Ready to name more witnesses, Gujarat cop tells probe panel

Gujarat’s senior IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt told the Nanavati-Mehta commission that he could name other witnesses who would vouchsafe his presence at a crucial meeting called by Chief Minister Narendra Modi Feb 27,2002 in addition to the names he mentioned in his affidavit made before the Supreme Court.

 

“I will give the names of the witnesses only when asked by the Supreme Court since the issue was pending before the apex court”, he said in his disposition before the judicial enquiry committee probing the 2002 riots.

 

Bhatt, who stated that at the meeting Modi had not only “directed” top police officers to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger”, but also failed to issue any instruction even in the two subsequent meetings held on the next day.

 

The meeting was held at the chief minister’s residence Feb 27, 2002 evening after the train carnage at the Godhra railway station early in the morning that left 58 people dead.

 

Bhatt was emphatic that he had attended all three meetings.

 

“The chief minister had called two meetings on February 28, the day of the bandh call, one in the forenoon and the other in late afternoon and I had attended both the meetings in the company of my superior, the additional director general of police and state intelligence chief G.C. Raigar.”

 

He claimed that by the time the second meeting was held, the intelligence department had “real-time information” about the mob build-up and the tense situation in the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad.

 

Bhtt said that he had personally informed the chief minister about the build-up in Gulberg Society, the threat to the residents there, including to the former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jafri, and the “complete police inaction” across the city.

 

But the chief minister did not give any instruction for protective action, Bhatt said.

 

He also claimed that the state director general of police (DGP), K. Chakravarthi, was present when he informed the chief minister about the situation in Gulberg.

 

Referring to the Feb 27 meeting, Bhatt stated that both the then state DGP and the Ahmedabad police commissioner, P.C. Pande, tried to convince the chief minister about the inherent dangers in the BJP supporting the Viswa Hindu Parishad’s protest bandh call given for the next day as it would amount to the government supporting it.

 

Similarly the two top officers also tried to dissuade the chief minister from bringing the bodies of the train carnage victims from Godhra to Ahmedabad and from taking out the funeral procession with the bodies.

 

Pande even told the chief minister that this could lead to an incendiary situation, Bhatt said.

 

He added that he had also briefed the chief minister about the large scale mobilisation by the Sangh Parivar even in interior areas and the possibility of large scale violence.

 

The chief minister was also briefed about the paucity of police force to deal with the situation emerging out of such a course of action, Bhatt said.

 

Bhatt Monday moved an application seeking directions to authorities to allow him access to requisite and relevant information, records and documents of the state control room and the Intelligence Bureau, and the offices of the director general and inspector general of police for the period from Feb-Sept 17, 2002.

VHP not ready to give away any part of Ayodhya land

Rejecting the Ayodhya verdict of the Allahabad High Court, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Wednesday demanded not only the disputed 90 ft x 120 ft plot where the Babri Masjid once stood, but also the over 67 acres of land nearby acquired by the central government.

‘We are not ready to part with any bit of land in or around the disputed Ayodhya land, where we wish to erect a grand temple to mark the birthplace of Lord Ram,’ VHP supremo Ashok Singhal said at a press conference here Wednesday afternoon.

He also ruled out the possibility of allowing construction of a mosque in any corner of the entire acquired land. ‘If Muslims wish to build a mosque, let them do it outside the limits of the acquired land,’ Singhal said.

He was speaking after a day-long meeting of the VHP’s central committee of seers, who debated the court verdict.

A three-judge special bench of the high court had ordered division of the disputed 90 ft x 120 ft plot of land where the Babri Masjid once stood into three equal parts – one to Ram Lalla, one to Hindu sect Nirmohi Akhara and one to the Sunni Central Waqf Board.

Claiming that 45 acres of the acquired land actually belonged to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas (trust), Singhal said: ‘I see no reason why the central government cannot make a smooth transfer of the 45 acres of acquired land back to its original owner, that was the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas.’

