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Godhra panel shuts up Modi-baiter

Ahmedabad, July 29: Mohammad Hussain Qadri was perhaps the only witness appearing before the Nanavati Commission today who was not allowed to speak for more than two minutes.

The 76-year-old doctor was not allowed to speak long because he had begun criticising Narendra Modi and the panel, probing the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002, found his statement to be outside its purview.

The two-man inquiry commission of Justice (retd) G.T. Nanavati and Justice (retd) K.G. Shah began its second phase of recording statements of victims and witnesses from the city yesterday.

Like many of the 43 witnesses who deposed before the panel today, Qadri, a resident of Mirzapur, praised police for maintaining law and order and averting a “Gulbarg-like situation”. Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri and 38 others were burnt alive in Gulbarg Society during last year’s riots.

But the doctor was not allowed to speak for long when he began blaming politicians ranging from the chief minister to local MLAs for the violence.

Qadri said he was speaking his mind and talking independently, not “parroting well-rehearsed lines tutored by others”. He said had it not been for “some upright police officers who intervened (during the riots), we would not have survived”.

Qadri accused local MLAs of trying to foment trouble, saying he had seen a legislator telling police officers to leave the trouble-spot. When the officer refused to obey, he was transferred.

The doctor refused to identify the MLAs instigating the mob. He said: “Police know who have been creating trouble — they know everything. So there is no point repeating it,’’ Qadri said.

The doctor, whose patients include former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki and Union rural development minister Kashiram Rana, told the panel that Modi was the root of the problem. “I have seen the British rule but I have never seen such riots in my life,’’ Qadri said. He added that Modi had been able to achieve what the British failed to do — divide Hindus and Muslims.

The court burst into laughter when Justice Nanavati responded: “Do you mean Modi did a better job than the British'”

The doctor replied: “No. Modi was more successful than the British in dividing the people.”

Earlier, Justices Nanavati and Shah had a heated exchange of words with advocate H.S. Qureshi. The advocate, representing the Central Relief Committee, wanted to cross-examine prominent businessman Mohammad Hussain, a witness who was full of praise for the police.

Qureshi said: “He (Hussain) is not saying the truth. He is saying what the police has tutored him. I want to cross-examine him.’’ “Do not argue. We are here to collect evidence, not to conduct a trial,’’ the judges admonished him.

The second phase of hearings will conclude on August 1 and the panel will hear cases from Shahpur and Madhavpura on August 22. The panel is yet to announce when statements of residents of the worst-affected areas of Narodia-Patia, Naroda-Gaam and Gulbarg Society will be recorded. Sources said hearings may take place in September.

Justice Nanavati hinted the hearings will be completed by year-end and the report prepared by March-April next year. The commission hopes to submit the report by June.

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