People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 20

May 20, 2012



SIT Report: Illogical and Biased


 Nagen Das

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has confirmed the worst fears of its detractors by its highly unconvincing and biased conclusions allowing the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, exemption from facing trial for having perpetrated the worst genocide of 21st century.


The closure report filed by the SIT, headed by former CBI chief R K Raghavan, has left the country aghast and wondering whether such investigation teams serve any purpose despite having been set up by the top court of the country. A simple reading of the report leaves no doubt that the entire thrust of the exercise seems to be on how to whitewash Modi’s and the BJP’s taint.



Apart from insisting that no official present at the February 27, 2002 meeting has supported the allegation that the chief minister gave an instruction to top police and administrative officials to allow the Hindus to vent their anger following the train burning incident at Godhra in which 59 Hindus were burnt alive, the SIT, on the contrary, said there is evidence in the form of the chief minister's public statements made on February 27 and  28, 2002, which establish his commitment to punish the guilty and uphold the law.


However, far from proving that Modi could not have given the alleged instruction, the speeches the SIT produced are only likely to fuel suspicions about what might have happened at the February 27, 2002 meeting. The SIT cites five speeches in defence of Modi, only to come to this conclusion: “At least on five occasions, which are fully documented, during 27.02.2002 and 28.02.2002, chief minister addressed media, assembly and general public and everywhere the genesis and intention was the same, i.e., to punish the culprits responsible for the Godhra incident in an exemplary manner so that such incident did not recur ever again.”


The SIT is unable to cite a single speech — or statement — where Modi warns against retaliatory violence and threatens punishment to anti-Muslim rioters. Admittedly, there was a valid context to Modi's sense of outrage immediately following the Godhra carnage. Any administrator would vow to bring to justice the perpetrators of a crime so horrendous. However, by all accounts, reprisals had started within hours of the incident, and by the afternoon of February 28, 2002, the violence had turned into a full-blown anti-Muslim pogrom. The SIT should have been able to show some evidence that at least after February 28, 2002 — by which time Muslims had been killed and rendered homeless — Modi sent out a strong message to communal hotheads taking the law into their own hands. But there is no speech where Modi warns against revenge attacks and threatens exemplary punishment to the rioters.



There are glaring contradictions between the preliminary and final findings of the SIT. In the final report, submitted in an Ahmedabad court earlier this month, Raghavan concluded that the state government had taken “all possible” measures to prevent the massacre that followed the Godhra train carnage and no “offences can be made out” against Modi. The 2010 report by SIT member A K Malhotra, who grilled Modi in March 2010 and other witnesses in the course of the probe, had, however, questioned several actions of the chief minister during the riots. Commenting on Modi’s speeches obliquely justifying the riots, Malhotra had stated, “In spite of the fact that ghastly violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulbarg society and elsewhere, the reaction of Gujarat government was not the type which would have been expected by anyone.”


He went on to say, “The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”


However, the final report now states that the SIT could not obtain the CD of the TV interview in which Modi reportedly made the “action and reaction” comment. There are also serious differences in the two findings on Modi visiting the riot hit areas of Ahmedabad after a week, though he rushed to Godhra, which was 300 km away, within hours of the incident, and also on why two ministers who had nothing to do with the law and order, were stationed in the police control room. 




Can anything be more bizarre? The SIT has endorsed the 'action and reaction' theory of Narendra Modi in the Gulbarg society massacre case, saying that firing by former MP, Ehsan Jafri, led to killing of 69 people in 2002. The final report says Jafri was killed because he provoked a “violent mob” that had assembled “to take revenge of Godhra incident from the Muslims.” Ehsan Jafri fired at the mob and “the provoked mob stormed the society and set it on fire.” Around 70 Muslims perished in the massacre at the Gulberg Society compound along with the ex-MP on February 28, 2002.


