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In his autobiography titled, “A Road Well Travelled”, former CBI director RK Raghavan recounted how he was harassed by the rivals of PM Modi for giving him a clean chit in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
On 27 February 2002, a compartment in Sabarmati Express train returning from Ayodhya was set on fire by a Muslim mob in Godhra. 59 people, including several women and children, returning from Ayodhya were burnt alive. Following the carnage, communal riots broke out in Gujarat. It is pertinent to remember that the Raghavan led the Special Investigative Team (SIT), from 2008 to 2017, which probed the highly-politicised case under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
While the SIT did not find any evidence that could prove the complicity of the then Gujarat CM Modi in the Gujarat riots, RK Raghavan became an easy target of the some ‘highly placed persons at the helm of affairs in Delhi’. As per a report in Times of India, the ex-CBI director has written, “They engineered petitions against me, accusing me of favouring the CM. The grapevine had it that they misused central agencies to monitor my telephonic conversations. They were disappointed not to find anything incriminating.” He further emphasised that the ‘unequivocal stand’ was ‘unpalatable’ to PM Modi’s rivals.
RK Raghavan decided to not interrogate PM Modi personally
“At one point of time, we had to question Modi on the allegations made against the state administration. We had it conveyed to his staff that he had to come in person to the SIT office for this purpose and that meeting him elsewhere would be misconstructed as a favour. He agreed to come to the SIT office within the government complex in Gandhinagar,” Raghavan narrated.
Raghavan had tasked fellow SIT member Ashok Malhotra to do the questioning and excused himself from taking part in the interrogation process. His unusual step was meant to avoid any allegations of ‘mischief’ or baseless claims that CM and the former CBI director had struck a deal. He wrote, “This stand was endorsed months later by no less a person than amicus curiae Harish Salve. He told me that my presence would have vitiated Modi’s statement and would have robbed it of its credibility.” He said that the decision was personal and he took it out of sheer intuition.
PM Modi answered every question energetically
“Modi’s questioning lasted nine hours in my own chamber at the SIT office. Malhotra told me later that Modi kept his cool right through the marathon session which ended late at night. He (Modi) never parried questions. Nor did he give the impression of padding up his responses, “the former CBI director said, as mentioned by ANI.
Hailing PM Modi’s energetic spirit, he added, “When Malhotra asked him whether he would like to break for lunch, he initially turned down the offer. He brought his own bottle of water and did not accept even a cup of tea from the SIT during the marathon questioning comprising hundred-odd questions…This was possibly Modi’s concession to the need for a respite for Malhotra rather than for himself. Such was the energy of the man.”
EX-CBI director dismisses baseless claims of IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt
RK Raghavan had also dismissed the baseless claims of IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt who had claimed that he was a part of the meeting where PM Modi had told senior police officers ‘not to intervene’ if ‘Hindu emotions overflowed.’ It should be mentioned that Bhatt has been serving jail time, after being convicted in a custodial death case. Bhatt is facing charges under another case where he is accused of planting drugs to frame a person in Banaskantha.
“A few others, including Sanjeev Bhat, had also alleged that the chief minister, at a late-night official meeting on 28 February 2002, had directed senior police officers present at the meeting not to intervene if Hindu emotions overflowed. Here again, there was no corroboration to the charge,” Raghavan wrote. He added that none present in the meeting, which was conducted to review the law and order situation in Gujarat in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident, conceded that Bhatt was present in the meeting.
Raghavan on Ehasan Zafri Case
A man named Ehsan Jafri and 68 others were brutally killed by the mob in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning. The mob barged in the Muslim dominated Gulberg Society of Ahmedabad and killed 69 people. In 2006, the police filed a case against Modi, some ministers and officials in response to a complaint filed by Zakia.
On April 27, 2009, the Supreme Court ordered SIT to take action on the complaint of Zakia. SIT investigated the case and a filed closure report in 2012. The closure report cited that no evidence was found against Modi or other accused officials. Raghavan said that there was no evidence to back the claim that Congress MP had tried to reach the chief minister by phone. He also emphasised that the probe did not corroborate the allegations that the then Gujarat CM Modi was complicit in the violence.
Raghavan on being vindicated by Supreme Court
Asserting that the Supreme Court’s verdict had upheld the SIT report that dismissed charges against PM Modi and others, he stated, “Fortunately, the apex court stood by me and backed me to the hilt. I was found ‘inconvenient’ because I refused to buy the argument that the state administration connived with the rioters who were targeting the Muslim community. Our investigation was clinical and professional…In our report to the apex court we absolved the chief minister of the alleged illegal direction to the police,” he said.
Raghavan is an IPS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre. He was later appointed the Indian High Commissioner to Cyprus in 2017.