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THE MODI INTERVIEW: I won't apologise for 2002 riots

Last updated on: July 27, 2012 18:39 IST

'If people are spreading lies what can be done?'

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In a candid interview to Urdu weekly Nai Duniya, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi affirmed that he should be hanged if found guilty in the 2002 communal riots in the state.

 

The interview was conducted by Shahid Siddiqui, the magazine's editor and a former Rajya Sabha MP from the Samajwadi Party.

 

Rediff.com presents the first part of an excerpt from the interview.

 

Listen to an excerpt from the interview where Modi talks of the Gujarat riots here

 

Talking about the Gujarat riots (of 2002), it has been debated widely and it has been talked about for the past 10 years. After the Godhra incident and the burning of people in the train, why and how did you decide to transfer the bodies to Ahmedabad? Were you not aware of the repercussions?

 

I have explained this in detail to the Special Investigation Team and the Supreme Court. When the report has to come on that basis, it will come. The bodies have to be given to the respective families, you have to, isn't it? Can anyone take the bodies to the most tense areas? If there is a body, will you take it to Godhra? How will the situation improve if everyone starts moving to Godhra? The situation was tense in Godhra and the incident took place there. Secondly, the train was going to Ahmedabad and the passengers were from there, that means that it has to go Ahmedabad. Then what is the simple way to take the bodies to their families?

 

Like in every riot, they have to be peacefully handed over to them in hospital.

 

But that is what exactly happened. You listen to the truth. What you have been saying is on the basis of conjectures and lies. Listen, the truth is very interesting. The truth is not about the movement, you can read the issue of India Today on that incident. You can't keep all the bodies in Godhra, you should know to how to manage, it's an administrative duty.

 

All the persons who were killed were from north Gujarat, we had to take the bodies there. It was definite that you have shift them there, it's a different question that whether they should be taken individually or in a group, we had to shift them, there was no other option. Another question was whether to move them in the day or at night. The administration felt that they should be removed as subtly as possible to avoid further tension. It was done to maintain peace.

 

Another issue was whether to move them to the civil hospital; if we had moved them to Ahmedabad's civil hospital then it would have escalated violence as it was congested. It was the acumen of the administration to move them to civil hospital in Sola. Sola, at that time, was on the outskirts and it wasn't developed at that point of time.

 

All the bodies were brought to Sola's civil hospital which was in a jungle kind of area. Secondly, there were no processions taken out from there, the bodies were peacefully given to the families. Thirteen or 14 unidentified bodies were technically dealt with behind the hospital. This is how much we cared, but now if people are spreading lies (against me) then what can be done?

 

Translated and transcribed from Hindi by Ufaque Paikar

 

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Image: At the site of the Godhra train tragedy in February 2002
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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'We had to compete with the speed of TV news'

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When there was news of disturbances, riots, killings in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, you must have been getting information about it. What preventive action did you take?

 

You usually appeal to the people, clamp a curfew. My first appeal was to Godhra in the evening saying that the administration will do its duty, the criminals will be punished, people should maintain peace and the usual things. All these things were seen on television and radio for which footage is available.

 

On the second day, the incident took place on February 27, I appealed in the evening and came back by 10-10.30 pm. I called up the officers, arranged for law and order, all the police force was called upon. India has not faced an incident like this before, the incident was dreadful. Earlier the newspapers took two days to publish incidents like these, the photographs and all usually takes two or three days (prior to Godhra). In this period the government machinery gets time to organise and manage things like sending police force and all.

 

But now it takes three minutes to show the incident (live) on television. It is obvious that the speed of television news was more than the government's speed. The first time in India, a government had to compete with the speed of television to deal in a situation like this. If I have to send telephonic information to Baroda, I can do it easily but if I have send a police force from Ahmedabad to Baroda, its going to take at least one and a half hours. This was the first time when the government force had to compete with the speed of television and it is a tough job for anyone.

 

I am not someone who compares it with other riots of the country. It's not right to say that, if it happened during 1984 then it's all right for it to happen now, I do not allow such comparisons. But, when the 1984 riots happened, what happened in the first 72 hours? Not a single tear gas shell was fired, not a single bullet was fired, there was no lathi-charge in the first 72 hours, there was only one lathi-charge and that to control the crowd at the place where Indira Gandhi's body was kept. Here, on the 27th, people were arrested in advance, curfew was imposed, tear gas was fired, bullets were fired and people were killed in the firing. This was the record.

