Reports prepared by two Supreme Court-appointed panels — a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and an amicus curiae (friend of the court) — looking into the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat have both questioned the presence of two ministers of the Narendra Modi government in the Ahmedabad police control room during the riots. The similarity between the two reports, however, ends here.
The SIT, headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan, concluded in its closure report filed in an Ahmedabad court last week that there is lack of evidence to proceed against Modi. It questioned the presence of the then health minister Ashok Bhatt and the then urban housing minister IK Jadeja in the Ahmedabad police control room and the state police control room during the riots. It termed the presence of these two ministers, who had nothing to do with home or police departments, as controversial and improper.
“The fact that Modi was himself the cabinet minister for home would heighten the suspicion that the decision had his blessing,” states the SIT report, without recommending any action or further probe into the matter.
The Raghavan-led panel, however, seems to have ignored the fact that Ashok Bhatt’s phone records showed he was in touch with a key Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader during the riots, according to NGOs fighting for the riots’ victims.
Amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s report points out that suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt’s statement saying he was present at a meeting called by Modi on the night of February 27, 2002, is validated by the presence of two ministers in the police control rooms at a time when Muslims were being attacked.
Sanjeev Bhatt has consistently maintained that he was present at the meeting in which Modi allegedly asked the top brass of the state police to let Hindus vent their anger following the burning of 58 kar sevaks at Godhra on that fateful morning.
The SIT dismissed his statement, saying none of the other officers present at the meeting had corroborated Sanjeev Bhatt’s presence.
Ramachandran disagreed with the SIT’s conclusions, arguing that evidence can only be tested in a court and no witness can be dismissed on the grounds that he is against the chief minister.