The 2002 Gujarat riots returned to haunt Chief Minister Narendra Modi Thursday when a Supreme Court-appointed investigation team summoned him for questioning March 21. The Congress immediately asked him to step down.
According to Special Investigation Team (SIT) chief R.K. Raghavan, the move to question Modi follows an order from the Supreme Court on April 27 last year.
That followed a petition from Zakia Jaffri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri who was killed in the riots, and advocate-activist Teesta Setalvad on the wider conspiracy surrounding the 2002 communal frenzy.
That petition had named Modi, who was chief minister when widespread violence directed at the Muslim community broke out in February 2002 after the burning of a train at Godhra that left 59 Hindus dead. The violence, which raged intermittently for weeks, left hundreds dead.
The Supreme Court bench had referred the petition from Jaffri and Setalvad to the SIT with directions to look into it.
Rights activists and Modi critics have consistently argued that the violence could not have gone on the way it did in Gujarat in 2002, but for a tacit green signal from the highest in the administration.
The SIT summons led the Congress to demand that Modi should step down as the chief minister.
Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari said: “What has happened today should have actually happened many, many years ago. A chief minister of Gujarat and his government presided over the worst massacre of minorities that independent India has witnessed in the last 62 yuears.
“It is perhaps for the first time that a sitting chief minister has been summoned to appear before a SIT on mass murder. It would be appropriate that he should step down before appearing before the SIT.”
But Tiwari quickly added that “it would be too much to expect” from Modi to do so