The closure report filed by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT on the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat has belied all expectations that it would help justice be done, by shamefully attempting to cover up the role of CM Narendra Modi. In its desperation to defend Modi from the complaint filed by Zakia Jafri, the SIT often contradicts its own preliminary report of 2010, and endorses some of Modi’s worst communal statements.
The SIT goes out of its way to discredit intelligence officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s evidence that he witnessed Modi at a meeting on February 27, 2002, instructing police officers to allow Hindus to vent their anger. In the SIT’s preliminary report, several police officials claimed that they could not recall if Bhatt had been present at the meeting. But in the closure report, the memories of these same officers has magically improved, and they categorically state that Bhatt was not present!
Worse, the SIT closure report states that even if Bhatt’s evidence were assumed to be true, “mere statement of alleged words in the four walls of a room does not constitute an offence.” Which means that according to the SIT, even if a Chief Minister instructs police officers in a closed door meeting not to act against Hindu perpetrators of violence, it would not amount to a crime!
In 2002, Narendra Modi had infamously justified the communal violence with talk of ‘action-reaction.’ The SIT closure report approvingly quotes Modi’s ‘action-reaction’ logic, claiming that by firing at the mob, Ehsan Jafri ‘provoked’ it to massacre those sheltering in the Gulberg Society. The fact that Jafri fired on a mob armed with weapons, firearms, petrol and incendiaries, after waiting in vain for police to respond to his desperate calls, has been blithely discounted, and Jafri’s action branded as one of provocation rather than self-defence.
The SIT closure report does not even make much effort to appear credible. For instance, in order to back up its claim that Modi was unbiased and committed to cracking down on communal violence, it cites five public statements by Modi where he promised ‘exemplary punishment’ for those guilty for the attack on the train at Godhra. The complaint by Zakia Jafri says that Modi passed an order that ensured that police did not punish post-Godhra rioters. The SIT’s answer is to show that the Modi wanted exemplary punishment for the Godhra train attack! It does not cite a word by Modi promising punishment for the perpetrators of violence against Muslims.
Further, the SIT report ignores blatantly communal public speeches by Modi, such as the one in which he referred to relief camps for riot-survivors as “children-producing centres,” saying ‘We 5, our 25.’ The SIT’s preliminary report had refused to accept Modi’s explanation that this statement was a general one on family planning, saying that it was clearly a reference to Muslim’s supposed population growth. But the closure report discounts the communal implications of this speech.
In trying to defend Modi, the SIT report actually ends up further strengthening the case against him, since it justifies his ‘Let Hindus vent their anger’ remark and echoes his ‘action-reaction’ remarks. It is urgent that the evidence pertaining to Modi’s role be re-examined afresh, and steps taken to ensure that truth and justice are upheld. Narendra Modi must be held accountable and punished for his role in the Gujarat communal violence!