He said the remaining acquired land too could be formally given to the Nyas for construction of the proposed Ram temple.

Singhal proposed to lead a delegation of Hindu seers to Prime minister Manmohan Singh with a formal request in this regard.

‘I will take a delegation to the prime minister and urge him to hand over the entire 70 acres acquired by the central government way back in the 1990s (after the demolition of the mosque),’ he said.

The VHP was not a direct party to the court case, but chose to throw its weight behind the deity Ram Lalla, a party to the Ayodhya title suit, to whom the court gave one-third of the disputed land.

‘We will urge the deity of Ram (represented by a friend) to file an appeal against the high court order, that had given away one-third of the property to Muslims,’ he said.

‘There was no dispute about the fact that entire Ayodhya was owned by (mythological king) Raja Dashrath, the father of Ram, and the birthplace of Ram was a part of the raja’s palace, so there was no question of parting with any piece of land in that area,’ Singhal said.

He said there seemed no possibility of any out-of-court settlement on the issue unless Muslims completely give up their claim to any portion of the land.

When his attention was drawn to the dispute that the VHP was running even with the Nirmohi Akhara, a rival Hindu party in the case which has been entrusted with one-third of the disputed property, Singhal said: ‘Now that the high court has given the main part of the disputed land to Lord Ram’s deity, it is by implication that the entire land would belong to him.’

However, Jagadguru Madhavacharya, the head of the Udupi peeth in Karnataka, who was also accompanying Singhal, said: ‘We will try and make the Nirmohi Akhara understand that after all we were both fighting for a common cause and our ultimate goal was to see a grand Ram temple come up at the birthplace of the lord.’

Asked about the possibility of a compromise formula, Singhal said: ‘We are not against compromise, but as far as we are concerned we do not have any such formula to offer on our own.’

‘However, we are open to considering any such formula if it were to be proposed by the other party, provided it were to uphold the dignity of Lord Ram as also the sentiments of millions of Hindus,’ said the VHP chief.

Nirmohi Akhara ready for out-of-court settlement

Close on the heels of the initiative taken by 90-year-old Hashim Ansari for a negotiated settlement on the Ayodhya issue, the Nirmohi Akhara too has expressed its inclination to talk and resolve the dispute once and for all.

“I welcome the initiative taken by Mahant Gyan Das and Hashim Ansari and will be only too glad to be a party to the move for bringing the dispute to an amicable settlement and avoid another unending court battle,” Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das said.

Significantly, while Ansari was the first Muslim to stake a legal claim to the Babri Masjid after it was usurped by Hindu mobs on the night of Dec 22-23, 1949, it was the Nirmohi Akhara which sought legal right to offer prayers at the disputed site way back in 1885.

It was Ansari who took the first step towards initiating a process of reconciliation instead of proceeding straight to the country’s apex court in appeal against the Sep 30 order of the Allahabad High Court.

The court split the disputed land into three parts – one going to the contending Muslim group and the other two to be shared by two Hindu groups involved in the legal battle.

Ansari’s talks with Mahant Gyan Das, president of All India Akhara Parishad and head of Ayodhya’s Hanuman Garhi temple, on Sunday helped in breaking the ice.

And what followed Monday was yet another positive move, with Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das too expressing his desire to join the reconciliation bandwagon.

Bhaskar Das, 81, said he was confident that very soon many prominent holy men of Ayodhya would join the dialogue process with local Muslims and other contestants in the case.

While he declined to divulge the names of those with whom he claimed to have got in touch, sources close to him confirmed that he had mooted the idea to a few leading Ayodhya holy men.

They include Mahant Nrtiya Gopal Das, who heads the Ram Janmbhoomi Trust, the body entrusted with the task of building the proposed temple.

The move is likely to witness much opposition from the Sunni Central Waqf Board, whose counsel and Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) convenor Zafaryab Jilani has taken serious affront to Hashim Ansari’s initiative.

“Ansari is just an individual litigant; he is no authority on behalf of the Waqf Board which is the key contestant,” he said.