Repeat a lie often and it becomes the truth. That is how the illusion of truth works. One of the favourite such lies is often peddled as the ‘truth of Gujarat’ (pun intended) is about the 2002 Godhra carnage, the riots that followed and the politics around it.
It is often repeated that former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya was a ‘witness’ in a meeting where Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, asked police to ‘let people vent their frustration’. The New Yorker, in its article titled “Blood and soil in Narendra Modi’s India” which portrays ‘journalist’ Rana Ayyub as some sort of superhero taking on the ‘big bad guys’, repeats the same lie, amongst many, many other such lies.
The New Yorker names Pandya and disgraced ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt being part of one meeting on the night of 27th February, 2002, the day the Godhra carnage happened, where Modi allegedly let the rioters have a free hand to ‘vent their frustration’. Bhatt even claimed to have attended a meeting where Modi had said he hoped ‘Muslims are taught a lesson’ so that such incidents (Godhra carnage where almost 60 karsevaks returning from Ayodhya were burnt alive in a train compartment by a mob) do not recur.
The New Yorker refers to Haren Pandya’s interview to Outlook which was published in the magazine in its 3rd June, 2002 issue which the publication had published without naming Pandya. The Outlook reported in this article that,
The minister told Outlook that in his deposition [to the CCT], he revealed that on the night of 27th February, Modi summoned DGP (i.e. Director General of Police) K. Chakravarthy, Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, P.C. Pandey, Chief Secretary, G. Subarao, Home Secretary, Ashok Narayan, Secretary to the Home Department, K. Nityanand (a serving police officer of IG rank on deputation) and DGP (IB) G.S. Raigar. Also present were officers from the CM’s office: P.K. Mishra, Anil Mukhim and A.K. Sharma. The minister also told Outlook that the meeting was held at the CM’s bungalow.
The minister told the tribunal (CCT) that in the two-hour meeting, Modi made it clear there would be justice for Godhra the next day, during the VHP-called bandh. He ordered that the police should not come in the way of “the Hindu backlash”. At one point in this briefing, according to the minister’s statement to the tribunal, DGP Chakravarthy vehemently protested. But he was harshly told by Modi to shut up and obey. Commissioner Pandey, says the minister, would later show remorse in private but, at that meeting, didn’t have the guts to object…”
In this report, disgraced ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt (also mentioned in New Yorker in above screenshot) is nowhere in the picture.
Now, there are a few factual errors in this Outlook report. The Outlook report names Chief Secretary, G. Subba Rao and an officer in the CM’s office, A.K. Sharma, as among those at the meeting. Neither were present in that meeting. That day, Subarao was on leave abroad [the SIT too mentioned this on page 312 of its report] and instead it was acting Chief Secretary S.K. Varma who participated in that meeting.
One may argue you cannot dismiss the claims just based on one factual error (d-uh). Since Pandya is no more to give further clarifications on the 2002 Outlook reports which are passed around as gospel truth, one must rely on Outlook itself which has acknowledged the error in its subsequent report. In a report published on 19th August 2002, Outlook has named Haren Pandya as the mystery minister it had interviewed in previous edition where Pandya (now named) acknowledges he had got the names wrong, but the place and meeting right.
Now, Pandya has said that the meeting lasted for two hours. However, the SIT has acknowledged the meeting lasted 30-45 minutes. Now in this report, too, where Pandya says he got the name of Chief Secretary wrong ‘but everything else is correct’, is factually incorrect.
Not only was the chief secretary not there (he was on leave abroad), another officer, A.K. Sharma was also not present. This was admitted by Outlook, not by the Minister. And sadly for Outlook, there was a third blunder in this allegation even in the 19th August issue, which is that DGP (IB) G.C. Raigar (correct name G. S. Raigar) was also not present in this meeting. Turns out neither Outlook nor Pandya knew this. So even in the 19th August issue, when they admitted mistakes in the 3rd June 2002 issue, they stuck to their story saying ‘rest all information is correct’, but the information in the 19th August 2002 was also wrong since G.C. Raigar was also wrongly named as being present in the meeting.
Now, as we can see there are multiple factual errors in the Outlook report. Another name mentioned in the New Yorker article is that of Sanjiv Bhatt. Sanjiv Bhatt has claimed that he attended a meeting with the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi where Modi said Muslims must be taught a lesson. Surprise, surprise, Sanjiv Bhatt was not part of any meeting held on 27th February. Even Haren Pandya in his interview with Outlook, which we have now settled has way too many factual errors to be believable, does not mention Bhatt.
