Modi, who had avoided media questioning on the issue for over a decade and had never said sorry or apologised for the riots, today came out with a long statement in a blog saying he was "shaken to the core".
"'Grief', 'Sadness', 'Misery', 'Pain', 'Anguish', 'Agony'--mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity," he said in the blog, in an apparent attempt at reaching out to the Muslim community ahead of next year's elections.
"This is the first time I am sharing the harrowing ordeal I had gone through in those words at a personal level," he said in the blog. The 63-year-old BJP's prime ministerial candidate has consistently refused to express regrets for the riots that killed nearly 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Yesterday, a Metropolitan Magistrate court here upheld an SIT clean chit given to Modi in the Gulberg Society massacre in which former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among the 68 people burnt alive during the riots.
"The Gujarat government had responded to the violence more swiftly and decisively than ever done before in any previous riots in the country. Yesterday's judgement culminated a process of unprecedented scrutiny closely monitored by the highest court of land, the Honourable Supreme Court of India. Gujarat's 12 years of trial by the fire have finally drawn to an end. I feel liberated and at peace," he said.
Thanking the people who stood by him in these "trying times" through the "facade of lies and deceit", the chief minister said "with this cloud of misinformation firmly dispelled, I will now also hope that the many others out there trying to understand and connect the real Narendra Modi would feel more empowered to do so."
Emerging from "this journey of pain and agony", he said he prayed to God in all humility that no bitterness seeped into his heart. "I sincerely do not see this judgement as a personal victory or defeat, and urge all - My friends and especially my opponents - to not to do so as well," he said.
Modi, who has the image of a hardline Hindutva proponent and describes himself as a Hindu nationalist, said those who derive satisfaction by perpetuating pain in others will probably not stop their tirade against him.
"I do not expect them to. But, I pray in all my humility, that they at least now stop irresponsibly maligning the 6 crore people of Gujarat," he said. He said he fasted 37 days for Sadhbhavana (harmony), choosing to translate the positive judgement into constructive action, reinforcing unity and sadbhavana in society at large."
"I am deeply convinced that the future of any society, state or country lies in harmony. This is the only foundation on which progress and prosperity can be built. Therefore, I urge one and all to join hands in working towards the same, ensuring smiles on each and every face," he said.
"Once again," Modi said, "satyameva jayate" (truth alone triumphs). Recalling the events of those days in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning, Modi said he fervently urged for peace and restraint to ensure lives of innocents were not put at risk.
"I had repeatedly reiterated the same principles in my daily interactions with the media in those fateful days of February-March 2002 as well, publicly underlining the political will as well as moral responsibility of the government to ensure peace, deliver justice and punish all guilty of violence.
"You will also find these deep emotions in my recent words at my Sadbhavana fasts, where I had emphasised how such deplorable incidents did not behove a civilised society and had pained me deeply," he said. In fact, Modi said, his emphasis has always been on developing and emphasising a spirit of unity with the now widely-used concept of "My 5 crore Gujarati brothers and sisters' having crystallised right at the beginning of his tenure as Chief Minister itself from this very space.
"However, as if all the suffering was not enough, I was also accused of the death and misery of my own loved ones, my Gujarati brothers and sisters. Can you imagine the inner turmoil and shock of being blamed for the very events that have shattered you," he said.
For so many years, they incessantly kept up their attack, leaving no stone unturned. What pained even more was that in their overzealousness to hit at him for their narrow personal and political ends, they ended up maligning the entire state and the country.
"They heartlessly kept reopening the wounds that we were sincerely trying to heal. It ironically also delayed the very justice that these people claimed to be fighting for. May be they did not realise how much suffering they were adding to an already pained people," he said.