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Report clears official from wrongdoing in 2002 violence

Published By United Press International
AHMEDABAD, India, May 7 (UPI Asia) – A leading human rights activist Monday slammed a report that has exonerated an Indian state head from blame for allowing police to stand by while a Hindu mob killed thousands of Muslims.

The report of the Special Investigative Team, set up by India's Supreme Court in 2008 to examine a series of violent attacks against Muslims in 2002 in the western state of Gujarat, said an order given within "the four walls of a room" would not be an offense.

"This is absolutely shocking," activist Teesta Setalvad told UPI Asia here.

"If a special investigative team appointed by the Supreme Court believes that a statement made by the chief executive of a state, an instruction that is clearly unconstitutional, is not an offense, then what is an offense?"

In a report given to a local court last month and accessed Monday, the SIT dismissed charges by two police officers that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi ordered the police to allow Muslims' killings.

They two police officers had claimed that Modi had told his top police officers at his official residence on February 27, 2002 to allow a protest rally the next day to "vent its anger" against the Muslims.

R. B. Sreekumar, a police officer who has since retired, told the SIT that the state's police chief told him of Modi's orders the next day. Superintendent of Police Sanjiv Bhatt told the SIT that he was present at Modi's meeting.

Gujarat government suspended and arrested Bhatt last year. He was later given bail.

"The interpretation made on alleged illegal instructions given by the Chief Minister by Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt appears to be without basis," the SIT report said.

"Even if such allegations are believed for the sake of argument, mere statement of alleged words in the four walls of a room does not constitute an offense."

Sreekumar slammed the SIT report. "Even a constable at the police training school would not write such a thing," Sreekumar told UPI Asia. "In his haste to be more loyal than the king, Raghavan has lost his balance."

More than 2000 Muslims died over weeks of violence by Hindu zealots from a sectarian group that is allied with Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi and his BJP have maintained the killings were a spontaneous response from the Hindus who were angered by the death of 58 people, many of them Hindu activists, when the train they were traveling in was set on fire on February 27, 2002.

The violence broke out the next day when the BJP affiliate, the World Hindu Congress, called a statewide protest against the train fire.

The SIT report was Monday made available Monday to Zakia Jafri, the widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was burned to death with nearly three dozen other Muslims on February 28, 2002 in his house by a Hindu mob.

The Supreme Court had appointed the SIT in 2008 on a plea by Ms. Jafri who had contended that the Gujarat government was deliberately sabotaging the investigations and prosecution into the killing of her husband and others.

Former Central Bureau of Investigation Director R. K. Raghavan, who headed the SIT, has been criticized for clearing Modi of the allegations.

The SIT said it found no evidence to support Bhatt's claim that he was present at the meeting.
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