Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi not only refused to take the blame for the 2002 anti-Muslim riots but also claimed that communal violence was not new to the state — it went as far back as 1714.
"Since long and even before my birth, Gujarat witnessed series of incidents of communal violence," Modi told the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) on March 27-28, 2010.
"As per available history — from 1714 AD until now — in Gujarat, thousands of incidents of communal violence have been recorded," Modi said in his deposition accessed by HT.
Set up by the Supreme Court in March 2008 to probe 10 riots cases, the SIT gave the chief minister a clean chit in the Gulbarg housing society massacre — which left 69 people dead — in its closure report filed on February 14.
Modi faced 71 questions in the nine-hour one-to-one questioning by SIT’s AK Malhotra.
The CM denied that suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt attended the controversial February 27, 2002 meeting at his residence hours after a train was burnt in Godhra.
According to Modi, seven top police and administrative officials attended the meeting.
“As far I recollect, Shri Sanjeev Bhatt, the then deputy commissioner (intelligence), did not attend as this was a high level meeting.”
Bhatt in an affidavit to the SC on April 2011 blamed Modi for one of the worst outbreaks of communal violence the country has seen in recent memory. Modi denied that in the meeting he directed the officers to allow the Hindus to vent their anger after Godhra -- a charge levelled by Bhatt. The CM said he gave “categorical and clear cut instructions to maintain communal harmony”.
Modi termed as “collective the decision to shift the bodies of Godhra victims to Ahmedabad. Asked if the collector had opposed it, the CM said: “She was of the view that the dead bodies should be immediately taken from there to avoid further tension.”
Violence broke out in the state a day after 58 kar sevaks, returning from Ayodhya, were burnt alive in Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 27, 2002. The month-long violence left at least 1,200 people dead, mostly Muslims.
The SIT's findings have been contradicted by SC-appointed lawyer, Raju Ramachandran. He is believed to have recommended that Bhatt and all others claiming to have knowledge of the Gulbarg case be summoned as witnesses.
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