“Idea came from Modi himself:” What Hindutva men said about Narendra Modi’s role in Gujarat 2002?

Of late, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, challenging a clean chit given by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and several others in the 2002 Gujarat genocide.

Following the apex court ruling, the 2007 Tehelka sting operation, which exposed Modi’s direct hand in the pogrom, has once more been the subject of heated discussions.

In contrast to the verdict, the former journalist Ashish Khetan’s investigations into the 2002 Gujarat violence as an undercover journalist with a spy camera brings out the complicity of the police and the chief minister at that time, Narendra Modi.

Multiple interviews he meticulously planned and carried out with various local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal cadres from pogrom-hit Muslim localities made first-hand accounts of the men who plotted and executed the genocide in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, and Sabarkantha available for public.

Here are some crucial excerpts from the conversation, exposing the role of Modi in the pogrom.

He (Modi) made everything all right: Babu Bajrangi 

Babu Bajrangi was a leader of the Gujarat wing of the Bajrang Dal. After being found guilty in the Naroda Patiya riots case in 2012 for his role in the killing of 97 Muslims on February 28, 2002, Bajrangi had been detained at Sabarmati Central Jail till the Supreme Court granted him bail in March 2019 on medical grounds.

August 10, 2007 

TEHELKA: The day Patiya happened, didn’t Modi support you?

Bajrangi: He made everything all right, otherwise who would have had the strength… It was his hand all the way… If he’d told the police to do differently, they would have f****d us…. they could have… they had full control… 

TEHELKA: They (police) had control? 

Bajrangi: They were very much in control all over the city, all over Gujarat… [But] for two days, Narendrabhai was in control… from the third day… a lot of pressure came from the top… Sonia-wonia and all came here…

TEHELKA: Didn’t Narendrabhai come to meet you [in jail]? 

Bajrangi: If Narendrabhai comes to meet me, he’ll be in deep trouble… I didn’t expect to see him… Even today, I don’t expect it… 

TEHELKA: Did he ever talk to you over the phone? 

Bajrangi: That way I do get to speak to him… but not just like that… The whole world starts singing… 

TEHELKA: But when you were absconding, then he….. 

Bajrangi: Hmm… I did speak to him twice or thrice… 

TEHELKA: He’d encourage you… 

Bajrangi: Marad aadmi hai [he’s a real man], Narendrabhai… If he were to tell me to tie a bomb to myself and jump… it wouldn’t take even a second… I could sling a bomb around me and jump wherever I was asked to… for Hindus… 

TEHELKA: Had he not been there,then Naroda Patiya, Gulbarg etc… 

Bajrangi: Wouldn’t have happened. Would’ve been very difficult.

September 1, 2007 

TEHELKA: Did Narendrabhai come to Patiya the day of the massacre? 

Bajrangi: Narendrabhai came to Patiya… He could not make it to the place of the incidents because there were commando-phamandos with him… But he came to Patiya, saw our enthusiasm and went away… He left behind a really good atmosphere… 

TEHELKA: Said you were all blessed… 

Bajrangi: Narendrabhai had come to see that things didn’t stop the next day… He went all around Ahmedabad, to all the places where the miyas [Muslims] were, to the Hindu areas… told people they’d done well and should do more… 

Bajrangi: [After the massacre] the commissioner issued orders [against me]… I was told to leave my home… I ran away… Narendrabhai kept me at… the Gujarat Bhavan at Mount Abu for fourand- a-half months… After that, [I did] whatever Narendrabhai told me to… Nobody can do what Narendrabhai has done in – Gujarat… If I did not have the support of Narendrabhai, we would not have been able to avenge [Godhra]… [After it was over,] Narendrabhai was happy, the people were happy, we were happy… I went to jail and came back… and returned to the life I’d led before. 

Bajrangi: Narendrabhai got me out of jail…… He kept on changing judges…. He set it up so as to ensure my release, otherwise I wouldn’t have been out yet… The first judge was one Dholakiaji… He said Babu Bajrangi should be hanged — not once, but four-five times, and he flung the file aside… Then came another who stopped just short of saying I should be hanged… Then there was a third one… By then, four-and-a-half months had elapsed in jail; then Narendrabhai sent me a message… saying he would find a way out… Next he posted a judge named Akshay Mehta… He never even looked at the file or anything…. He just said [bail was] granted… And we were all out… We were free….. For this, I believe in God… We are ready to die for Hindutva… 

He went around to all the places: Suresh Richard Chara

Convicted for life on August 31, 2012, for murder and rape, in Naroda Patia Massacre. He was reportedly part of a group consisting of Babu Bajrangi, Jai Bhawani and Guddu Chhara that killed Kausar Bi.

Richard: [On the day of the massacre] We did whatever we did till quite late in the evening… at around 7.30… around 7.15, our Modibhai came… Right here, outside the house… My sisters garlanded him with roses… Looked at how things were in Naroda… He went around to all the places… He said our tribe was blessed… He said our mothers were blessed [for bearing us]…

TEHELKA: He came out on the road? The day the Patiya incident happened…February 28… 2002… ?

