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SIT to quiz Modi but move raises eyebrows -THE MAIL TODAY

12, Mar 2010

 


The Mail Today
March 12, 2010

SIT to quiz Modi
but move raises eyebrows

By D. P. Bhattacharya in Ahmedabad

EIGHT years on, the ghost of the post-
Godhra riots is back to haunt Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. On
Thursday, he was summoned by the Supreme Court- constituted Special
Investigation Team ( SIT) to appear before it for questioning on March
21.

But there is scepticism about the timing
of the act, coming as it does just ahead of the apex court hearing on
how some riot cases were probed in a shoddy manner.

The summons follow a petition by Zakia
Jafri, the widow of the late Congress MP, Ehsaan Jafri, who was burnt
alive in the Gulbarg Society massacre in Ahmedabad along with 68
others during the riots.

Issuing directions on the plea, the
Supreme Court had in April last year directed the SIT to inquire

whether the post- Godhra carnage took
place as a result of a larger conspiracy involving the chief minister,
his cabinet colleagues and other high- ranking state officials.

It is in this connection that the SIT
summoned Modi on Thursday.

SIT chief Dr R. K. Raghavan said Modi
would be asked “ a few questions” and given an “ opportunity to
present his side of the case”. He said many witnesses had been quizzed
in the case and the SIT wanted to know what Modi thought about the
allegations levelled against him.

The complaint filed by Jafri and rights
activist Teesta
Setalvad had listed as many as 12 charges against Modi. It alleged
that Modi issued instructions to the stateÂ’s chief secretary, director
general of police and other senior officials to allow the Hindus to
vent their anger on the minority community in a meeting in Gandhinagar
on February 27, 2002.

While this is the first time that such a
move has been initiated against Modi, the petitioners had

mixed feelings. “ We welcome it,” said
Setalvad. “ But the timing is interesting because the SIT has to give
answers to the Supreme Court on Monday regarding the allegations of
shoddy investigation in the Naroda Gam, Naroda Patiya and various
other cases,” she said.

Setalvad
also observed that an FIR should have been lodged against Modi before
the summons was issued. “ We understand there is ample evidence
against Modi to register an FIR,” she added.

Similar concerns were raised by ZakiaÂ’s
son Tanvir Jafri. “ We will have to reserve our reaction till the time
this is not converted into an FIR. It has taken a long time, but it is
a step,” he said.

A retired police officer of Gujarat, R.
B. Shreekumar, concurred.

He said: “ The SIT cannot issue summons
unless it registers an FIR. Clearly, it is trying to create a
smokescreen because it is facing many charges in the Supreme Court.”
Lawyer and activist Mukul Sinha described the summons as “ much
belated”. He said: “ Let us hope this isn’t just an eyewash.” Human
rights activist Shabnam Hashmi said while she welcomed the
development, she was sceptical about the entire matter. “ He ( Modi)
has turned all such events to his advantage. Let us see what happens
now,” she said.

Zakia,
however, welcomed the development. “ Finally, there is a ray of hope
after eight years,” she said. “ I think things will move from here
on.” The summons appears to have caught both the government and the
Opposition off- guard. A senior Congress leader said the advice of the
high command would be sought in the matter.

Government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas
said the BJP government and the chief minister “ would, as usual,
cooperate with the process of law”.


Inputs from Gyanant Singh in New Delhi

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