Today anyone on national TV can state ‘facts’ and ‘data’ which go unchallenged and are accepted to be gospel truth. This is true for investigations, facts on Godhra train carnage and the post-Godhra riots of 2002 in Gujarat. For nearly a decade the narrative on the tragic events of 2002 has been one-sided with no attempt to correct discrepancies.
Timeline of SIT:
The investigations in post-Godhra riots of 2002 have been primarily handled by the SIT (Special Investigation Team) set up by the Supreme Court on March 26, 2008, headed by former CBI Chief RK Raghavan.
On April 7, 2009, the Supreme Court, on the basis of a complaint by Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsaan Jafri, the Congress MP Killed in the riots, asked the SIT to inquire into her accusations. In the petition before the Supreme Court, she had levelled various allegations against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi — that he personally and willfully allowed the riots of 2002 and the whole State machinery including the police was complicit.
On January 19, 2010, the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat Government to give all documents to the SIT — nearly 14,000 pages of PCR reports and IB inputs. In the meantime, the SIT filed its first report before the Supreme Court on May 12, 2010 then another one on November 17, 2011. These were Interim Reports. Further the SC directed SIT on March 15, 2011, to look into the findings of Amicus Curiae (Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran) and give its report on that basis. The SIT, after examining a plethora of evidence like call logs, locations of various officials through cell towers, video evidence, testimonies, eyewitnesses, PCR records, intelligence inputs, Army logs, depositions of Ministers (including the Chief Minister Narendra Modi) came to the conclusion that Narendra Modi had no role in the riots of 2002 post-Godhra riots and submitted a closure report in the Supreme Court to that effect in February 2012.
Now the closure report has been challenged by Zakia Jafri by way of a protest petition before the Ahmedabad trial court, asking for the scrapping of this SIT Report claiming that it has not considered vital facts, documents and records that it ought to have.
Findings of the SIT in the closure report:
The SIT, after examining a lot of evidence, came to the conclusion that Narendra Modi had no role in the riots of the 2002 post-Godhra train carnage and submitted a closure report in Supreme Court to that effect in February 2012. The various findings of the SIT report in brief are as follows:
1. Godhra Train Carnage:
The Godhra train carnage happened at 9:00 am on the morning of February 27, 2002, when the Sabarmati Express carrying Kar Sevaks from Ayodhya to Ahmedabad was set on fire by a mob from outside as it left the Godhra Station. The Nanavati Commission made to look into this incident, has categorically come to conclusion that it was a pre-planned conspiracy where a huge mob of people had made arrangements an evening in advance to that effect, buying jerry cans and filling them with inflammable material etc. The court accepted the findings of the commission and 11 men were given death sentences and 20-to-life imprisonments, holding it to be a pre-planned conspiracy. The said findings have also been accepted by SIT. The news link of March 1, 2011 can be accessed here.
2. Preventive measures taken by Gujarat Government (February 27, 2002):
Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi got the news at 9:00 am on February 27, 2002, about the Godhra train carnage from Ashok Narayan (Additional Chief Secretary, Home). Then at 10:30 am Modi held a meeting with Goardan Zadafia (MoS, Home), Ashok Narayan (ACS), DGP Police, PC Pande CP Ahmadabad. Since reports of casualties were not fully available the Chief Minister emphasised no culprits be allowed to escape.
Modi directed that medical aid be given to all surviving passengers and curfew be declared in Godhra and nearby areas to avoid untoward incidents of communal violence. The Chief Minister directed that all senior officials and extra force be sent to Godhra as well and after addressing the Gujarat Assembly, he reached Godhra at 4:30 pm.
The first alert message of February 27, 2002 from the Home Department covered the need to take precautionary measures — adequate police bandobast and preventive measures, including instructions to impose prohibitory orders in disturbed areas. All Police Commissioners, District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police directed to remain in the headquarters and monitor the situation.
In order to cope with the emerging law and order situation during the Gujarat Bandh call given by BJP, VHP and others to protest the massacre at Godhra Station, request was made to the Government of India to provide 10 companies of Central Paramilitary Forces in addition to four companies of Rapid Action Force. Large-scale preventive arrests of Hindus and Muslims started on February 27, the day of the Godhra incident. On the day of the Godhra massacre, 217 preventive arrests were made, out of which 137 were Hindus and 80 were Muslims.
