The Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) has termed as “completely wrong” the Gujarat government’s decision to allow a bandh called by Hindu organisations on February 28, 2002 — a day after the Godhra train carnage — but has stopped short of recommending action against any minister or official.
The organisations, led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), had called a statewide bandh to protest the killing of 58 Hindus on the Sabarmati Express, which was the trigger for riots across Gujarat that left at least 1,200 people dead.
In its final report, the SIT has concluded that the allegation by former top cop of the state, RB Sreekumar, that the Narendra Modi government did nothing to stop the bandh in an already tense atmosphere, was proven correct.
“No notification was issued by the government to ban the bandh despite a Kerala HC judgment that had declared bandhs and strikes illegal,” the report says. “The judgment applies to the whole country. In view of this, the allegation is proved correct, but this by itself doesn’t make the state a co-conspirator to the riots.”
The SIT, headed by former CBI chief RK Raghavan, has stated that this fact "cannot be construed as evidence to bring home a charge of conspiracy".
The state has justified its decision of allowing the bandh, saying "keeping in view the fundamental rights of citizens, the government decided not to ban the bandh and instead provided adequate police protection".
The bandh witnessed violence at several places where VHP activists gathered. Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri and 68 others were burnt alive in Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society the same day.