Modi didn’t even take tea for nine hours, says probe-head of Gujarat riots

27th October 2020

27th October 2020

Probe-head RK Raghvan and Narendra Modi

The then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, did not parry a single question in the investigation done by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the 2002 Gujarat riots. In his book, RK Raghavan, then chief of probe team, wrote that the questioning went on for 9 hours, and Modi "kept his cool" during the entire investigation and didn't have a single cup of tea. 

He even agreed very easily to come down to Gandhinagar's SIT office for the questioning and he had brought his water bottle with him, writes Raghavan in his autobiography, “A Road Well Travelled.”

Before heading the SIT which was appointed by the Supreme Court for probe the 2002 Gujarat riots, RK Raghavan was the head of CBI. Raghavan was also part of several investigations of high-profile including fodder scam, the match-fixing case of the 2000 South Africa cricket match, and the Bofors scam.

"We had it conveyed to his staff that he had to come in person to the SIT office for this purpose and that meeting him elsewhere would be misconstrued as a favour," writes Raghavan in his book while recollecting the moments of Modi's investigation.

Raghavan said, "He (Modi) understood the spirit of our stand and readily agreed to come to the SIT office within the government complex in Gandhinagar."

To avoid any kind of allegation like Modi had a deal with an investigation officer, he had asked Ashok Malhotra, a member of SIT to carry out the investigation process, said a former police officer.

While confirming that he never interacted with Harish Salve before the event, Raghavan said, "This stand was endorsed months later by no less a person than amicus curiae Harish Salve. He told me that my presence would have vitiated Modi's statement and would have robbed it of its credibility."

He also said, "Modi's questioning lasted nine hours in my own chamber at the SIT office. Malhotra told me later that Modi kept his cool right through the marathon session which ended late at night."

He added, "Modi 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 Modi agree to a short recess, said Raghavan. "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."

A closure report was filed by SIT in February 2012 in which it gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi along with 63 others stating that there was "no prosecutable evidence" against them.

In his book, the head of SIT for the 2002 Gujarat riots said the probe was "clinical and professional" and "unequivocal stand" of the SIT on the role of chief minister was "unpalatable to his (Modi's) adversaries."

He said, "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 mentioned that false charges were put against him first secretly and then openly.

He asserted, "Fortunately, the apex court stood by me and backed me to the hilt. 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. Our investigation was clinical and professional."

While praising Malhotra, who was asked by the apex court to handle the work of the probing team in 2017 after relieving Raghavan from the duty, he said " "If I displayed a measure of professional acumen and objectivity, it was not a little due to the sterling assistance of Ashok Kumar Malhotra, whom I inducted into the SIT in 2009."

Without indicating anyone directly, RK Raghavan said, it was unfortunate that he was the target of attack by those instigated by "highly placed persons at the helm of affairs in Delhi".

About the case of Ehsan Jafri, Raghavan said that it could not be proved by any means that an MP of Congress had interacted with the chief minister on phone.

Raghavan asserted that "A few others, including Sanjeev Bhat, had also alleged that the chief minister, at a late-night official meeting on 28 February 2002, had directed senior police officers present at the meeting not to intervene if Hindu emotions overflowed. Here again, there was no corroboration to the charge."

He said, "In our report to the apex court we absolved the chief minister of the alleged illegal direction to the police."

In early 2008, Raghavan had joined SIT as chief and he was relieved from the duty on April 30, 2017.

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