New Delhi: A senior police officer in Gujarat has implicated Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the communal riots in 2002.
Sanjiv Bhatt was posted in the Intelligence Department when India saw its worst communal riots since the partition. Riots that killed 1,200 people across Gujarat. In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, Mr Bhatt says that he attended a meeting on February 27, 2002 - after the Godhra train burning incident earlier that day - at which Mr Modi asked police officers to be "indifferent" to rioters and to the calls for help from areas under attack. Mr Bhatt was Deputy Commissioner, State Intelligence Bureau at the time.
Mr Modi had testified last year that Mr Bhatt was not present at the meeting in question. The other policemen who reportedly attended the meeting have backed Mr Modi's version of events. But now, a man who was Mr Bhatt's driver then, has claimed that Mr Bhatt accompanied the state's DGP to Chief Minister Narendra Modi's bungalow on that day.
"The minute he sat in the car, he asked me to take him to Gandhi Nagar and once we reached Gandhi Nagar, he asked me to take him to Police Bhawan. Once we reached there, DGP's car was parked on the ramp and sir got out of our car and got inside the DGP's car. KD Pant use to come along carrying Sir's file. Sir pointed out at KD Pant and he came in the car. When I asked him 'Where are we suppose to go?' he said, 'We have to go to CM's house, you follow the car.' It was me and KD Pant in our car and when the car stopped at the gate, Sir got down from the car and left," says Tara Chand Yadav.
When asked where he went, he said, "CM's house. When we were at CM's house, his car was parked and I parked my car behind his. Whenever our car is empty, we park our car behind the cars in the end, wherever there is place and since Sir was in the car ahead of us, he got down and went inside and we kept standing there for 20 to 30 minutes."
Mr Bhatt says that he shared his information with a Special Investigating Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court to look into the riots; but the SIT did not take him seriously. He also alleges that the SIT did not follow up on other crucial leads that could have helped establish the role of Mr Modi and other ministers in the riots.
Mr Bhatt also claims that at the meeting with a group of about eight police officers on February 27, 2002, Mr Modi "further impressed upon the gathering that for too long the Gujarat police had been following the principle of balancing the actions against Hindus and Muslims while dealing with communal riots in Gujarat. This time the situation warranted that 'the Muslims be taught a lesson to ensure that such incidents do not recur ever again.' The Chief Minister expressed the view that the emotions were running very high amongst the Hindus and it was imperative that they be allowed to 'vent out their anger'."
The police officer claims that Modi was advised at the meeting that getting the bodies of Godhra victims to Ahmedabad and the BJP's support to a VHP call for bandh would lead to communal riots in the city and across the state and that the Gujarat police did not have the manpower resources to deal with such a situation. But Mr Modi, Mr Bhatt claims in his affidavit, was adamant that his party had decided to support the bandh call "as incidents like the burning of karsevaks in Godhra could not be tolerated."
The senior cop says in his affidavit that the "effect of these directions given by the Chief Minister were widely manifested in the half-hearted approach and the evident lack of determination on the part of the police while dealing with widespread incidents of orchestrated violence during the state-sponsored Gujarat bandh on 28th February 2002 and also during the weeks that followed."
Mr Bhatt has complained to the Supreme Court that the SIT leaked his testimony to the Gujarat government - and that he is now worried about his security and wants police protection for his family and himself.
Mr Bhatt says he deposed before the SIT in 2009 and then again last month. Asked about why he had approached the Supreme Court now, he told NDTV that as an intelligence officer between 1999 and 2002, he was privy to a whole lot of information that he was duty-bound not to share unless called upon to do so under a legal obligation. "In 2009 I was summoned by the SIT and then I disclosed what I knew," he said.
BJP's Arun Jaitley sprang to the defence of its Chief Minster and said "some people in Gujarat are busy in the discovery of falsehood". He went on to say that the SIT will find out the truth. He also said we can't presume that the affidavit filed by the officer is true. (Watch)
The Congress took up the argument and said it hopes the Supreme Court will take cognisance of the fresh evidence and will give it due attention. Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari sounded a cautionary note to Modi supporters and said the people praising the Chief Minister will now take a moment to introspect. (Watch)
Mr Modi was interrogated on two consecutive days in March last year by the Special Investigating Team. He denied that he was complicit in any way in the riots - or that he ordered policemen to ignore appeals for help from those being targeted in the riots.