SIT report clears Chief Minister and 58 others
Hate Modi industry still unrelenting
The question of evidence against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to prove his alleged complicity in the communal riots soon after the Godhra carnage has been non-existent. That is the singular point on which the rational and independent observers around the country had sought to exonerate the hugely popular Chief Minister all these years. Today, when the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court has reiterated that in its closure report saner voices have started to emerge in both the political and legal circles. If one discounts the news channels and newspapers with their stated political agenda against BJP, and Narendra Modi in particular, it would become abundantly clear why the Chief Minister had played an exemplary role during the riots and had performed his Raj Dharma like no other leader of state in Independent India.
Metropolitan magistrate MS Bhatt in his order said that the SC-mandated SIT had filed a “closure report against the accused persons” that said there was no evidence to establish offences against the accused. On Zakia’s plea for a copy of SIT report, he asked the agency to provide a copy of the report along with witnesses’ statements and all documents to her within 30 days.
The Supreme Court had asked SIT to probe Zakia’s allegation that the Gulbarg Society massacre, in which 69 people were killed, was the result of a larger conspiracy. According to sources, SIT chief RK Raghavan has recommended departmental inquiry against two police officers, MK Tandon (joint police commissioner in 2002) and PB Gondia (then deputy commissioner of police) since he did not have any evidence to file a charge-sheet against them.
The SIT, led by former CBI Director RK Raghavan, had first submitted its report to the Supreme Court. The apex court directed the SIT on September 12 last year that the report should be submitted before the local court for further action.
The apex court had also considered the independent report submitted to it by amicus curiae Raju Ramchandran, who was asked to probe certain facts separately. Slain former MP Jafri’s son Tanvir said that he was happy to get the SIT report and would decide their next course of action only after going through it.
State BJP leadership expressed happiness over the SIT report absolving Shri Modi of any blame for the 2002 post-Godhra riots. Gujarat BJP president RC Faldu said the SIT’s clean chit to Modi was a “slap” on the face of those engaged in tarnishing the image of the Chief Minister for the last several years.
The complainant Zakia Jafri had filed the complaint four years after the riots happened, almost as an after-thought. It is now becoming clear that NGOs with clear and often unconcealed vested interests had prodded her to file the case. These are the same NGOs which are curiously funded by countries and organisations in West Asia. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Unlike many riots investigations where the culprits can easily be booked if the agencies, the media and the courts get together by consolidating hard evidence by producing minutes of meetings and telephone conversations, the fourth investigating agency looking into the Chief Minister’s role could not come up with anything tangible. What broke the hearts of several anti-BJP (read anti-Hindu forces) campaigners who wanted to make an example of the Gujarat Chief Minister’s conviction in the courts so that no political leader in future should dare to take a secular, unbiased and disinterested stand in communal riots, was the inability of the powerful and politically-funded media houses to produce evidence or sting operation reports to bolster their case against Narendra Modi.
Instead, the gameplan of several key witnesses in the case like Sanjiv Bhatt, an ex-IPS officer, whose admission that he accepted costly gifts repeatedly from the Congress Leader of Opposition in return for his false statements implicating the Chief Minister, was exposed.
The issue of delaying the deployment of central forces in Gujarat after the riots broke out, a favourite charge of Congress spokesmen like Abhishek Singhvi, was also dealt at length where the conclusion was that the role of the Chief Minister and his colleagues in his government was unprecedented if not exemplary. Three days after the riots broke out military personnel had complete control of the affected areas and flag marches were held to contain any untoward incident. The fact that riots still continued in spite of the army presence reflected not on the state government’s reticence but the widespread outrage felt by the majority community after a railway compartment full of Kar Sevaks were burnt alive at Godhra.
The despondency in anti-Modi camp is also because of their inability to teach a lesson to people whose anger was let loose after the Godhra carnage. The fact that SIT took into consideration is that Narendra Modi and his government played by the book, took cognizance of the fast-paced situation and the unparalleled public outcry against perceived hurt of the majority community and brought to book the perpetrators of crime without showing any favour.
The media was agog with reports that Narendra Modi said, “let the Hindus be allowed to vent their anger against Muslims” after the Godhra incident. There is not a shred of evidence to prove that, as was suspected by many rational-thinking observers of the events that unfolded in 2002 riots. Even the action reaction statement of the Chief Minister reported by a leading national daily could not be proved because there was no such meeting with the reporter, as clarified by the newspaper later. Obviously the statement had not appeared in any other media because it was an exclusive interview with the Chief Minister.
The Supreme Court had asked the SIT to submit before the Ahmedabad Trial Court its final report which has to be a charge sheet or a closure report (please also read accompanying box item). Probably, the Supreme Court in its wisdom, after all the machinisation of the NGOs and some news media with political backing, decided enough is enough. Either Narendra Modi has to be held culpable for the acts of commission and omission during the 2002 riots or exonerated for being an effective head of state. Now, after exactly ten years, the cows are coming home.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) submitted its report on March 15 at the trial court which cleared Narendra Modi and his colleagues of all charges of complicity in the riots. It is creditable that the SIT did not get swayed by media reports, the wild charges of powerful and rich NGOs and equally opportunistic political adversaries.
It is for the court to decide on the report filed by the SIT, though Supreme Court has repeatedly expressed satisfaction on the progress and the unimpeachability of the investigation team.
The SIT’s conclusion that it cannot find any prosecutable evidence against the Gujarat Chief Minister puts an end to the international campaign, which even cost Narendra Modi a visa to travel to the US to seek investments from American companies. Now the worm has started to turn.
Is SIT report on Narendra Modi final?
Metropolitan Magistrate MS Bhatt was succinct in his reading of the closure report filed by the Special Investigation Team (SIT): “According to SIT, no offence has been established against any of the 58 persons listed in Zakia Jafri’s complaint”. The Supreme Court had ordered an inquiry into the complaint filed by Zakia Jafri. It had appointed the Special Investigation Team headed by former CBI Director RK Raghavan to probe the allegations against 58 persons including the Chief Minister.
SIT submitted its report to the apex court after conducting investigations on Zakia Jafri's complaint during which it questioned several people, including Narendra Modi. Modi is the first and the only Chief Minister in the country to have been questioned by an independent investigation team appointed by the Supreme Court for his actions during communal riots. Even in case of the Bhagalpur riots of October 1989 then Congress Chief Minister Satyendra Narain Sinha or during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 when Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister, the accused did not have to depose before the court. Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister-in-the-waiting had told the news media quite nonchalantly, when “a big tree falls the ground shakes”.
The Supreme Court after going through the SIT report had asked amicus curiae Raju Ramchandran to independently verify SIT's findings. Raju Ramchandran also submitted his report to the Supreme Court.
The apex court had, after going through both the reports of the SIT and the amicus curiae, directed SIT to submit a final report, along with the entire material collected by it, to the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate.
In its order dated September 12, 2011, the Supreme court had said that if SIT found there was no sufficient evidence or reasonable grounds for proceeding against any person named in the complaint, the court shall, before taking a final decision on a closure report, issue notice to the complainant and make available to her copies of the statements of the witnesses, other related documents and the probe report. —AP