The entire police force of 6,000 was deployed in sensitive areas of Gujarat on the very first day. The Army was alerted on February 27 itself but was not available due to Operation Parakram in the wake of the Parliament attack.
3. Measures taken by Gujarat Government during riots:
Narendra Modi held a meeting in the Assembly on February 28, 2002 given it was Budget Days (February 27 and 28) and took stock of the situation. The SIT has stated that the request for additional security forces were made to then Congress-ruled States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra by Gujarat Government on February 28 but were refused. Seeing the situation go out of control on February 28, Modi called an emergency meeting at 1 pm when he called then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to deploy the Army and a fax to that effect was sent to the Defence Ministry by 2:30 pm. Army troops were airlifted in 40 aircraft from the border and started landing in Ahmedabad by midnight when then Defence Minister George Fernandes was there to supervise their deployment and shoot-at-sight orders were also issued by the Gujarat Government. On the evening of February 28, a call for calm and restraint and harmony was made by the Gujarat Chief Minister on Doordarshan and a Press release was issued to that effect as well.
The officials of the Government of Gujarat met George Fernandes at 8:30 am on March 1, 2002 and requested that paramilitary forces and BSF also be deployed in Gujarat. Five companies of paramilitary forces were subsequently deployed. Then the Chief Minister met the Governor, issued instructions for safe passage to Haj pilgrims and even met a delegation of Congress leaders where he assured them of the best possible help in the situation. Later Modi convened meetings, announced compensation for victims, discussed relief packages for camps being run by NGOs and gave directions for essential medical including hospitals and other services to be provided to people in the riot-affected areas. By the evening of March 1, the Army was fully deployed – within 24 hours of the riot’s starting.
Further, on Page 448 of the SIT Report, it has been stated that since the Gujarat Government asked for police from three neighbouring States on February 28 but the States were unable to do so in addition to 26 Army battalions deployed in the State, six companies of CISF, 11 companies of BSF, 4 companies of RAF were deployed till March 3, 2002. “So it can be said that there was no delay whatsoever in requisitioning of Army and its deployment in State as and when they realised on 28/02/2002 that situation was out of control. More significantly Union Defence Minister arrived on 28th night so that Army could take positions before any delay.”
4. Other findings of the SIT:
» There were reports that the victims’ bodies of Godhra train carnage were paraded in Ahmedabad to create violence. The said allegations have been dismissed by the SIT, holding that victims’ bodies were transported late at night around 3 am to a hospital on the outskirts of Ahmedabad so that no one could see them. Many of the victims belonged to Ahmedabad so the bodies were handed over to their families early morning after Panchnamas.
» After examining the PCR Records of various PCR and Commissioners of Police, the SIT came to the conclusion that all efforts were made to save Jafri by the police and as per call logs, no calls were made to Commissioner of Police Ahmedabad or any other official.
» Regarding the “action-reaction theory”, the SIT has said the said statement was quoted out of context even though Modi never justified violence. He later issued a clarification to the distortion, which was published in newspapers days later.
» That the SIT has also held that Modi never told the police to go slow and allow the violence for Hindus to vent their anger as IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt later claimed. The statement has been held to be fiction or imagination, as Bhatt was not present in the meeting on February 27 as per the records and call logs.
» As per official reports of Government of India in 2005, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died in the riots, 223 were missing and nearly 80,000 Hindus and 18,000 Muslims were taken into preventive police custody during the days of rioting.
To conclude, there are many facets of the SIT report which point to the fact that though 2002 was a sad chapter in the history of India, unlike many massacres and riots in the country since independence — like 1984, Delhi; Nellie massacre; Hashimpura (Meerut); Bhagalpur etc. the 2002 riots were controlled within 48 hours with swift and effective action. To assume that certain records were destroyed or hidden is a fallacy as the SIT has gone through every shred of evidence and the Narendra Modi Government, as per the SIT’s findings, took all preventive actions it could to control the riots effectively.