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BBC leans on discredited testimonies of Sanjiv Bhatt, RB Sreekumar and Teesta Setalvad to frame PM Modi in 2002 Gujarat Riots case: Details

The recently released documentary on the 2002 Gujarat Riots by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) leans on discredited testimonies of dubious individuals, including jailed ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, RB Sreekumar, and Teesta Setalvad—all of whom had been accused of receiving Rs 30 lakhs in the first tranche of payment to implicate Modi in the riots.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) released a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday—a hitjob aimed at reinforcing its longstanding propaganda against PM Modi and trying to frame him in riots that erupted across Gujarat after a Muslim mob set ablaze a bogey of Sabarmati Express resulting in the death of 59 people, including children and women.

In its bid to lend credence to its documentary, the BBC publicised it as based on the secret inquiry carried out by the UK government, which summarily rejected the claims as PM Rishi Sunak trashed the report and said he disagreed with the characterisation of PM Modi. The Indian government too slammed the documentary, calling it a piece of propaganda to promote a discredited narrative.

Nevertheless, the documentary predictably became the talk of the town as those opposed to the Modi government instantly lapped up the documentary and accused the former Gujarat CM of watching over the riots and restraining the police from taking disciplinary action—a hackneyed allegation already rejected by the apex court of the country.

While BBC attempted to market the documentary, available only to those living in the UK, as based on new ‘evidence’, it cited testimonies of discredited officers and dubious individuals to project the guilt of Gujarat Riots that were triggered by the burning of Sabarmati Express bogey on PM Modi. The documentary by the national broadcaster of the UK included testimonies and allegations made by disgraced former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, RB Sreekumar, and Teesta Setalvad—known anti-Modi detractors whose submissions have been challenged and rendered invalid by the Supreme court of India. 

Fake allegations by jailed ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt

The BBC cites ‘explosive’ claims made by ex-IPS Sanjiv Bhatt, the former police officer who was convicted and is currently serving jail time over a custodial death. The fact that the BBC documentary hinges on testimonies of disgraced and discredit individuals like Bhatt speaks volumes to the inherent bias and underlying propaganda of the British broadcaster.

Bhatt had famously claimed that he had attended a meeting chaired by then Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi, wherein he asked authorities to “let Hindus vent out their anger against Muslims so that repeat of Godhra-like incident never happens in the state”.

Bhatt stated that this meeting occurred following the Sabarmati train burning incident in which 59 Ayodhya Kar Sevaks died. At the time of the alleged encounter, Bhatt was the superintendent of police in the state intelligence bureau.

However, an SIT constituted by the Supreme Court to probe the Gujarat riots arrived at conclusions diametrically opposed to Bhatt’s assertions. The SIT discovered that Bhatt was not present at the meeting that he claims Modi scheduled in order to teach Muslims a lesson. 

The SIT discovered that the government was quick enough to summon the army on February 28th. The fact that the 54 bodies had to be taken to Ahmedabad since the relatives of these people resided in and around the city refuted Bhatt’s last assertion. Bodies were transported in a van guarded by police officers who were replaced three times throughout the 130-kilometre travel.

The SIT also submitted that Bhatt was not credible and had never been any “witness” in the meeting at chief minister Modi’s residence.

Furthermore, the Nanavati-Mehta report also concluded that Bhatt lied about the meeting at chief minister Modi’s residence. The report said that Bhatt forged a document using a fax machine to bolster his lies.

“On consideration of the evidence, it clearly appears that Bhatt is not telling the truth with regards to what happened in the meeting held on 27 February 2002, at the CM’s residence. Claims made by him of being present in the meeting appear to be false”, states the report.

Teesta Setalvad and RB Sreekumar, hatchers of the conspiracy

Teesta Setalvad, a self-described rights activist, was one of the co-petitioners who sought a criminal prosecution for then-Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 other ministers for their alleged involvement in the riots. When the Supreme Court dismissed Zakia Jafri’s petition last year, it made a critical note about Setalvad’s role in the case. The Supreme Court ruled that ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad used petitioner Zakia Jafri’s emotions for “ulterior motives.”

The court even said there is a need for further investigation into Teesta Setalvad as she was using Zakia Jafri’s feelings in the case for her own benefit. The court noted, “It is submitted that Ms Teesta Setalvad, for reasons best known to her and out of vengeance, was interested in continuing with her tirade and persecution on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations in the complaint in the name of the quest for justice with real purpose to keep the pot boiling and sensationalise and politicise the crime.”

Former Gujarat DGP and current Aam Aadmi Party politician RB Sreekumar were also among those who deliberately attempted to tarnish the reputation of Narendra Modi and the Gujarat government during the 2002 riots. Similar to Sanjiv Bhatt, Sreekumar had also claimed that CM Narendra Modi had ordered to go slow against the Hindu mob after the Godhra massacre. But just like SIT had found that Bhatt was not present at the meeting where Modi was alleged to have made those comments, Sreekumar was also not present in that meeting. In fact, he had said that he had heard it from others later.

It is notable that RB Sreekumar is also accused of the framing of ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan in the fake espionage case. Sreekumar was the IB deputy director when the Kerala police had filed the false case based on doctored inputs provided by the IB. He was also in news for filing a defamation case against Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh, which was dismissed.

Setalvad, Sreekumar, and Bhatt have been charged under IPC sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 468 (forgery), 471 (using a forged document or electronic record as genuine), 194 (giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence), 211 (false charge of offence made with intent to injure), and 218 (public servant framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save a person from punishment or property from forfeiture). 

Teesta Setalvad, the self-proclaimed ‘activist’ was arrested by the Gujarat ATS in June 2022 in a case of forgery, influencing witnesses, and the investigation of the Gujarat riots in 2002 that occurred in the aftermath of the Godhra Train burning incident, when 59 Hindus were burned to death after a Muslim mob set ablaze a Sabarmati Express bogey carrying passengers from Ayodhya. Teesta Setalvad is accused of coaching witnesses and making ridiculous accusations in several cases related to the Gujarat riots in 2002. The SC granted her interim bail in September 2022. 

In July 2022, the Special Investigation Team that has been probing the allegations of evidence fabrication in the 2002 Gujarat riots case against Sanjiv Bhatt informed an Ahmedabad sessions court that a political conspiracy against Narendra Modi was hatched at the behest of former Congress leader Ahmed Patel.

The report submitted by the SIT revealed that tainted IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, along with former DGP R B Sreekumar and ‘activist’ Teesta Setalvad accepted a total of Rs 30 lakhs from Ahmed Patel, the political advisor of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, to frame then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and destabilise his government following 2002 Gujarat riots.

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