 

But your own people, officers and politicians and there were reports in newspapers stating that you asked the police officers to let people vent their anger for 48 hours? The (late) Haren Pandya said this, Sanjay Joshi also said it.

 

We have to trust the Supreme Court. The court has set up a committee and there is a report, instead of listening to me one should to trust the people who have investigated. This is the first time when there has been an inquiry on the riot, one should trust that. You should also trust the government. I will give you a sheet where it is mentioned about the government's action during the riots. You will get it with facts and figures. Now even the media is very vibrant.

 

It was said that people were identified and killed, burned as if it was pre-planned or a list was available, how is it possible?

 

There is no question of how did it happen because it's all a pack of lies. One should rather read stories which report how Muslims were saved during riots, many others were saved. If you believe in these stories, then who would have survived?

 

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Image: A survivor stands next to pictures of her family members inside her house that was burnt and damaged during the Gujarat riots in 2002
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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'I went to all the places, cared for all of them'

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Your ministers were sitting in the control room, what were they doing?

 

All of these answers are with the SIT. The SIT has investigated all this.

 

Yes, it's there but let the Muslims of India know, let them know what happened.

 

It's all lies. These are baseless lies

 

But there are records stating that they were in control rooms?

 

The Supreme Court has investigated the matter, wait for the report, my saying anything doesn't count.

 

Did you roam around the city and go to refugee camps during the riots?

 

All the details are available. I went to all the places, cared for all of them. On those many PILs that were filed in the Gujarat high court, all the judgments are available. The government arranged well for the refugees. It is a myth which is being circulated that the Gujarat government did not run relief camps. Gujarat's specialty lies in its social fabric, that is why according to the scheme the government gives the management facility to the people. That is why in these camps the management was in the hands of Hindus and Muslims but the expenses were borne by the government.

 

Do you have any record of the expenses of food and all?

 

Yes, we do have the records. That is why till date Gujarat has been credited with the best facilities in the relief camps. We even arranged studying facilities for the students who were appearing for their matriculation exams. They even fared well in their examinations. These things won't be discussed in the media, they have taken up the responsibility of keeping mum about these things.

 

What did Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) say to you?

 

The video is available.

 

Did he say anything to you in private, everything is not said in public?

 

Lies are being spread on the Rajdharma statement of Atalji. The CD is available where he says that he knows that Modiji follows Rajdharma but that part is deleted.

 

It has been 10 years, what did he say, what is to be done, what are you doing, what did he say?

 

All of us wanted to do good. All of us wanted that.

 

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Image: Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Narendra Modi in December 2002
Photographs: Kamal Kishore/Reuters

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'Modi should be hanged if he committed such a crime'

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After the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Rajiv Gandhi apologised, even Sonia Gandhi apologised. Congress ministers like HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler were removed despite the lack of evidence but you never regretted, nor apologised for the Gujarat riots as the head of the state government?

 

My statements given at that time should be read to know my thoughts and perception. I will give you my statements given to media at that time, in the heat of the moment, unlike now when we sit and discuss in air-conditioned rooms.

 

In my interview to Prabhu Chawla for Seedhi Baat in 2005 or 2006, he asked if I was willing to apologise, to that I responded that why should I be forgiven? If any head of state has committed such a crime then he should be hanged in public so that for the coming hundred years, no other head of state should ever think of committing such a heinous crime. If anyone pleads for their forgiveness, then they are encouraging such crimes.

 

If Narendra Modi has committed such a crime then he should be hanged, this is my upfront demand, but if people are attacking me with criticism for political purposes without considering my effort of saving peoples lives, then I don't have an answer for them.

 

But still, don't you feel sad at what happened or the guilt of not being able to stop the violence?

 

No, I was able to stop it. I don't agree that I have not been able to stop it.

 

But over 1,000 people were killed...

 

That is what I am saying, that we need to understand the incident.

 

If I am the editor of the newspaper, then I am the one who is held accountable for misinformation, not my reporter.

