The Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections, Narendra Modi, on Wednesday, rejected the view that he had remained silent on the February 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.
According to official figures, the riots had claimed the lives of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus; caused injuries to about 2,500 people and reported 223 as missing.
“I was not silent, I answered every top journalist in the country from 2002-2007, but noticed there was no exercise to understand truth,” Modi told Smita Prakash, Editor (News) Asian News International, in an exclusive interview.
He further said that he believed that unknown entities gave rise to a number of conspiracies that allegedly linked him to the tragedy. “I have said what I had to say. Now, I am in the people’s court, and I am waiting to hear from them, and their verdict,” Modi said when prodded further on his role in the 2002 riots.
He maintained that he was committed to democracy, and added that “if the media had not worked to malign Modi, then who would know about Modi today?”
Responding to a question on AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s comment that editors of newspapers would flee if he became the next prime minister, Modi replied: “For 14 years, we (the BJP) have run the government in Gujarat. I ask you, has any editor left or, has any reporter left?”
It may be recalled that in 2012, Modi was cleared of complicity in the 2002 violence by a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court of India, and in April this year, the Supreme Court expressed satisfaction over the SIT’s investigations in 9 cases related to the violence, and rejected as "baseless" a plea contesting the SIT report.
Image: An RAF trooper facing rioters during the post-Godhra riots in 2002
Photograph: Arko Datta/Reuters