Records of 2002 riots destroyed: Gujarat govt

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Old 30-Jun-2011
Records of 2002 riots destroyed: Gujarat govt

Ahmedabad June 30:

In what may turn out as a crucial lapse in the probe into the 2002 riots, the Gujarat government has officially admitted that all the state intelligence bureau records related to the riots have been destroyed.

SB Vakil, Government Counsel in the Nanavati Commission, probing the post-Godhra riots, said that the records were destroyed after five years (in 2007) as per standard practice. "As per general government rules the telephone call records, vehicle log book and the officer's movement diary are destroyed after a certain period," Vakil said. He said as far as the SIB records for 2002 (when Sabarmati Express train fire at Godhra and subsequent riots took place) were concerned, they were destroyed in 2007.

Vakilís revelation is crucial in view of the allegations made by Gujarat cadre IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt against Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Bhatt had told the Nanavati-Mehta commission that he had informed the Chief Minister, in advance, about the attack on the Gulberg Society Feb 28, 2002 but, despite specific intelligence inputs, no orders were issued. "Bhatt knows that the records are not available and despite that he is asking for them," Vakil noted.

Bhatt had given an application to the commission in May, seeking direction to the Government and SIB to provide him records and documents pertaining to 2002 riots period. The government counsel said Bhatt, who was DCP (SIB) in 2002, knows the rule that such records are destroyed after a certain period. In spite of that he is asking for such records through various direct and indirect representations. There were heated arguments between Bhatt and Vakil during the senior IPS officer's questioning before the two-member probe panel.

Vakil claimed that Bhatt had "crossed his limits" when he filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court. Bhatt was summoned for questioning by the Commission following his affidavit in the apex court where he had alleged that Modi had instructed officers to allow Hindus "to vent out their anger" during the clashes (which broke out after the torching of Sabaramti Express), and he wanted Muslims to be "taught a lesson". During questioning, Vakil asked Bhatt, posted as DCP with SIB during the post-Godhra riots, to name other DCPs who were on duty in the city on February 27, 2002 (the day of Godhra train fire).

To this, Bhatt said answer was already in the records of the government. Bhatt repeatedly gave similarly answers to other questions posed by the government counsel. This sparked a heated exchange of words between the two with Bhatt shouting at Vakil and saying "do not cross the limit". Vakil shot back, saying "Right from the day you made affidavit (in the Supreme Court) you crossed your limit." He also complained to the Commission that the IPS officer was not answering questions properly to which the panel said it was his right to reply the way he wants. Bhatt's questioning will continue on July 9.
Bhatt also had arguments with Justice (retd) G T Nanavati, who heads the Commission, during the questioning. When Vakil asked Bhatt if IPS officer E Radhakrishnan was DIG in SIB on February 27, 2002, he said to the best of his knowledge, he was posted as SP of Gandhinagar. Bhatt further told the panel that a Minority Finance Development Corporation office, located in Old Secretariat campus, was burnt down right under the nose of Radhakrishnan and he, as a SIB officer, had reported against him. On this Justice Nanavati interrupted Bhatt and asked him to give information only about what he was asked. "Do not bring other matters into the public domain."

Bhatt replied that the panel should be interested in more details of the case as it was inquiring about the riots of 2002. "The Commission has to be impartial on it part. Such a thing from the state government is understandable, but not from the Commission itself," the IPS officer stated. After exchange of some words, Bhatt remarked, "Don't mess with me." The Commission, annoyed at the response, said it would make a note that on one hand Bhatt was avoiding answering questions, while on the other the police officer was giving information not related to the queries.

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