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The post-Godhra riots have come back to haunt Narendra Modi with a senior IPS officer alleging that the Gujarat chief minister had allowed Hindus to "vent their anger" during the 2002 clashes.
"In his affidavit in the Supreme Court, IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt has said that the Chief Minister in a meeting held on February 27, 2002 expressed the view that rioters be allowed to vent out their anger," sources close to him said in Ahmedabad on Friday referring to the affidavit in the Zakia Jaffery case.
"I filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on April 14. This is regarding the investigation being done by the Special Investigation Team (SIT)," Bhatt told PTI, but declined to divulge its contents.
The officer, who was posted as DCP at the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) during the 2002 riots, said in the affidavit that he had attended the February 27 meeting called by Modi where he asked officers to be "indifferent" to the rioters.
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Bhatt, a 1988-batch IPS officer, is presently posted as principal of the State Reserve Police (SRP) training centre in Junagadh district.
In his testimony before the SIT, Modi, however, said Bhatt being a junior officer at that time was not present in the February 27 meeting where the Chief Minister had allegedly asked the police officers to go soft on the rioters.
The officer also expressed surprise over how his affidavit, which is likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court on April 27 along with other matters relating to the 2002 communal riots, got leaked to the media.
Bhatt has directly filed the affidavit in the Supreme Court, by-passing the apex court-appointed SIT to investigate the complaint of Zakia Jaffery, widow of former Congress MP Ahsan Jaffery, who was burnt alive by a rioting mob at his house. He was extensively questioned by the SIT headed by former CBI chief R K Raghavan for three days in March this year.
Gujarat government spokesman Jainarayan Vyas described the affidavit as a view that has been expressed. But, it can only be said "either correct or wrong" once it passes through the entire process of adjudication, he said.
He said, "That process of adjudication will be gone through before the apex court of the country. So let's wait for that."
Reacting to the contents of the affidavit, Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modhwadhia asked the BJP and its high command to give an answer to the nation on Bhatt's charges.
"My question (is) to the BJP...They are asking for the resignation of the Prime Minister...That is a minor issue (on which) they are stalling Parliament...Then what is the answer to the nation by the BJP and its high command?" he asked.
Responding to a question as to why he swore it directly in the Supreme Court, Bhatt said, "The reason for my filing the affidavit is listed in it. I know all this as I was posted as an officer with the intelligence bureau. It would have been be professionally improper for me to disclose anything unless I was under a legal obligation."
"As and when I was under legal obligation when the SIT summoned me I disclosed everything to it under CrPC," he said.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, "There is a judicial mechanism looking into it. Let us leave it to that mechanism."
Party spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said, "Its (the affidavit) a part of an investigation which is being conducted by the SIT.
"The SIT is being monitored by the Supreme Court. We have complete confidence in the Court. This is sub-judice. We shall await the final word from the Supreme Court," she said.
Activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been fighting for Gujarat riot victims, said, "This is for the first time we are having a direct evidence of a person who was present there. Here you have a chief minister twice elected after the worst massacre in post-independence history who is obviously using his political office to subvert the investigation."
Former senior IPS officer G S Raigarh, who was posted in Gujarat, said he was on leave on the day the meeting took place in February 2002 and did not know what had transpired.
"No communication happened between me and Bhatt," the retired Additional Director General of Police said.
The Supreme Court had in early March asked SIT to submit its report by April 25 on whether any further probe was required against Modi and 62 others in connection with the complaint filed by Zakia Jaffery, whose husband was among 69 killed in the Gulburg society riots.
Zakia had approached the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court had on November 3, 2007 refused to give any direction for investigating the Gulburg society riots and asked her to seek redress from the magistrate's court.
She had alleged that between February and May 2002 there was a "deliberate and intentional failure" of the state government to protect the life and property of innocents.
Zakia had also alleged that Modi and others, including his cabinet colleagues, police officers and senior bureaucrats aided and abetted the riots which left over 1,000 people dead across the state.
The SIT has already recorded statements of Modi and several others named in her complaint, including former minister of state for Home Gordhan Zadafia, BJP leader I K
Jadeja, former BJP MLA from Lunawada Kalu Malivad and sitting MLA from Mehsana Anil Patel.
The statements of former IPS officer R B Sreekumar, Teesta Setalvad, IG Shivanand Jha and some other senior police officers and political leaders have also been recorded.