Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has for the first time shared his side of the Gujarat 2002 riots, saying he was "shaken to the core" by the "mindless violence".
"'Grief', 'Sadness', 'Misery', 'Pain', 'Anguish', 'Agony' - mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity…," he said in his blog on Friday, a day after a court rejected a petition challenging a probe report clearing him of complicity in the Gulbarg Society riots case.
"… I had appealed to the people of Gujarat on the day of the Godhra train burning itself; fervently urging for peace and restraint to ensure lives of innocents were not put at risk… However, as if all the suffering was not enough, I was also accused of the death and misery of my own loved ones, my Gujarati brothers and sisters. Can you imagine the inner turmoil and shock of being blamed for the very events that have shattered you!"
Modi said the Gujarat government had responded to the violence "more swiftly and decisively than ever done before in any previous riots in the country". On Thursday's judgment, Modi said, "I feel liberated and at peace."
The Congress was dismissive of Modi's blog. Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said Modi had taken 11 years to get his emotions together "but still not a word of regret". He added, "This is just an attempt to try and burnish his image for the 2014 elections but this is not going to fly… This is an exercise in hypocrisy to say the least."
According to official records, of more than 1,200 people killed in the riots, nearly 950 were Muslims. The riots had erupted following the torching of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra, in which 59 passengers - mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya - were killed.
In the run-up to the 2014 general elections, Modi has increasingly sought to project a more inclusive image. In February, news agencies reported Modi had told European Union envoys that the 2002 riots were unfortunate.
In October, he had advocated building of toilets first and temples later. This had put him at odds with sections of his Hindu nationalist party.
Here is the full text of Modi’s blog:
My dear sisters and brothers,
The law of nature is that Truth alone triumphs – Satyameva Jayate. Our judiciary having spoken, I felt it important to share my inner thoughts and feelings with the nation at large.
The end brings back memories of the beginning. The devastating earthquake of 2001 had plunged Gujarat into the gloom of death, destruction and sheer helplessness. Hundreds of lives were lost. Lakhs were rendered homeless. Entire livelihoods were destroyed. In such traumatic times of unimaginable suffering, I was given the responsibility to soothe and rebuild. And we had whole heartedly plunged ourselves into the challenge at hand.
Within a mere five months however, the mindless violence of 2002 had dealt us another unexpected blow. Innocents were killed. Families rendered helpless. Property built through years of toil destroyed. Still struggling to get back on its feet from the natural devastation, this was a crippling blow to an already shattered and hurting Gujarat.
I was shaken to the core. ‘Grief’, ‘Sadness’, ‘Misery’, ‘Pain’, ‘Anguish’, ‘Agony’ – mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity.
On one side was the pain of the victims of the earthquake, and on the other the pain of the victims of the riots. In decisively confronting this great turmoil, I had to single-mindedly focus all the strength given to me by the almighty, on the task of peace, justice and rehabilitation; burying the pain and agony I was personally wracked with.
During those challenging times, I often recollected the wisdom in our scriptures; explaining how those seating in positions of power did not have the right to share their own pain and anguish. They had to suffer it in solitude. I lived through the same, experiencing this anguish in searingly sharp intensity. In fact, whenever I remember those agonizing days, I have only one earnest prayer to God. That never again should such cruelly unfortunate days come in the lives of any other person, society, state or nation.
This is the first time I am sharing the harrowing ordeal I had gone through in those days at a personal level.
However, it was from these very built up emotions that I had appealed to the people of Gujarat on the day of the Godhra train burning itself; fervently urging for peace and restraint to ensure lives of innocents were not put at risk. I had repeatedly reiterated the same principles in my daily interactions with the media in those fateful days of February-March 2002 as well; publically underlining the political will as well as moral responsibility of the government to ensure peace, deliver justice and punish all guilty of violence. You will also find these deep emotions in my recent words at my Sadbhavana fasts, where I had emphasized how such deplorable incidents did not behove a civilized society and had pained me deeply.
In fact, my emphasis has always been on developing and emphasizing a spirit of unity; with the now widely used concept of ‘my 5 crore Gujarati brothers and sisters’ having crystallised right at the beginning of my tenure as CM itself from this very space.
However, as if all the suffering was not enough, I was also accused of the death and misery of my own loved ones, my Gujarati brothers and sisters. Can you imagine the inner turmoil and shock of being blamed for the very events that have shattered you!
For so many years, they incessantly kept up their attack, leaving no stone unturned. What pained even more was that in their overzealousness to hit at me for their narrow personal and political ends, they ended up maligning my entire state and country. This heartlessly kept reopening the wounds that we were sincerely trying to heal. It ironically also delayed the very justice that these people claimed to be fighting for. Maybe they did not realize how much suffering they were adding to an already pained people.
Gujarat however had decided its own path. We chose peace over violence. We chose unity over divisiveness. We chose goodwill over hatred. This was not easy, but we were determined to commit for the long haul. From a life of daily uncertainty and fear; my Gujarat transformed into one of Shanti, Ekta and Sadbhavana. I stand a satisfied and reassured man today. And for this, I credit each and every Gujarati.
The Gujarat Government had responded to the violence more swiftly and decisively than ever done before in any previous riots in the country. Yesterday’s judgement culminated a process of unprecedented scrutiny closely monitored by the highest court of the land, the Honourable Supreme Court of India. Gujarat’s 12 years of trial by the fire have finally drawn to an end. I feel liberated and at peace.
I am truly grateful to all those who stood by me in these trying times; seeing through the facade of lies and deceit. With this cloud of misinformation firmly dispelled, I will now also hope that the many others out there trying to understand and connect with the real Narendra Modi would feel more empowered to do so.
Those who derive satisfaction by perpetuating pain in others will probably not stop their tirade against me. I do not expect them to. But, I pray in all humility, that they at least now stop irresponsibly maligning the 6 crore people of Gujarat.
Emerging from this journey of pain and agony; I pray to God that no bitterness seeps into my heart. I sincerely do not see this judgement as a personal victory or defeat, and urge all – my friends and especially my opponents – to not do so as well. I was driven by this same principle at the time of the Honourable Supreme Court’s 2011 judgement on this matter. I fasted 37 days for Sadbhavana, choosing to translate the positive judgement into constructive action, reinforcing Unity and Sadbhavana in society at large.
I am deeply convinced that the future of any society, state or country lies in harmony. This is the only foundation on which progress and prosperity can be built. Therefore, I urge one and all to join hands in working towards the same, ensuring smiles on each and every face.
Once again, Satyameva Jayate!