2002 riots: Zakia Jafri vs Narendra Modi - Court dismisses petition, gives clean chit to Modi

In a major relief for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a local court yesterday dismissed a petition by a deceased Congress leader’s widow, challenging the SIT’s closure report giving a clean chit to him and 58 others in a case relating to the 2002 communal riots. Expressing disappointment over the ruling by Metropolitan Magistrate BJ Ganatra, Zakia Jafri and her supporters, including activist Teesta Setalvad, said they would challenge it before a higher court.

An activist armed with a iron stick is seen shouting slogans in front of burning material at Sahapur in Ahmedabad. File pic/AFP

The petition challenging the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team’s closure report, was filed by Jafri, the widow of slain former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was among the 69 people killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre on February 28, 2002 during the bloody riots in the wake of the Godhra train incident. In her petition, Jafri had alleged that the SIT had shielded Modi and others by discarding the statements of police officers and other available evidence.

Where’s the truth?
She further accused the SIT of having done incomplete and frivolous investigations and playing the role of a court by adjudging the truth about the available evidence. Before closing the matter, the SIT had said there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute Modi and the incident alleged (the Gulbarg massacre) was beyond the ambit of its probe.

The investigating agency further said that it could not find any prosecutable evidence against the accused regarding their involvement in the alleged larger riots conspiracy. The SIT declined to consider IPS officers RB Sreekumar, Sanjiv Bhatt and Rahul Sharma as witnesses or treat their statements as evidence on grounds that these were “hearsay evidence”.

Truth alone triumphs: Narendra Modi
As a local court upheld the closure of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) report probing the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, state Chief Minister Narendra Modi said it represented the “triumph of truth”. “Truth alone triumphs,” Modi tweeted after the verdict came. “Truth by nature is self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear,” Modi said, borrowing the words of Mahatma Gandhi.

2002 riots
On February 27, 2002, a train returning from Ayodhya carrying several Karsevaks was halted near Godhra station and was set on fire by a group of people. During the incident 58 people were charred inside the bogies of the Sabarmati Express that caught fire. The incident sparked a series of violent attacks across the state that saw over a 1,000 people lose their lives, and left 2,500 people injured.

Zakia Jafri. Pic/AFP

Waiting for justice
This photograph was taken on February 27, 2012, when Zakia Jafri, widow of ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, visited her house that was torched during the 2002 massacre at the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad. Zakia’s late husband, Ehsan was killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre which came after a train carrying karsevaks was set alight leaving 58 people dead in Gujarat. An angry mob killed her husband and set their house on fire.

Legal battle
>> In 2006, Jafri had sought to lodge a complaint about the alleged larger conspiratorial role of Modi and 62 others during the 2002 riots.

>> After the Gujarat Police failed to register her complaint, she petitioned the Gujarat High Court which directed her to a magisterial court. However, she decided to move the Supreme Court.

>> The apex court had directed the SIT to look into the issue and later directed it to file its report before the concerned magistrate court.

>> In February last year, the SIT filed its closure report virtually exonerating all the accused, including Modi and others, which was challenged by Jafri through her lawyer Mihir Desai.

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