 

Whatever I had said is available, I am not retracting. I am giving you the entire sheet, datewise, stating what I felt. Read that as well. Then you will feel that you have hurled baseless accusations at me. And instead of me apologising, you should apologise for the faulty reports.

 

But still, it is said that the Supreme Court had to set up an SIT to probe the matter and your government did not take any significant step in implicating the accused and your government had released most of the people.

 

Again, you are getting trapped in lies and assumptions.

 

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Image: Muslims pray in a hall where a photo exhibition on Gujarat riots is being held
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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'Why is Gujarat being targeted?'

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Yes, the entire world and nation is trapped in lies, what to do?

 

No, there is a vested interest group. The SIT only deals with 8-9 cases, not more. In my state thousands of FIRs have been lodged, many people have been put behind bars. Till date not a single person has been punished for their offences in the 1984 (anti-Sikh) riots. People have been punished in over 50 cases in the 2002 riots, the judgments are out. In the two cases which you discuss a lot (Best Bakery and Bilkis Bano) as taken out of the state, the Gujarat police inquired about the Best Bakery case even after it was taken outside, who probed the case, who filed the charge-sheet, lodged the FIR and got the witnesses? 

Everything was done by the Gujarat police.

 

One judge in the high court set the accused free, then the case was taken by the Maharashtra court -- same documents, same procedure, same witness, same Gujarat police records -- but they were held guilty. Then tell me, how is the Gujarat police held accountable for it? There was no new charge-sheet, no new witness, no new investigation. You have actually distrusted the judiciary – the Gujarat judiciary -- and took it to the Maharashtra judiciary.

 

In the Bilkis Bano case, the Gujarat police conducted the investigation, people were held by the Gujarat police, the FIR and charge-sheet was done by the Gujarat police and later the case was given to the CBI. The CBI re-investigated the case and arrested 8-9 more people. The case was taken up in Maharshtra and the people who were held accountable by Gujarat's police were punished and the people were accused by the CBI were acquitted.

 

Only one person held guilty, (activist) Teesta Setelvad keeps saying this on television. One police officer was punished, because he delayed the submission of papers to the CBI, the delay was due to delay in translation, he was punished for this delay, not for the riots, punished for 2-3 months. Then tell me how are the Gujarat police responsible? These cases are still pending, what can be the reason behind it? The so-called secular people have taken 23 stays.

 

There were reports that people are still being killed in encounters after the riots, prima facia evidence shows that they were fake encounters, why is it happening, what was the approach of administration?

 

I will tell you about the advertisement in Uttar Pradesh by Mayawati, the state which had you as a minister, says that law and order was restored after 396 encounters. In my state there were only 12 encounters and the cases are still running.

 

The national human right commission says there were 400 fake encounters in the last 10 years. The case is still pending in the Supreme Court about reinvestigating these cases, why are you only talking about Gujarat? This is a matter of concern, why is Gujarat being targeted? it is happening in UP, India, Mumbai, so why pick on Gujarat? People who are hell-bent on targeting Gujarat are doing so. Is this justice? 

 

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Image: A protest rally against Narendra Modi
Photographs: Kamal Kishore/Reuters

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'If I have made a road, it's for everyone'

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Are they pseudo-secularists or from the Congress party who are doing this?

 

I am not blaming any party, but there are people who want to destroy the image of Gujarat.

 

Your own people, people from your own party, the RSS, BJP, VHP are accusing you of being a dictator, not allowing people to speak and creating an atmosphere of fear. These are people from your own party, why are they all saying these things against you?

 

I am not aware of such allegations. Even if people have said such things, then it's fine because it's a democracy and people have the right to express their opinion. If anyone is able to hurl allegations at me, then it is itself a good thing.

 

But what do you think, why it is happening, are they scared of your popularity or fame?

 

I don't think there are such allegations, so naturally I can't tell you the reasons behind it.

 

There is talk that you will become the prime minister in the future, you are seen as the future prime minister. What will be your top five priorities if you are at the Centre?

