The Special Investigation Team (SIT) began the probe into the 2002 Gujarat riots on Tuesday, a month after the Supreme Court directed it to investigate the alleged role of chief minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet colleagues, bureaucrats and police officials in the riots.
As the first step, R.K. Raghavan, chairperson of the SIT and other members of the team heard Zakia Jaffrey, widow of former MP Ehsan Jaffrey, who was killed on February 28, 2002 in Gulbarg society.
The SIT roadmap
It was on the basis of Zakia Jaffrey’s petition that the Supreme Court had appointed the SIT and directed a fresh probe.
“We started the proceedings today and spoke to Ms Jaffrey about the incidents and the petition. This is the first of a series of interactions with the petitioner,” Raghavan told reporters later in the SIT office in Gandhinagar.
On whether the SIT would call Modi to depose before it, Raghavan said it was too early to comment on that, but the SIT could summon Modi if the need arose.
Raghavan, however, ruled out the possibility of appointing a special team within the SIT to probe specifically the role of Narendra Modi, “as individual allocations (within the SIT) are already there”.
The SIT chief assured that witness protection would be a priority and worked out a witness protection scheme to provide combined protection from the state and Central forces to witnesses of different riot cases.
“I wrote to the Union home secretary and I even asked the state DGP to provide a superintendent of police-rank official to take care of witness security,” Raghavan said.
The SIT chief, who visited the Sabarmati Jail earlier where the Godhra trial would be conducted, said the fast-track courts are ready for the trial. The SIT is also finalising a list of public prosecutors for the cases.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Zakia Jaffrey expressed her satisfaction over Tuesday’s hearing, while Teesta Setalvad, a co-petitioner, said she presented before the SIT minister Haren Pandya’s admission to a Citizens’ Tribunal in May 2002 that a high-level meeting on February 28, headed by chief minister Modi, chose to turn a blind eye to the massacre.
Pandya was later killed at a city park.