Former CBI Director R K Raghavan, who headed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the 2002 Gujarat riots, has alleged that “false charges” were levelled against him because he gave Narendra Modi, who was then Chief Minister of Gujarat, a clean chit.
In his autobiography out this week, Raghavan has also suggested that the investigation into the Bofors scam, which he led, was sabotaged by the UPA government.
Raghavan resigned as chief of the Gujarat SIT in March 2017, and was appointed High Commissioner of Cyprus by the Narendra Modi government that August.
He had found no evidence to establish that Modi’s government in Gujarat was in any way part of the conspiracy behind 2002 riots.
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“False charges were aired against me… I was found inconvenient because I refused to buy the argument that the state administration connived with the rioters who were targeting the Muslim community,” Raghavan has written in his book A Road Well Travelled, published by Westland Books.
“The SIT’s unequivocal stand on the chief minister’s role was unpalatable to his adversaries in the state and in Delhi. They engineered petitions against me, accusing me of favouring the chief minister. The grapevine had it that they misused central agencies to monitor my telephonic conversations. They were, however, disappointed not to find anything incriminating,” Raghavan has said.
His investigations into the riots had been “clinical and professional”, Raghavan has said. “Looking back, I am supremely satisfied with what I did in Gujarat. Efforts to dislodge me from the SIT were because I was politically inconvenient to those who were in great danger of being permanently eliminated from the Indian polity. I held my ground much to the annoyance of those who were opposed to the chief minister.”
Raghavan has also given a detailed account of Modi’s “marathon” questioning in the case at the SIT office, and has marvelled at the “energy of the man”.
Raghavan has written that when the SIT decided to question Modi, it was conveyed to the Chief Minister’s staff that he would have to present himself at the SIT office in person.
“He (Modi) understood the spirit of our stand and readily agreed to come to the SIT office within the government complex in Gandhinagar,” Raghavan has said.
“Modi’s questioning lasted nine hours in my own chamber at the SIT office. (Ashok) Malhotra (who questioned Modi) told me later that Modi kept his cool right through the marathon session which ended late at night. He never parried questions. Nor did he give the impression of padding up his responses.
“When Malhotra asked him whether he would like to break for lunch, he initially turned down the offer. He brought his own bottle of water and did not accept even a cup of tea from the SIT during the marathon questioning comprising a hundred odd questions. It required tremendous persuasion to make him agree to a short recess. This was possibly Modi’s concession to the need for a respite for Malhotra rather than for himself. Such was the energy of the man,” Raghavan has said.
Raghavan was CBI Director from January 1999 to April 2001. He headed the SIT between 2008 and 2017. He served in Cyprus until October 2019.
On Bofors, in which he chargesheeted Rajiv Gandhi after the former Prime Minister’s death, Raghavan has said that the case faced multiple obstacles from the government which had “deliberately sabotaged” it.
“The Bofors case will remain an example of how a genuine case can be deliberately sabotaged by a government run by a party which has a lot to hide from the public. The guilt here rested squarely on the shoulders of those who controlled the CBI in the 1990s and later during 2004–14. …The judiciary at the middle level was a willing accomplice, and its ‘holier than thou’ claim here was almost a charade,” Raghavan has said.
The CBI investigated the Bofors bribery case for almost a decade and a half with practically no result. Through 2004 and 2005, charges against all the key accused, including the Hinduja Brothers and Rajiv Gandhi, were quashed by the Delhi High Court, and the CBI did not file an appeal until 2018, which was then rejected by the Supreme Court on the ground of delay.
“If the historic investigation did not ultimately succeed in court, it was because of several factors, the chief among which were the change of government in 2004 and certain questionable judicial rulings. I concede that the CBI could have acted faster and not given room for criticism; it was tardy in its procedure,” Raghavan has said.
He has, however, conceded that there was no evidence to establish that Rajiv Gandhi took any money in the deal to buy the 155 mm howitzers for the Indian Army.
Raghavan has named some officers whom he considers to have been very good in the CBI, including Rakesh Asthana, who is currently Director General, Border Security Force.
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