 

I am fundamentally a person who works for the organisation and worked mainly for the organisation (RSS). I have been made chief minister in different circumstances. I have not even contested for the post of a school monitor, I have not even contested for panch, I have never been an agent in an election or been a representative at the election booth. I was given this responsibility in special circumstances and I totally focused on the wellbeing of six crore Gujaratis.

 

Aren't you concerned about 110 crore Indians?

 

If I am working for Gujarat and it's prospering and if five people from UP are getting employment, then I am serving India. If I am doing good work and people from Orissa are sending money to their homes, I believe I am benefitting the country. That is why I don't think of anything besides Gujarat. I have lots of dreams for Gujarat, my entire focus is on Gujarat because if Gujarat is doing well, the nation will do well.

 

If the provinces function well, then the country also functions properly. If there are good crops or salt in Gujarat then the country will also be benefitted.

 

But as there are talks and as the BJP is pushing the agenda of making you the prime minister, what will be your top five plans?

 

I don't answer such loaded questions. I don't think of anything besides Gujarat. Six crore Gujaratis are my focus and I want to work for them with the power entrusted upon me by God and I obey the orders of my people.

 

What do you want to do for the betterment of the 10-12 percent minorities among the six crore Gujaratis? What do you have in mind for the economic betterment of this section?

 

If I have built a road, it's for everyone, welfare is for everyone. I have come out with a scheme called Mukyamantri Amritam Yojna where we have spent Rs 200 crore for the treatment of poor people who are suffering from serious health issues and everyone has benefitted from this scheme.

  

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Image: Children sleep at a relief camp in Ahmedabad in 2002
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
Tags: Gujarat , BJP , RSS , Gujaratis , VHP

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'Minorities in Gujarat are much better off'

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So what is your concept of India? Do you want to make it a Hindu rashtra? How do you see or how do you want India to be 50 years down the line?

 

I would want India to be self-sufficient and prosperous. The 21st century should be India's century and that should be everyone's dream. I have been working for that. This is our prime goal.

 

It is said that you are making Gujarat a model, it is a Hindu rashtra laboratory and when you will take the lead you will make India a Hindu rashtra. Where will you place minorities and Muslims in this?

 

First of all, keeping the condition of minorities in India, the minorities in Gujarat are much better off than the minorities of the rest of India and the chance of the betterment of their status is no different from the chance of betterment of Hindus. The nation should be such that it gives equal opportunity to everyone, that is what our Constitution says and even in society and family, equality of opportunity is a must for proper functioning, it cannot function with discrimination. If you like one daughter-in-law and dislike the other, then you are inviting trouble in the family.

 

But if there are five children in the family and one of them is weak or has some physical disability, or for some reason has lagged behind, then shouldn't he be given extra care?

 

Even our Constitution says that, that is why we have categories like OBC, SC, ST etc. If society will give up the responsibility of the weaker sections, then who will take care of them? For example, if a couple has a mentally-challenged child, then the couple gives extra care to their child, they can't abandon him because they love him so much. But I believe the mentally-challenged child is not the sole responsibility of the parents to whom he is born but he is also the responsibility of society where he is born. It is unfair to say that he is only the parents' responsibility.

 

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
Tags: Gujarat , India , OBC , Muslims

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'It doesn't matter whether they are Hindus or Muslims'

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According to the Sachar committee report, the Ranganath Mishra report, a report during Indira Gandhi's regime by Gopal Singh, Muslims have lagged behind the population due to historical and societal reasons. They are socially, economically further lagging behind, with progress in society. What do you think should be specifically done for them, there have been steps taken for Dalits and other backward sections and now the reservation is upto 50 percent, but the Muslims are neither in reservation nor in the competition, how will their condition improve?

 

No, it is not the case. Like at my place (in Gujarat), we have OBC and backward class and even I am an OBC. Muslims come under more than 36 OBC categories and they are entitled to avail of all the facilities entitled under this category which are also enjoyed by the non-Muslim OBCs.

 

Today we have schools, teachers, budget expenditure but still we have illiterate people and Gujarat has found out the solution for it. We have initiated movements like girls' education, 100 percent enrollment.

 

Have you initiated any specific programmes for Muslim-dominated areas?