Ironically, the SIT makes this assertion even as it clears Narendra Modi of the charge that he had invoked the Newtonian theory of ‘action and reaction' to justify the post-Godhra anti-Muslim violence. Yet, in trying to absolve Mr Modi, the SIT fully implicates the chief minister and itself. Not once but twice. The SIT first insists that  Modi saw the firing by Ehsan Jafri as “action” and the “massacre that followed as ‘reaction'.” It follows this up by quoting the chief minister as saying the Sabarmati Express carnage at Godhra was a “heinous crime, for which ‘reactions' were being felt.”


In 1984, former prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi gave a macabre twist to the anti-Sikh pogrom that followed Indira Gandhi's assassination, saying “when a big tree falls, the ground shakes.” Eighteen years later, the Gujarat chief minister would propound his own action-reaction theory only to furiously deny he ever said it. Now the SIT not only confirms that  Modi used the words “action” and “reaction” but endorses his statements even while holding that the “alleged statements” have been “quoted out of context..… and therefore no case is made against him.” The SIT's controversial observations are recorded in a chapter dealing with a specific allegation made by Zakia Jafri, the widow of Ehsan Jafri, that Modi had given media statements, including an interview to Zee TV on March 1, 2002, where he justified the anti-Muslim pogrom as a reaction to the Godhra violence by Muslims. Strongly defending the chief minister against the charge, the SIT cites its own March 2010 interrogation of  Modi: “As regards the Zee TV interview of 01-03-2002 is concerned, Shri Modi told SIT that after a period of eight years, he did not recollect the exact words but he had always appealed only and only for peace..… He also said that if his words cited in this question are considered in the correct perspective, then it would be evident that there is a very earnest appeal for people refraining from any kind of violence..…” The Zee TV interview was reproduced in a report, Rights and Wrongs, brought out in the aftermath of the 2002 violence by an Editors Guild team of B G Verghese, Aakar Patel and Dileep Padgaonkar. In the reproduced excerpts, Modi had termed the firing by Ehsan Jafri as “action” and the massacre as “reaction.” He also described the Godhra carnage as a product of the “criminal tendencies” of the residents of Godhra. He said, “Earlier, these people killed female teachers. And now they have committed a heinous crime jiski pratikria ho rahi hai (reaction to the crime is happening now). The SIT also justifies Modi’s description of Godhra residents as people with “criminal tendencies” and his statement that the heinous crime (burning of Sabarmati train) had led to reactions. “Again with regard to the Godhra incident, [Modi] clearly stated that the day before yesterday 40 ladies and children were burnt alive at Godhra and the incident had shocked the nation as well as people abroad, and that the people belonging to this area had a criminal tendency and these people had earlier killed lady teachers and now they had committed heinous crime for which the reactions were being felt.” That said, the SIT concludes that “no case is made [out] against the chief minister.”


Curiously, in a background note to Zakia Jafri’s complaint, the SIT had earlier stated that Ehsan Jafri fired in “self-defence” — in contrast to how it now portrays the same incident later in the report, when it invokes the action–reaction words of Modi. This is what the SIT’s background note says about the Gulberg incident: “On the day of the bandh, i.e. 28.02.2002, a huge mob comprising about 20,000 Hindus gathered, armed with deadly arm weapons, in furtherance of their common intention and indulged in attack on the properties, shops and houses of Muslims as well as a madrasa/mosque of Gulbarg Society located in Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad city, resulting in the death of 39 Muslims, including Ehsan Jafri, ex-MP, injuries to 15 Muslims and 31 Muslims went missing. Late Ehsan Jafri fired from his private, licensed weapon, in self-defence causing injuries to 15 persons in the mob. One of the victims of the said private firing succumbed to injuries later.” Within the space of a few pages, however, what the SIT saw as “self-defence” in one context had become a “provocation.” Ehsan Jafri’s widow went to the Supreme Court to ask for an investigation into the wider circumstances in which her husband lost his life. The SIT’s conclusion seems to be that his murder was his own fault.