Ten years after the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, the only probe into the alleged role of state chief minister Narendra Modi by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has made some adverse references against him but finally cited lack of “sufficient evidence” to proceed against him.SIT chief and former CBI director RK Raghavan in the 600-page report accessed by HT, refers to Modi’s speeches during the riots as "sweeping and offensive", and expresses surprise at the conduct of some top state police officers.
"In spite of the fact that ghastly violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Housing Society (in Ahmedabad) and elsewhere, the reaction of the state government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone," senior SIT officer AK Malhotra states in the report.
"The implied justification of the killing of innocent members belonging to the minority community reflected the state's partisan attitude," the report says.
The report has blamed the Gujarat Police for not "investigating the connection between rioters and VHP/BJP leaders for the attacks on Muslims at Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gaon and also Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad."
The SIT has questioned the state government for allegedly destroying crucial police wireless communication records during the riots. "No records, documentations or minutes of the crucial law and order meetings held by the government have been maintained," the report says.
Despite several strong observations, Malhotra concludes that "there was lack of sufficient evidence before the SIT to make out a case against Modi".
In the only analysis of the SIT report so far, the lawyer appointed by the top court to examine it has differed on two counts - whether suspended IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt was present at the controversial meeting at Modi's residence on February 27, 2002 and the action to be taken against police officers posted in the state during the riots.
Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) Raju Ramachandran is learnt to have recommended that Bhatt and other police officers, who have given contradictory versions of what Modi had said at the controversial meeting should all be examined as witnesses.
The SIT has refused to accept Bhatt's version, declaring him an unreliable witness. It has also recommended departmental action against police officers who did not take timely action to prevent riots.
Ramachandran's view is that the material available on record is sufficient to register a case of criminal negligence against them.