By Anumeha Yadav
THE HEAT is being turned on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from all sides. First, Gordhan Zadaphia, the minister of state for home during the 2002 riots, fired a salvo at Modi when he dashed off a note to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) last week reiterating that the responsibility for the riots lies not with him, but with the “head of the government”. Now Jagruti Pandya, the wife of former home minister Haren Pandya, has asked for a reinvestigation into her husband’s murder saying the masterminds are still at large. All this when Modi’s government is already under scrutiny for its alleged complicity in fake encounter killings.
Zadaphia’s claims support the recorded statements of then Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Ashok Narayan and then Godhra Collector Jayanti Ravi that it was Modi who, on 27 February 2002, asked for charred bodies of kar sevaks to be taken to Ahmedabad, a decision that sparked off the riots. They also reinforce the line that Pandya is believed to have taken about the riots.
While deposing before the Nanavati Commission in 2005, Vithal Pandya said his son had informed him that Modi was “the author and architect of the riots”. Pandya was killed in March 2003 and Vithal has since blamed Modi for the murder.
JAGRUTI HAS asked for a reinvestigation citing fresh evidence that has come out during interrogation of police officers accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. Zadaphia is backing Jagruti’s request. “Haren was a good friend and I fully back his wife’s demand,” he said even as he refused to comment on his note to the SIT. Zadaphia is one of the 62 people named in a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of riot victim and MP Ehsan Jafri. It is believed that Modi, while responding to the SIT, has shifted the blame to Zadaphia. In defence, Zadaphia is now directly pointing to Modi’s hand in the riots, something he had only vaguely referred to during the three times he was questioned by the SIT last year.
Documents accessed by TEHELKA reveal that on 27 August 2009, while responding to allegations made by the Jan Sangarsh Manch, Zadaphia had merely said that he was “busy on the phone and (moving) in and out of the Godhra Collector’s office” when Modi had a discussion with the Collector about transporting kar sevaks’ bodies to Ahmedabad.
Zadaphia is now pointing to Modi’s hand in the riots, something he only vaguely referred to in the recent past
Will Zadaphia stop at this or pull more skeletons out of the closet? BJP and RSS leaders are alleged to have advised him to not go against his former mentors. But Zadaphia’s presence on 5 September at a massive farmers’ rally organised by rebel BJP MLA K Kalsariya in Bhavnagar may be a pointer to the future. “Some of Zadaphia’s immediate relatives are builders who may have their own back to save against a clampdown on their illegal activities, so he may yet not go all out to antagonise the CM,” says a discerning political observer.
Regarding another crucial decision, that of supporting a bandh called by the VHP on 28 February 2002, Zadaphia had admitted to SIT on 27 August 2009 “to take any action to stop this (VHP) bandh was with the head of the government. I was not competent to take any decision”. Since then he has emphasised that he was not present at the meeting called by Modi at his Gandhinagar residence on 27 February, as borne out by evidence submitted to the Nanavati Commission.
Zadaphia’s caving in as well as this demand for a fresh probe into Pandya’s killing are few of the several pieces that may come together for the guilty to be brought to book.