Zakia’s Punc­tured Pe­ti­tion

Er­rors abound in the plea on 2002 ri­ots in­tended to trip BJP’s prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date

India Today - - NATION - Uday Mahurkar

On the twelfth an­niver­sary of the Gu­jarat ri­ots, Team Naren­dra Modi be­lieves that al­le­ga­tions link­ing BJP’s prime min­is­te­rial can­di­date to the hor­ror of 2002 have be­come a non-is­sue. The Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter was cleared in De­cem­ber 2011 by the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team ( SIT) tasked by the Supreme Court in 2009 to ex­am­ine Zakia Jafri’s pe­ti­tion against him and 59 other ac­cused and in De­cem­ber 2013 by Ahmed­abad met­ro­pol­i­tan mag­is­trate B.J. Gana­tra, to whom SIT had sent the plea for clo­sure. Zakia, wife of Congress leader Eh­san Jafri, one of the 69 people killed in the Gul­berg So­ci­ety mas­sacre in 2002, an­nounced on De­cem­ber 26 last year that she would file a re­view pe­ti­tion in the high court but the plan is still in the works. Part of the de­lay could lie in the con­tra­dic­tions in­her­ent in her pe­ti­tion which first sur­faced be­fore then Gu­jarat DGP P.C. Pande in June 2006.

THE OF­FI­CIALS

The pe­ti­tion states that then chief sec­re­tary G. Sub­barao was present at the Fe­bru­ary 27, 2002 night meet­ing at Modi’s house where, claims Zakia, the Chief Min­is­ter asked of­fi­cials to al­low Hin­dus to vent their anger on Mus­lims for the killing of 59 people at Godhra rail­way sta­tion that morn­ing. State records, how­ever, show Sub­barao as be­ing on a flight home from the US that day. Eight of­fi­cials were present at the meet­ing, in­clud­ing then DGP V.K. Chakravarty, then home sec­re­tary Ashok Narayan and then act­ing chief sec­re­tary Swar­nakanta Varma. All gave af­fi­davits to the Jus­tice Nana­vati Com­mis­sion prob­ing the ri­ots as well as SIT say­ing Naren­dra Modi gave no such or­der. Chakravarty, Varma and Narayan have since re­tired but haven’t gone back on their state­ments.

THE PRO­CES­SION

Zakia’s plea also states that the bod­ies of slain Hin­dus were taken out in a pro­ces­sion from Godhra to com­mu­nally-sen­si­tive ar­eas of Ahmed­abad on Fe­bru­ary 28, 2002, to incite Hin­dus. But of­fi­cial records show they were brought from Godhra late on Fe­bru­ary 27 for post-mortem at Sola hospi­tal in Ahmed­abad and then handed over to rel­a­tives.

THE DES­IG­NA­TIONS

The pe­ti­tion men­tions post­ings of po­lice of­fi­cers in­ac­cu­rately. Anand SP B.S. Je­balia, Zakia says, turned a blind eye to the mob at­tack on Mus­lims in Ode vil­lage on March 1, 2002. The fact is that the Anand SP then was B.D. Vaghela. She also claims that Rakesh Asthana, now Su­rat po­lice chief, col­luded with Modi dur­ing the ri­ots and so did A.K. Sharma as Mehsana SP and that Modi sub­se­quently re­warded both with plum post­ings. The fact is that Asthana re­joined his par­ent Gu­jarat cadre from CBI on April 4, 2002, over a month af­ter the ri­ots, while Sharma was posted in Ra­jkot dur­ing the ri­ots and took charge of Mehsana on March 27, 2002. Zakia has named for­mer DGP K.R. Kaushik as an ac­cused. The pe­ti­tion claims that as Ahmed­abad po­lice com­mis­sioner, he was party to Modi’s plan of in­cit­ing ri­ots. But records show Kaushik took charge of Ahmed­abad only in May 2002.

THE WIT­NESSES

The most glar­ing er­ror in the pe­ti­tion was vis-à-vis IPS of­fi­cers Satish Varma

and Rahul Sharma, both known de­trac­tors of the state govern­ment’s han­dling of the ri­ots. In the first draft of her plea, Zakia had named them as ac­cused. It was only in 2009 that she asked the met­ro­pol­i­tan court to drop them from the list as they were ac­tu­ally her wit­nesses. Her ex­pla­na­tion for this lapse: “Ty­po­graph­i­cal er­ror.”

THE MIN­IS­TER

It’s not just po­lice of­fi­cers who get short shrift. Zakia ac­cuses for­mer state min­is­ter Anil Pa­tel, an in­dus­tri­al­ist from Mehsana, of us­ing his of­fice to pre­vent po­lice from tak­ing ac­tion against the ri- ot­ers. The truth is Pa­tel was not a min­is­ter then; he be­came an MLA for the first time only in De­cem­ber 2002.

Zakia’s flip-flops also sug­gest she has not been fully aware of the con­tents of her pe­ti­tion. In her first state­ment to the po­lice on March 6, 2002, five days af­ter the Gul­berg mas­sacre, she said, “But for the timely ac­tion of lo­cal po­lice in whisk­ing us (the sur­vivors) away in a van, we would have been lynched by the fren­zied mobs”. It was only in the 2006 com­plaint that she di­rectly ac­cused the Modi govern­ment of com­plic­ity. This, when there are over a dozen cases from places such as San­jeli in Da­hod, Bodeli in Vado­dara, and Ahmed­abad, where the po­lice saved lives of thou­sands of Mus­lims by us­ing force, in­clud­ing fir­ing.

Zakia, who now lives with son Tan­vir in Su­rat, de­nies she is a tool in the hands of Modi’s op­po­nents but it took her 11 months to file a pe­ti­tion in the Supreme Court de­mand­ing a CBI probe af­ter an Ahmed­abad court ac­cepted the SIT clo­sure re­port in Fe­bru­ary 2012. “The de­lay proves that it was done on pur­pose to suit our op­po­nents’ plans for the 2012 As­sem­bly and 2014 Gen­eral Elec­tions. It was be­lieved even then that Modiji would be a PM can­di­date,” says BJP spokesper­son Nir­mala Sithara­man.

Zakia’s lawyer S.M. Vora doesn’t deny fac­tual er­rors but main­tains that the pe­ti­tion has to be seen “in a much broader per­spec­tive” and that it is “ju­di­cially jus­ti­fi­able”. He also de­fends her right to seek the as­sis­tance of NGOS in her fight. “We’re up against pow­er­ful forces. But we have doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence and we will fight,” Vora says. “Those al­leg­ing Zaki­aji is a tool in some people’s hands man­aged to buy over com­plainants in the Best Bak­ery case. Why can’t they do the same now?”

Vora’s “ev­i­dence”, how­ever, is call lo­ca­tion records of some of­fi­cers and politi­cians—not ac­tual con­ver­sa­tions— that were con­sid­ered in­ad­mis­si­ble ev­i­dence by SIT be­cause they give only an ap­prox­i­mate lo­ca­tion. “Our team did its job thor­oughly. We in­ter­ro­gated the Chief Min­is­ter for nine hours. We are open to any kind of scru­tiny,” says R.K. Ragha­van, who headed SIT. It’s on the count of scru­tiny that Zakia’s pe­ti­tion comes up short.

Fol­low the writer on Twit­ter @UdayMahurkar

ZAKIAJAFRI

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