This Article is From Mar 28, 2010

Gujarat riots panel grills Narendra Modi for 10 hours

Ahmedabad: For the first time since the riots in Gujarat eight years ago, state Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday subjected himself to marathon questioning by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) in two sessions lasting for almost 10 hours.

Modi, who has been named as one of the 63 accused in the petition filed by Zakiya Jafri, widow of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed by rioters in Gulbarg Society of Ahmedabad, drove to the SIT office in the heart of Gandhinagar where he was questioned by a team of officers headed by A K Malhotra, a former CBI DIG. (Watch: Zakiya Jafri reacts)

After a marathon session lasting over five hours from 12 noon to 5:15 pm, Modi left the SIT office telling reporters that he would come back in the evening. (Watch: Want to cooperate fully with SIT, says Modi)

Modi, 59, returned to the SIT office at 9 pm and faced a second round of questioning for over four hours ending at around 1:10 am because he was keen that the entire exercise be completed on Saturday itself. (Read: Congress flays Modi; BJP says not a setback)

Emerging from the second round of quizzing at the SIT office at the old secretariat building, the Chief Minister said that the investigators told him that his question was over.

"I have been told by SIT that your work is over", Modi said.

Though there was no official word on the questioning, sources say Modi was asked about 68 questions and also confronted with some supplementary questioning with regards to affidavits filed by some witnesses.

This was the first time that Modi was probed since the carnage eight years back.

"This was the first time in eight years that someone wanted to speak to me on the issue and I attended that", Modi said. (Watch: A fitting reply to my critics, says Modi)

Taking a dig at his critics, he said "God give good sense to those who said I have not spoken for eight years".

"I hope that today's incident will give good sense to those who are keen to spread misinformation and those who spread lies", the Chief Minister said.

Modi claimed he had answered all questions put by the SIT and that he recalled to the extent possible the sequence of events that had taken place eight years ago.

The Chief Minister said his statement was recorded by the SIT investigators after which he signed it.

Asked what sort of questions he was asked, Modi said "I cannot share that with you because the SIT has to submit its report to the Supreme Court.

When pointed out that he had been in the dock for the last eight years over the riots, a smiling Modi said "you have still kept me in the dock".

"Vistaar se batcheet ki (we spoke in detail)," he said adding "under the Indian constitution, law is supreme. As a common man, CM, I am bound by the Indian constitution and law. No one can be above the law."

After the first round of questioning, a smiling Modi emerged from the SIT office at the old secretariat building and told mediapersons that "I am taking a break from questioning".

SIT Chief R K Raghavan was not present in his office when Modi appeared in the first session in response to the panel's summons.

Modi became the first Chief Minister of any state to be questioned in a criminal complaint of mass murder after he and his administration were accused of aiding and abetting riots in one area in Ahmedabad.

Ending the suspense as to where and when he would appear after he was summoned for questioning in connection with a complaint of Zakiya Jafri, Modi reached the SIT office at around noon. (Read: Full text of Narendra Modi's statement on summons)

In the case filed in the Supreme Court, Zakiya had stated that Modi and 62 others conspired during the riots, and that senior ministers ordered bureaucrats and policemen not to respond to calls for help. Her petition is not specific to Gulbarg riots. It's based on her husband's death but accuses Modi of general conspiracy. (Watch: Zakiya Jafri speaks to NDTV)

"My appearance here is a "karara jawab"  (fitting reply) to my detractors. I have given a resounding reply to those who doubted my intentions. I hope such talks by vested interests will stop," Modi said.

Asked if the questions put to him related to Gulbarg Society riot case, Modi said "questions ranged from February 27 till the elections".

Asked if he was satisfied with the SIT investigations, Modi said "the Supreme Court has to be satisfied."

The Chief Minister repeatedly said the SIT was appointed by the apex court and it did not have a single officer from Gujarat.

"I have fulfilled my words given to the people of the country. Nobody is above the Indian constitution and law", he said.