Richard: Around 7 or 7.30… At that time there was no electricity… Everything had been burnt to ashes in the riots…

Richard: We’d finished burning everything and had returned… That was when the police called us… They said some Muslims were hiding in this sewer… When we went there, we saw their houses had been completely burned down but seven or eight of them had hidden in the gutter… We shut the lid on it… If we’d gone in after them, we might have been in danger… We closed the lid and weighted it down with big boulders… Later, they found eight or ten corpses in there… They’d gone there to save their lives, but… they died of the gases down there… This happened in the evening… the dhamal [killing spree] went till night, till about 8.30… Mayaben was moving around all day in an open jeep… : [She was saying] Jai Shri Ram, Jai Shri Ram… wearing a saffron headband… She kept raising slogans… She said, carry on with your work, I’m here [to protect you]… She was wearing a white sari and had on a saffron band… I had also tied on a saffron band… 

TEHELKA: It is being said the Chharas also committed rapes…

Richard: Now look, one thing is true… when thousands of hungry men go in, they will eat some fruit or the other, no… In any case, the fruit are going to be crushed and thrown away… Look, I’m not telling lies… Mata is before me [gesturing to an image of a deity]… Many Muslim girls were being killed and burnt to death anyway, some people must have helped themselves to the fruit… 

TEHELKA: There must have been a couple of rapes… 

Richard: Might even have been more… then there were the rest of our brothers, our Hindu brothers, VHP people and RSS people… Anyone could have helped themselves… who wouldn’t, when there’s fruit?… The more you harm them, the less it is… I really hate them… don’t want to spare them… Look, my wife is sitting here but let me say…the fruit was there so it had to be eaten… I also ate… I also ate… I ate once

Narendrabhai gave us great support: Ramesh Dave

Dave was a VHP leader from Kalupur.

Ramesh Dave: We went to the [VHP] office that night… the atmosphere was very disturbing… Everybody felt that [we had taken it] for so many years… Narendrabhai gave us great support… 

TEHELKA: What was his reaction when he reached Godhra? 

Dave: In Godhra, he gave a very strong statement… He was in a rage… He’s been with the Sangh from childhood… His anger was such… he didn’t come out into the open then but the police machinery was turned totally ineffective…

He had given us three days… to do whatever we could: Haresh Bhatt

Former  BJP MLA from Godhra, national vice-president of Bajrang Dal when the riots happened. Tehelka’s investigation found that bombs used by murderous mobs in Ahmedabad were made at a firecracker factory Bhatt owned.

June 1, 2007 

TEHELKA: What was Narendra Modi’s reaction when the Godhra incident happened? 

Haresh Bhatt: I can’t tell you this… but I can say it was favourable… because of the understanding we shared at that time…

TEHELKA: Tell me something… Did he… 

Bhatt: I can’t give a statement… But what he did, no chief minister has ever done … 

TEHELKA: I won’t quote it anywhere…For that matter… I am not even going to quote you 

Bhatt: He had given us three days… to do whatever we could. He said he would not give us time after that… He said this openly…After three days, he asked us to stop and everything came to a halt… 

TEHELKA: It stopped after three days… Even the army was called in. 

Bhatt: All the forces came… We had three days… and did what we had to in those three days… 

TEHELKA: Did he say that? 

Bhatt: Yes… That is why I am saying he did what no chief minister can do… 

TEHELKA: Did he speak to you? 

Bhatt: I told you that we were at the meeting. and the upper castes too have come out now in support of the Parivar… 

His blood was boiling: Arvind Pandya

Arvind Pandya was a Gujarat government counsel at a genocide inquiry panel.

June 6, 2007 

Arvind Pandya: [The Muslims of Godhra] thought they could get away with it because the Gujarati is mild by nature. In the past, they had beaten the Gujarati, they have even beaten the entire world, and nobody has shown any courage… Nobody had ever resisted them… They thought they’d get away with it just like they always do, but they used to get away with it because there was Congress rule here earlier… To get their votes, the Congress would suppress Gujaratis and Hindus… But this time, they were thrashed… It is Hindu rule now… All of Gujarat is ruled by Hindus, and that too from the VHP and the BJP… 

June 8, 2007 

TEHELKA: Sir, is it true that when Modi went to Godhra on February 27, that VHP workers attacked him? 

Pandya: No, they didn’t. It’s like this… There are 58 bodies… and it’s evening… people are bound to say, what have you done… 

TEHELKA: From 8 in the morning till evening, he didn’t land up… So, when things got heated, then Modi ji got angry and he… 

Pandya: No it’s not like that… Modi’s been on our line for a long time… Forget that matter… But he’s occupying a post, so naturally there are more limitations… and he has quite a few… It is he who gave all signals in favour of the Hindus… If the ruler is hard, then things can start happening… 

TEHELKA: Did you meet… Narendra Modi after he returned from Godhra on the 27th? 

Pandya: No, I will not answer queries on this… I shouldn’t…

TEHELKA: Sir, I want to know what was his first reaction? 

Pandya: When Narendra Modi first heard it over the phone, his blood was boiling… Tell me, what else do I say… I’ve given you some hints and I can’t reveal more than that… nor should I say it… 

TEHELKA: I wanted to know this… what his first reaction was…

Pandya: No, his reaction was like this: if he were not a minister, he would have burst bombs… If he had the capacity and was not a minister he would have detonated a few bombs in Juhapura [a Muslim-dominated locality in Ahmedabad]. 

[Interview retrieved from Tehelka]