Union Home Minister Amit Shah Saturday hailed the Supreme Court verdict upholding the SIT’s clean chit to then chief minister Narendra Modi in the 2002 riots, and slammed a “triad of political parties opposing the BJP, some journalists and some NGOs”. Suggesting they had created an “ecosystem” that influenced everyone, including courts, he said they should seek “forgiveness” of the BJP and Prime Minister.
In an interview to ANI, Shah called the verdict “a matter of pride for every BJP worker”, adding: “The stain that was on the BJP has been washed away and a world leader like Modiji has shown himself an ideal example of how the Constitution has to be respected in a democracy.” The order was “very significant”, he said, “less politically but more because the court has exposed how our top-most leader was victimised”.
Attacking those who had levelled charges against the Modi government, Shah said: “Political parties opposed to the BJP, some journalists with a political ideology and some NGOs, together created such publicity about these allegations, and they had such a strong ecosystem that people started believing lies as the truth. It was a triad of NGOs, media and political parties nursing the media and NGOs… The ecosystem back then blew up lies so that everyone was under its influence, probably even the courts.”
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He added: “Today, when the judgement has come, it has been clearly stated that a police officer, an NGO and some political elements… the three together spread falsehoods to sensationalise (the incident). The SIT too has presented before the court that the depositions were false. Today the court has made it clear that the government did its best to stop the riots, that the CM appealed repeatedly for peace, that the riots post-Godhra train burning incident were not well-planned but self-inflicted.”
Speaking about Zakia Jafri, who had petitioned the Supreme Court against the SIT’s clean chit to Modi, Shah said: “The SC has said that Zakia Jafri used to work at someone else’s insistence. Many victims’ affidavits were signed by the NGO. Everyone knew Teesta Setalvad’s NGO was doing it. The UPA government helped Teesta Setalvad’s NGO a lot, the whole of Lutyens Delhi knows it. This was solely done to target Modiji, to tarnish his image. But truth triumphs.”
Asked about the claims that the Modi-led Gujarat government had delayed calling in the Army to control the riots, Shah said: “There was no delay. The day the bandh (against the Godhra train burning) was called, we called for the Army. It takes some time for the Army to arrive. The record is clear on that and even the Court has appreciated the same.”
On the contrary, he said, there should have been no delay in calling the Army when the anti-Sikh riots broke out in Delhi in 1984, under a Congress government at the Centre. “The Army headquarters is in Delhi… When so many Sikhs were killed, nothing was done for three days. How many SITs were set up (then)? After our government came to power, an SIT was set up (into the 1984 riots). How many arrests were made? For so many years, while the Opposition was in power, not a single arrest was made. And they are the ones making allegations against us of partiality?”
Shah said no questions should be raised about the Modi government’s role now.
“It is not just me or Modiji or the BJP saying we (the Gujarat government) were wrongfully tagged… now the SC has also said it. Will you not abide by the Constitution in a democracy? Will you not believe the SC? Is a political statement correct or an SC verdict, after consideration of all evidence?”
He said both the people and journalists must ponder this. “And if the opinion is in favour of the latter (the SC verdict), then questions must be raised on the responsibility of journalists who made these accusations. They must be asked what was the basis of such allegations… Those who made allegations against Modiji, if they have a conscience, they must seek forgiveness of Modiji and the BJP.”
While asserting that the BJP government never interfered with the media’s reporting, “not then, not today”, the Union minister referred to the Tehelka sting operation, saying the Court dismissed it “because when the contextual footage came through, it was clear that the sting operation was politically motivated”.
The Union minister claimed that in contrast to the allegations raised against Modi, “no one” criticised the Godhra train burning. “The way 60 people were burnt to death, there was anger in society, and until the riots happened, no one criticised it (the train incident), except the BJP. The Congress did not make a single statement, no one expressed sorrow, the Parliament session was on.”
Shah also seemed to draw a parallel between the SIT’s questioning of Modi and the ongoing interrogation of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate. “Modiji was also interrogated, no one did dharnas or demonstrations. People did not come from all over the country to stand in solidarity with him. We cooperated with the law. I was also arrested, there was no demonstration.”
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On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed the plea filed by Jafri, the widow of former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, who was among the 68 killed at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots. Jafri had challenged the SIT’s closure report clearing Modi, saying the SC-appointed panel had ignored evidence that the then CM failed to contain the riots, and gave instructions at an alleged meeting to allow Hindus “to vent their anger” over the Godhra incident.
Notably, Shah was called as a defence witness in the Naroda Gam trial for accused Maya Kodnani, in September 2017. Kodnani had cited him as defence witness to give alibi that she was not present at Naroda Gam at the time of the violence there, as claimed by the SIT. Shah told the court that on the day concerned, he had seen Kodnani in the state Assembly in Gandhinagar at around 8.30 am and then at Sola Civil Hospital (in Ahmedabad) at around 11-11.15 am, and that he had no idea where Kodnani was in between.
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