Friday 11 May 2012. A Muslim politician who was murdered in 2002 riots in India’s Gujarat state may have “provoked” a violent mob by firing at them, investigators say.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) made its controversial findings in a report to India’s Supreme Court.
Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among 69 people killed in the Gulbarg residential complex in Ahmedabad.
More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in violence that erupted after 60 Hindus were killed in a train fire.
The cause of the train fire is a matter of fierce debate, although Muslims were blamed at the time.
The riots were one of India’s worst outbreaks of religious violence.
The SIT, which was appointed by the Supreme Court, is looking into a number of high-profile Gujarat riots cases.
It recently submitted its report to the court, and details of its findings to do with the Gulbarg complex killings are emerging only now.
Mr Jafri fired at the mob and “the provoked mob stormed the [Gulbarg] Society and set it on fire”, the SIT report said.
‘Action and reaction’
Correspondents say the SIT report invokes the same Newtonian theory of “action and reaction” that the state’s controversial Chief Minister Narendra Modi had used as the riots were raging.
In an interview to Zee television on 1 March 2002, Mr Modi is reported to have said that the firing by the MP was an “action” and the massacre was a “reaction”.
Mr Modi later denied making the statement and said he was “quoted out of context”.
The SIT report confirmed that Mr Modi used the words “action” and “reaction”, but it gave a clean chit to the chief minister.
“In his interview, the chief minister has clearly referred to Jafri’s firing as ‘action’ and the massacre as ‘reaction’. It may be clarified here that in case late Ehsan Jafri fired at the mob, this could be an immediate provocation to the mob which had assembled there to take revenge of Godhra incidents from Muslims,” it said.
The report quoted Mr Modi as saying that the train fire was a “heinous crime, for which reactions were being felt”.
The controversial chief minister has been blamed by critics for not doing enough to stop the violence.
Zakia Jafri, the MP’s widow, says her husband called Mr Modi for help but it never came.
Survivors of the Gulbarg massacre say he fired his gun in self defence as the violent mob attacked the complex.
Mrs Jafri has accused Mr Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministerial colleagues, including top police officials, of conspiracy in the riots.
The chief minister argues that he has been unfairly targeted by his critics and his lawyer called the allegations against his client “absurd”.
On the basis of the SIT report, a trial court last month ruled that investigators had found no evidence against Mr Modi in the case.
Mrs Jafri, who received a copy of the SIT investigation into his death earlier this week, has said she would appeal.
The report has been criticised by activists and opposition politicians for giving a clean chit to Mr Modi.
One Congress politician has filed a Right to Information application seeking details of pay and other benefits given to RK Raghavan, the SIT head, by the Gujarat government.
There have also been allegations that Mr Raghavan’s foreign trips were financed by the state.