In another part of New Yorker, it mentions that the state government allowed the VHP to ‘parade the burned corpses’ through Ahmedabad, thereby flaring the communal tension. Most of the victims of the carnage were residents of Ahmedabad and Vadodara. The bodies were transported via matador along with police escort and were brought to civil hospital on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
In fact, quite contrary to being ‘paraded’ the bodies were brought between 11:30 PM to 3:30 AM. The places where riots took place, like Naroda Patiya and Chamanpura are too far from Sola, where the bodies were kept. Moreover, the Supreme Court appointed SIT in 2013, before Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister, had claimed that there was no conspiracy in bringing the charred bodies of the Godhra victims.
The New Yorker further mentions that while the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi had called the Army, the soldiers were not allowed to take over. “As the riots accelerated, Modi became invisible; he summoned the Indian Army but held the soldiers in their barracks as the violence spun out of control,” the New Yorker reports.
The facts about army deployment following the Godhra carnage:
Following the Sabarmati Express carnage on 27th February 2002, where 59 pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were burnt alive, widespread riots broke out and escalated on 28th February. As reported by India Today in 18th March 2002 issue, Modi had called officially called for the Army by 4 pm on 28th February and by 6:30 pm a formal request for the Army landed in Delhi. On 1st March at 1 am, the then defence minister George Fernandes reached Ahmedabad and at 11:30 the Army was staging a flag march.
The Hindu reported on 1 March 2002 (Friday) that “The Army units, frantically called by the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, as the situation seemed to slip out of hand, started arriving in Ahmedabad and are likely to be deployed in the city on Friday (1 March).”
Another 1st March The Hindu report from the front page says,
The Army began flag marches in the worst-affected areas of Ahmedabad, Baroda, Rajkot and Godhra cities and the ‘shoot at sight’ order was extended to all 34 curfew-bound cities and towns in Gujarat as the orgy of violence in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage continued unabated for the second day today.
The report further stated,
He (then Gujarat CM Modi) claimed that despite the prevailing tension in the walled city and labour-dominated areas of Ahmedabad, the flag march had a “salutary effect”. He said one Army brigade, airlifted from the border areas and which arrived early this morning, began flag march later in the day while another brigade was expected to arrive in the night.
Rediff report from 1st March corroborated above claims of deployment of Army as well as shoot at sight orders on 1st March itself.
Modi has issued directives to the police to deal ‘strictly with arsonists and if need be shoot-at-sight any person indulging in rioting’, they added.
Meanwhile, the army staged flag marches in the violence-hit areas of Ahmedabad – Daraipur, Shahpur, Shahibaug and Naroda – to instill confidence among the people as unabated violence has claimed 111 lives in the city alone so far.
The army personnel were out in different areas like Daraipur, Shahpur, Shahibaug and Naroda, police said.
The same fact is also reflected in the note submitted by ACS (Home), Ashok Narayan as part of the investigation.
The note further states that in wake of the terrorist attack on the Parliament in December 2001, there was a war-like situation on the border. Hence, the whole force was deployed in the forward/border areas of the country. The state government then requested for Army personnel in the cantonment of Ahmedabad, but no force was available there either. Despite the fact that in such a scenario, withdrawing the Army from the border would require a high-level decision at the Centre, the decision to withdraw the same and deploy to Gujarat was taken without delay.
The note says Army personnel were airlifted by using about 40 aircrafts from the border and landed in Ahmedabad by 28th February midnight. 6 buses, 9 trucks and 15 jeeps were sent for use by the Army by 2:30 am on 1st March 2002. During the day 39 additional vehicles were provided. A total of 131 vehicles were provided to the Army. Additional executive magistrates were provided to the Army. Escort officers from the police force were provided to the Army.
Personnel were airlifted to be deployed to Vadodara and Rajkot as well.
Within 16 hours of official communication, the Army was brought from forward/border areas and deployed in Gujarat.
Now if only the ‘investigative journalists’ had bothered to carry out an actual investigation instead of relying on clowns masquerading as journalists, things would have been so much better for humanity.
Note: Some parts of this report is based on extensive investigation by gujaratriots.com.