SIT finds no Modi link to Gulbarg mass murder

Probe trashes IPS officers claim police allowed rioters to vent their fury

A Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) probing a critical case related to the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots is understood to have found no “prosecutable evidence” of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s complicity in it.

The SIT’s final report, which was submitted to a magisterial court here on Wednesday in a sealed cover by the team’s chief, former CBI director R K Raghavan.

The findings could boost Modi’s ambitions to play a central role in BJP politics as  it is believed to have trashed the claims made by former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt that Modi had issued orders to police officers to allow rioters belonging to a particular community to vent their fury at members of another group.

The SIT’s report is the culmination of investigations it carried out on the complaint of Zakiya Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was among 68 other Gulbarg Society residents who were killed in one of the worst cases of murderous rioting following the burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra on February 27, 2002.

Ehsan Jafri was burnt alive when he tried to plead with the violent mob to spare the lives of women and children living in Gulbarg Society.

According to police sources, the SIT report says that there was no credible evidence to back suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’ s claim that he was present at the law and order meeting chaired by Modi in which he had allegedly given orders to allow rioters to vent their anger.

All seven officials present at the meeting have denied Bhatt’s presence. No evidence was found to suggest that government orders were issued to fuel the riots.
The sources also pointed out that the SIT did not rely on the report of amicus curie in the case, Raju Ramchandran, who had suggested that the suspended IPS officer’s statements not be thrown out.

The report found no evidence to suggest that either Modi or the 62 other politicians and police officers named by Zakiya Jafri ensured that no assistance be provided to Gulbarg Society residents following repeated phone calls for help to the chief minister’s office on February 28, 2002.

The report’s findings hit the riot victims and their relatives hard and Zakiya Jafri’s counsel S M Vora filed an application before the court seeking to know whether the SIT had complied with the Supreme Court’s guidelines while submitting the report.

“The Supreme Court has specifically stated that the SIT has to submit all the relevant documents and not just the report to the court. So we wanted to know if all the papers related to the case and relevant documents have been submitted,’’ Vora said.

The court issued notices to the SIT to remain present at the next date of hearing on Febuary 13.

A day after the Gujarat High Court ordered the state government to pay compensation for the destruction of places of worship during the riots, the SIT report has come as a shot in the arm for Modi who was described as a potential prime ministerial candidate for the BJP by party chief Nitin Gadkari.

Although the BJP tom-tomed the SIT’s findings as a step towards a political victory for Modi, some legal experts suggested that a long legal battle lay ahead as the magistrate will have to decide whether to accept the report or not.

“The BJP wants to utilise the report politically, but it is a fact that the magistrate’s court will have to take a decision,” Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhvadiya said.

For Zakiya Jafri, the SIT’s findings will likely make her battle for justice more excruciating. Though disappointed, Jafri said she would continue to fight “till I am alive.”

Zakiya Jafri had filed the complaint with the Supreme Court, alleging the chief minster’s complicity in the post-Godhra riots across the state. Her husband was brutally hacked to death by a riotous mob at Gulbarg Society on Feburary 28, 2002, a ghastly incident in which 68 others residents were also killed.

In her complaint, Zakiya Jafri had alleged that despite repeated pleas to the chief minister’s office by her husband no help ever came from the state administration.
On Thursday, an apparently satisfied Gujarat chief minister tweeted on his Twitter account: “The history of the world is the history of a few men who had faith in themselves.’’

Clean chit

* The SIT’s report is the culmination of investigations it carried out on the complaint of Zakiya Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri
* Jafri was among the 68 other Gulbarg Society residents who were killed in the post-Godhra riots on February 27, 2002
* Ehsan Jafri was burnt alive when he tried to plead with the violent mob to spare the lives of women and children
* No credible evidence found to back suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s claim he was present at a meeting in which Modi allegedly gave orders to officers to allow rioters to vent their anger

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