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Modi faces first riot probe

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By OUR BUREAU in Delhi
  • Published 27.04.09
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New Delhi, April 27: Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prospective candidate for Prime Minister, has come directly under the legal scanner in a riot case for the first time.

The Supreme Court today ordered a probe into allegations that the chief minister, his cabinet colleagues and senior police officers aided and abetted the infamous Gulbarg Society massacre in which former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri was burnt to death in 2002.

The BJP downplayed the order, which came three days before Gujarat votes on Thursday, as just “another investigation”. The Congress initially sharpened its knives but held fire later in the evening, perhaps to avert the repeat of a perceived polarisation that followed Sonia Gandhi’s reference to “merchant of death” during the Assembly elections in Gujarat.

The apex court’s order came in response to a complaint by Jakia Nasim Ahesan, the widow of Jafri, against Modi and 62 others. The Congress politician was one of the 39 killed in Gulbarg Society of Ahmedabad in the riots that followed the Godhra carnage.

A special investigation team (SIT), appointed by the Supreme Court, was told today to probe the allegation against Modi and his administration. “The SIT will inquire into the complaint made by the petitioner and file its report within three months,” Justices Arijit Pasayat and A.K. Ganguly said today.

Jakia Nasim’s complaint, made on June 8, 2006, said the police had not registered an FIR. She approached the apex court after Gujarat High Court refused to issue any directive in 2007. The high court had asked her to seek redress in a magistrate’s court.

Her complaint before the then Gujarat director-general of police P.C. Pandey, known to be a Modi loyalist, had alleged that both the administration and the police failed in their constitutional duty. She has also said she wants to be included as a witness in the case.

BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley saw no reason for the party to worry. “So far, there is not even a whisper against Modi. No inquiry report has ever suggested any involvement of Modi at any level. This is another investigation in a series of investigations,” Jaitley said, dismissing comparisons with Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.

In Ahmedabad, Modi loyalists said the order had come as a godsend for the BJP. Gujarat home minister Amit Shah said: “For us it is a godsend opportunity. Remember how we turned the tables on the Congress after Modi was called “maut ka saudagar?”

But Tanvir Jafri, the son of Ehsaan Jafri, said the ruling had come late but was still a “big leap towards justice”.

High court advocate Mukul Sinha, who has represented riot victims, said the BJP would not admit it but the party was waking up to the danger of the long arm of the law reaching places once considered impregnable.