 

Do you understand what is meant by 100 percent? It means nothing is left behind. We make a group of ministers (including the chief minister), IAS officers, IPS officers, forest officers visit each and every district in June. In total we have a team comprising 900 men to cover different villages. We even have a team for the districts. In total we cover 18,000 villages. We visit each and every house. In 2001 on an average we had 60 percent enrollment rate. As a result of our drive now it is more than 99 percent.

 

Earlier we had 40 percent drop-out rate and now it has gradually reduced to two percent. Now who has benefitted from these schemes? I don't label people as Hindus and Muslims because that is not my philosophy. But I believe each and every Gujarati child should get it. If I analyse the schemes then what I enjoy the most is that the turnout of Muslim parents in Muslim district school functions is 100 percent unlike the attendance of Hindu parents in Hindu districts which is around 60 percent.

 

So, have you conducted any such functions in Muslim districts?

 

Yes, lots of them. I believe that Muslim women are much more aware on this issue on a personal level and also speak on this issue (education). In one of my visits to one of the villages near Dhata, I decided to go to a village which has the lowest education rate. I don't visit villages on the basis of communities, it is decided on the basis of the education rate. When I paid a visit to a village near Dhata, it had 70-80 percent Muslim population, we came to know about the composition when we visited these villages. Three girls wanted to meet me separately. They were from 7-8 standards. I asked the teachers to move out.

 

When I asked their names I got to know that they were Muslims. They said they wanted to study but their parents were unwilling. I was moved by the three young girls' desire to study which made them approach me and speak against their parents. I asked the principal to make me meet their parents but they were not around, they were poor farmers. I couldn't meet them but I asked my district education officer to meet and convince their parents to let them study. I am pleased to tell you that now they are studying. It happened two years a go. It doesn't matter whether they are Hindus or Muslims, I want children to be educated.

 

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Image: A supporter wears the mask of Narendra Modi during a rally
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
Tags: Muslim , OBC , Gujarat , Muslims , IPS

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'Muslims are doing well in Gujarat'

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You are right about the over 36 Muslim OBCs, but according to the survey which took place post-Mandal that if there are for example 100 jobs, then there are 1,000 applicants and there are over 150 Muslims applying for jobs but only 100 are to be given jobs and consequently Muslims don't get more than 2-3 seats, most of the seats are taken by the creamy backward layer. That is why it was suggested that the Muslims within OBCs should get 27 percent reservation because they haven't been able to keep up.

 

Our Constitution-makers have deliberated over the issue of reservations, they have debated whether reservation should be given on the basis of religion or not and there was no RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal then...

 

Yes, Maulana Azad and the rest of the Muslim leaders themselves opposed the reservations.

 

That is why we should try and understand that period.

 

But it has been 64 years and we have amended the Constitution and learnt from it.

 

No, it is not the same thing. These are fundamental issues. Will a country like India progress like this? I will tell you later about Sachar committee report, it should be studied. You see the condition of the so-called secular states, you will be shocked. We have nine percent of the population as Muslims and we have 11-12 percent Muslims in government, Bengal has 24 percent Muslims and it has around two percent Muslims in government and these are so-called secular states.

 

But this not a recent phenomenon, Muslims in Gujarat were ahead in business and other fields, it has not happened over the past 10 years.

 

If they were ahead, then why didn't people talk about it earlier, that yes Gujarati Muslims are ahead?

 

Because earlier Gujarat was not seen as state which discriminates against Muslims.

 

But hypothetically, even if there was discrimination, then how is it possible that even after 20 years of discrimination, Muslims are doing well in Gujarat? If you predecide to take a stand against me then we can't do much about it. Look at the reality. During 1985-95, for 10 years, there was no recruitment. (Former chief minister) Chimanbhai Patel refused to hire even IAS officers. Recruitment happened during my regime. We have six lakh people in government, I have myself recruited around three lakh people.

 

So, there are 10-12 percent Muslims recruited in your regime?

 

I have never counted and I won't do it in future. My job is to recruit people on the basis of merit without discrimination. If he is a Muslim, Parsi, Christian, it doesn't matter. This is my philosophy. Anyone who has to get it, will get it.

 

Watch out for part II of Narendra Modi's interview on Monday

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Image: Women offer prayers at a mosque in Ahmedabad
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