THESE days a lot of media hype is being created against Narendra Modi based on the complaint of Zakia Jaffery that her late husband Ehsan Jaffery made telephone calls to Modi but Modi did not send police in time so Modi is personally responsible for murder, aid & abetment of murder of Muslims in her Society. She has named 63 persons in her complaint filed before the Supreme Court. She has completely hidden the fact that Police Commissioner PC Pandey had visited Ehsan Jaffery at 10 AM on February 28, 2002 and offered them safe passage but Jaffery did not accept the offer. Even the Information Department of the Government of Gujarat has not highlighted this fact. It is further reported that Jaffery incited the mob by opening fire at them.
It is known that in our administrative culture, Chief Ministers and Ministers are required to limit themselves only to laying down policies and hold periodic review thereof. And Chief Minister and Ministers are neither authorised by law nor by convention to get involved into day-to-day operations, much less directing deployment of platoons and battalions of police constables. Whether police force should go to place X or to place Y is to be decided by district SP and not by a Chief Minister. Therefore the question why did Modi not send police to Jaffery residence is just not maintainable.
A Minister cannot be personally and individually held responsible for death of persons if police does not reach in time to save those persons. Can Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa, be held criminally liable for murder of Swami Laxamanananda and his four disciples as he had failed to provide police security to Swamiji though Swamiji had written to Chief Minister months before his murder seeking police protection?
But despite Commissioner Pandey offering safe exit to Jaffery at 10 AM on February 28, 2002, Modi was grilled on March 27, 2010, by the Special Investigation Team constituted by the Supreme Court.
RK Raghavan and other members of the SIT should tell the public whether they expected/expect a Minister to order the actual deployment of police units and if so under which rule.
The five-member SIT was constituted by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on March 25, 2008, to re-investigate the Gujarat riot cases. The apex court directive came in the wake of a complaint filed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking transfer of probe and trial of riot-related cases outside the state. Decision to form a special team was announced by the bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam after hearing amicus curiae Harish Salve.
The SIT initially consisted of three IPS officers from Gujarat, Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia, and two retired IPS officers from outside the state-ex-CBI chief RK Raghavan and former UP cadre IPS officer CV Satpathy.
Setting up the SIT and handing over cases to SIT by the three-member bench of the Supreme Court is violative of the decision of the seven-member bench of the Supreme Court in the AR Antulay case (1988 AIR 1531). In this case, in a nutshell, it was decided that no special procedure can be laid down by the Supreme Court for prosecution of any citizen other than that laid down in statutes as every citizen is entitled to equal protection of law (Articles 14 and 21).
Secondly, handing over complaint of Zakia Jaffery to SIT, without first hearing the 63 persons accused by Zakia amounts to violation of the principles of natural justice by this three-member bench of the Supreme Court. Principles of natural justice lay down that no one shall be condemned unheard.
The Indian Express (Anita Saluja, March 29, 2010) has quoted Raghavan as saying: “Petition of Zakia was SIT’s bible.” It means that every allegation made in Zakia’s complaint is gospel truth for SIT. This shows biased attitude of SIT chief.
Thirdly, this SIT has no written manual of its procedures laying down principles and procedures of its investigation, therefore, SIT has potential to work arbitrarily and at whims and fancies of its members. So a citizen is not bound to cooperate with SIT. In the light of these it was not necessary for Modi to present himself to SIT as this SIT is neither a statutory body nor it has any police or judicial powers to summon a citizen.
It may be recalled that Indira Gandhi had refused to cooperate with the Shah Commission as the Shah Commission set up its own special procedure though it was set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act.
Since SIT has no written manual it may work arbitrarily is not a hype as Justice Alam on April 6, 2010, hearing observed: “SIT should have a uniform approach. There is no uniformity in the SIT.” At this hearing the three-member bench decided to drop Geeta Johri and Jha from the SIT.
On April 14, 2009, The Times of India and The Economic Times reported: The Special Investigation Team severely censured NGOs and social activist Teesta Setalvad who campaigned for the riot victims. In a significant development, the SIT led by former CBI director RK Raghavan told the Supreme Court that the celebrated rights activist cooked up macabre tales of wanton killings.
Affidavits of 22 witnesses were found to be identical and were drafted, typed and printed from same computer. When SIT questioned those who had signed the affidavits it was found that they were not aware of the incidents covered in affidavits.
