swarna Kanta Varma, then acting CS||"She does not recollect as to whether… She has pleaded loss of memory due to passage of time."||"…she has denied…”|
|Ashok Narayan, then ACS (Home)||“He does not recollect…”||“He has denied …”|
|Anil Mukim, then Addl PS to CM||Not applicable as he had denied attending the meeting itself||“He has out rightly denied…”|
|Prakash Shah, then Additional Secretary (Law and Order)||Not applicable – as his name did not figure in this report||Affirms that "the Chief Minister did not say anything..." about the controversial statement and goes on to add that he "...instructed all the officers that communal peace and harmony be maintained at all costs and all possible steps be taken to control the possible communal flare up..."|
3. Did Sanjiv Bhatt attend the meeting?:
|Officer’s Name||2010 Prelim Report||2012 Closure Report|
|Swarna Kanta Varma, then acting CS||She was not asked about Mr Bhatt’s presence though it was mentioned that she had “pleaded loss of memory due to passage of time."||"On being shown the photograph of Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, she has stated that she can not recollect having met or seen him in this meeting or in any meeting during the period of her charge"|
|Ashok Narayan, ACS (Home)||“does not remember whether K. Nityanandam or Sanjiv Bhatt attended”||"has stated that Shri Sanjiv Bhatt … did not attend the said meeting"|
|K. Chakravarthi, then DGP||"as per his recollection, Shri Sanjiv Bhatt did not attend this meeting"||"he has categorically stated that Shri Sanjiv Bhatt did not attend the said meeting"|
|P.K. Mishra, then Principal Secretary to CM||"He does not recollect as to whether Shri Sanjiv Bhatt attended the said meeting"||“has categorically denied the presence of Shri Sanjiv Bhatt”|
|Anil Mukim, then Addl PS to CM||Not applicable as he had denied attending the meeting itself||“He has denied the presence of Shri Sanjiv Bhatt” though he himself now claims to have attended the meeting for some time|
|P.C. Pande, then C.P. Ahmedabad||Did not recollect||“has denied the presence of Shri Sanjiv Bhatt”|
|K. Nityanandam, then Secretary (Home)||Was not asked – no reason given||“has denied the presence of Shri Sanjiv Bhatt”|
|Prakash Shah, then Additional Secretary (Law and Order)||Not applicable – as his name does not figure anywhere||“has denied the presence of Shri Sanjiv Bhatt”|
- Some of the public servants, who had retired long back, claimed loss of memory as they did not want to get involved in any controversy.
- The other category of public servants, who have recently retired and provided with good post-retirement assignments, felt obliged to the State Government and the present Chief Minister and therefore their testimony lacks credibility.
- The serving public servants, who have been empanelled for the higher posts, did not want to come into conflict with the politicians in power and incurred their wrath which affected their frank response."
The chairman Mr Raghavan had noted in his comments of May 2010: “The three officers (P.C. Pande, P.K. Mishra and Ashok Narayan) had been accommodated in post-retirement jobs, and are therefore not obliged to speak against the chief minister or the state government.” Other officers remained a part of the same state administration. And yet no reasons are provided for these inconsistencies or whether any attempt was made to cross-question and verify.
4. Was there any dissenting note on plans to bring the dead bodies of Godhra carnage victims by road to Ahmedabad?
|2004 Deposition before Nanavati- Commission||2012 Closure Report|
|"I do not know anything about why these dead bodies were brought to Ahmedabad. I did not try to know the reason for bringing these dead bodies to Ahmedabad. I do not know who took the decision of bringing these dead bodies to Ahmedabad. When I know that about 58 dead bodies were being brought to Ahmedabad or that they have already brought, at that time, I had a feeling that looking to the communal situation of Ahmedabad, it is a sensitive and like “Tinder Box” and therefore, in the prevailing circumstances, if these dead bodies are brought to Ahmedabad, then possibly it will create serious impacts.
After knowing the fact that these dead bodies were being brought or were brought to Ahmedabad, to say that what was my duty? I leave this matter to the Hon’ble Commission."
P.C. Pande | 18th August 2004
|" Shri P.C. Pande, the then CP Ahmedabad City…had stated that the sum and the substance of the meeting was that the dead bodies were being brought to Ahmedabad City with a view to facilitate the relatives of the deceased and claim the same."Shri K. Chakravarthi, the then DGP has clearly stated that the decision of the Govt. to bring the dead bodies of Godhra victims at Ahmedabad City was not opposed by anyone on the ground that a large number of victims belonged to Ahmedabad and nearby places which were easily approachable from Ahmedabad.|
5. Why does the closure report gloss over Modi’s failure to visit riot affected areas in the capital city till a week after the riots began ?
|2010 Preliminary Report||2012 Closure Report|
|“Narendra Modi, chief minister, has admitted to visiting Godhra on 27 February 2002. He has further admitted to visiting Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other riot-affected parts of Ahmedabad city only on 5 March 2002 and 6 March 2002...This possibly indicates his discriminatory attitude. He went to Godhra, travelling almost 300 km in a day, but failed to go to the local areas, where serious incidents of riots had taken place and a large number of Muslims were killed.”
This prompts the Chiarman to note: “Modi did not cite any specific reasons why he did not visit the affected areas in Ahmedabad city as promptly as he did in the case of the Godhra train carnage”
|“the chief minister remained awfully busy with the steps to control the law & order situation, providing medical treatment to the riot victims, their rehabilitation, ex-gratia payment to the riot affected persons, NGO relief camps and with the payment of compensation for destruction of the properties during riots and also with his efforts to restore peace and normalcy in the state... it cannot be said that the chief minister had a partisan attitude and visited Godhra on February 27, but did not visit the riot-affected areas till March 5.”|
6. Did the chief minister seek to justify post-Godhra rioting by citing Newton’s law ?
|“It is to be stated that Narendra Modi has clearly stated in his Zee TV interview that it was late Ehsan Jafri, ex- MP, who first fired at the violent mob and the provoked mob stormed the society and set it on fire. In this interview he has clearly referred to Jafri’s firing as ‘action’ and the massacre that followed as ‘reaction’... In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction….His implied justification of the killings of innocent members of the minority community read together with an absence of a strong condemnation of the violence that followed Godhra suggest a partisan stance at a critical juncture when the state had been badly disturbed by communal violence.”
This is followed by Chairman Raghavan’s comments
“Modi’s statement accusing some elements in Godhra and the neighbourhood as possessing a criminal tendency was sweeping and offensive coming as it did from a chief minister, that too at a critical time when Hindu-Muslim tempers were running high.”
|“As regards the Zee TV interview of 01-03-2002 is concerned, Shri Modi told SIT that after a period of eight years, he did not recollect the exact words but he had always appealed only and only for peace... he had tried to appeal to the people to shun violence in straight and simple language. He also stated that if his words cited in this question are considered in the correct perspective, it would be evident that there is a very earnest appeal for people refraining from any kind of violence. He had denied all allegations in this regard”
Modi said he had not given any interview to the Times of India, which had reported that Modi cited " Newton 's law" to justify post-Godhra riots. "He said the state government had issued a denial, but the same was belatedly published in a remote corner of the newspaper. He also stated that it had been his considered opinion that violence could not be replied to by violence and therefore he had appealed for peace. As per Modi’s version, he had not and would never justify any action or reaction by a mob against innocents… No doubt ghastly violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and elsewhere, yet the so called utterances by Chief Minsiter Narendra Modi are not sufficient to make a case against him."
The SIT not only takes Mr Modi's assertions at face value but even offers explanations on his behalf. The charge of illegal instructions against Mr Modi was that he wanted his officers to allow the Hindus to vent their anger: “This time the situation warranted that the Muslims be taught a lesson to ensure that such incidents do not recur ever again.” And yet ironically in an attempt to counter it, the SIT does not document any instance where Mr Modi expressly asks that the post-Godhra perpetrators be brought to book, but instead goes on to bizarrely provide “at-least” five “fully documented” instances during Feb 27-28, 2002 to show Mr Modi’s commitment to uphold the law by punishing “the culprits responsible for the Godhra incident in an exemplary manner, so that such incidents did not recur ever again,” and then it goes on to conclude
In the light of aforesaid discussion, the interpretations made on alleged illegal instructions given by the Chief Minister by Shri R.B. Sreekumar and Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, appear to be without any basis. Further, even if such allegations are believed for the sake of argument, mere statement of alleged words in the four walls of a room does not constitute any offence.
An edited, shortened version of this on-going analysis appears in print.