Generally foreign-funded pro-Islamist NGOs and a section of Indian media having foreign equity have been in the forefront to defame and demonise Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, by repeating ad nauseum falsehood and canards since the 2002 Gujarat riots, and have been partially successful in creating a public perception that post- Godhra riots were organised by Modi as the Information Department of the Government of Gujarat, in my view, has not been proactive and persistent in presenting full fact sheet before the people of India as often as Gujarat is maligned by such NGOs and their sympathisers.
While serving as Ambassador to Finland I was called upon to speak to local pressmen who wanted to know factual position about stories appearing in Indian media about the so-called ‘massacre and genocide’ of Muslims in Gujarat. I sought report from the Home Department of Gujarat and was furnished with data which showed that the Modi government was not biased in handling the post-Godhra riots, and in fact the Modi government arrested a very large number of Hindus.
The Principal Secretary Home wrote to me that during the period from February 27 to April 30, 2002, number of Hindus killed in the police firing was 80, number of Hindus arrested in crime was 10432 as against 4533 Muslims, number of Hindus arrested in preventive action was 20,082 as against 4133 Muslims. Hindus constituted about 78 per cent of all arrests made by the Gujarat Police. When I presented this data the mediamen got satisfied that the allegation of being pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim against the Modi government was just not sustainable. And, that the allegations against the Gujarat Police being inactive or partial towards Hindus, or doing too little and too late were unsustainable. Gujarat has a history of communal riots and had about 443 riots between 1970 and 2002.
It may be recalled that despite communal riots legacy of the past the 2002 communal riots broke out only in 12 out of 25 districts of Gujarat. It means that about half of Gujarat remained unaffected and credit for this must go to Modi and to civil servants of Gujarat.
In Panchgani district Police rescued and saved about 3700 Muslims during February 28 to March 3. More than ten thousand Muslims were saved by the Gujarat Police in Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Nardipur, Bhavnagar, Surat, Dahod and Vadodara. But a section of Indian media suppressed these facts and presented to the world news as if entire Gujarat was burning deflecting foreign investments away from India.
During the 2002 communal riots 190 Hindus were killed and 662 Muslims got killed. So number being below a thousand it could hardly be called ‘massacre’ or ‘genocide’ of Muslims in Gujarat as many more Sikhs had died in the 1984 riots.
In the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 many thousands of Sikhs were killed. According to the Ranganath Mishra Commission 3874 Sikhs were killed out of which 2307 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone. According to Sikh sources 4733 Sikhs were killed all over India out of which 2733 were killed in Delhi. Khushwant Singh told the Nanavati Commission: “The 1984 bloodbath left me feeling like a Jew in Nazi Germany.” The Ranganath Mishra Commission reported: “In the mobs attacking Sikhs were people with sympathy for the Congress (I) and associated with the party’s activities.”
Anti-Modi forces keep harping that post-Godhara riots were pre-planned and not spontaneous reaction to brutal burning alive of 58 Hindus including 26 women and 12 children at the Godhara railway station on February 27, 2002. If post-Godhra riots were pre-planned by the Modi government, why did violence not break out in the remaining 13 districts of Gujarat?
On this question of spontaneous response, Vir Sanghvi, Editor of the Hindustan Times wrote in the Sunday HT (April 21, 2002): ” As much as some of us may try and pretend otherwise, no body with any intellectual honesty can dispute that riots were a response to Godhra.”
Namita Bhandare, another journalist, wrote (HT, April 15, 2002) that according to an opinion poll conducted in Gujarat 70 per cent people believed that riots were spontaneous reaction to Godhra, and only 9.3 per cent believed it was backed by the government. And as we know neither the Hindustan Times nor Vir Sanghvi is supporter of Modi.
We know the role of Teesta Setalvad in case of Zahira Sheikh who was jailed by the court for giving false evidence. Zahira blamed Teesta for forcing her to give false evidence. It is high time that the Supreme Court bench should clarify this matter of 22 identical affidavits and order speedy trial of those who manufacture and manipulate evidences to misuse the judicial process.
In brief, the Information Department of the Government of Gujarat should aggressively and repeatedly place fact sheet before the people of India, and, the persons being falsely accused must file complaints u/s 500 of IPC against the so-called activists, and the Government of Gujarat must act against them under Section 153A for inciting communal feelings of one community against another by manufacturing evidences.
(The writer belongs to the 1971 batch of the Indian Foreign Service. Contact : www.opgupta.org and [email protected])