In his recent interview to ANI, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi claimed there was not ‘even a grain of truth’ in
the allegations against him for his role in the
post Godhra riots of February-March 2002.
Senior journalist Manoj Mitta’s book The
Fiction Of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra
makes a sincere and scholarly attempt to ferret out the gaps in the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team that,
Mitta feels, “was far from effective,” resulting
in Modi getting off the hook for his alleged
complicity in the Gujarat riots of 2002.
The book argues that the SIT was not sincere enough to get to the bottom of the matter, but avers ‘the existing material is more
than sufficient to prosecute Modi and other
high-ups of his regime.’
In an e-mail interview with India Abroad,
Mitta answers questions surrounding the
SIT investigation and his hopes that the
Gujarat high court or the Supreme Court
“will make amends and reject the SIT’s find-
ing that there was not enough prosecutable
evidence against Modi and others.”
What leads you to write such diligently
researched books that take on the might of
the establishment? First, it was When a Tree
Shook Delhi that exposed the lame fact-
finding techniques that inquiry commissions
employed to protect Congress politicians in-
volved in the anti-Sikh carnage that followed
then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassi-
nation. Now The Fiction Of Fact-Finding
exposes similar attempts by the Special Inve-
stigation Team that let Modi get away.
Both books grew organically from my
journalistic engagement with the process of
fact-finding. The engagement was deep and
My concern though was not only with the
mass crimes committed in 1984 and 2002.
Nor was I content with just grasping the findings handed by various state agencies. My
priority has actually been on tracking how
exactly those conclusions had been arrived
at, whether the findings really matched the
testimonies and other evidence recorded by
those very courts and commissions.
As a human rights journalist, I have strived
to expose impunity and institutional bias,
the dirty tricks played by police and judicial
authorities to shield the political and administrative high-ups accountable for the mass
Did you receive threats from those who
thought these books could harm careers?
I have not received any threats. After the
publication of the Gujarat book, I did face
hostility, though it was not from any of the
persons directly accountable for the violence
or the cover-up.
Did the SIT deliberately let Modi off the
hook by not asking questions that could have
possibly nailed his complicity in the riots?
The gaps and contradictions in the SIT
report pointed out by my book do establish
that this Supreme Court-appointed team deliberately let Modi off the hook.
The deficiencies in the investigation were
most glaring in the SIT’s failure to ask obvi-
ous follow-up questions. The SIT refrained
from pinning him down on any of the dodgy
claims made by Modi when his testimony
was recorded in 2010.
Take his claim on the very first post
Godhra massacre, which took place at Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad February 28,
2002. Though the massacre had been over
by 3.45 pm, Modi claimed he came to know
of it only after 8.30 pm.
The SIT did not challenge this incongruity
despite recording a list of meetings Modi
had held with police officers through the day,
apparently to track the violence real time as
he was both the chief minister and home
minister of Gujarat.
What purpose would you ascribe to the
SIT letting Modi get away?
The book dwells on the controversies related to the flawed composition of the SIT, beginning with the unsuitability of R K Raghavan as its chairman.
One of the biggest revelations made by the
book is about Raghavan’s indictment for the
security lapses leading to Rajiv Gandhi’s
assassination in 1991. But as this indictment
had glossed over the gravity of the evidence
on record, it allowed the Vajpayee government to resurrect his career in 1999 when he
was given the coveted post of CBI director.
This, in turn, paved the way for the crucial
post-retirement assignment from the Supreme Court, entrusting Gujarat carnage cases
Are you suggesting through the title of
your book that the entire fact-finding conducted by the SIT under the leadership of its
chairman R K Raghavan was a sham?
The Supreme Court’s intervention in
Gujarat 2002 (investigations by appointing
the SIT) made a dent in India’s record of
impunity in communal violence cases. It led
to convictions in some of the most egregious
cases, most notably being of Modi’s minister
Maya Kodnani for her complicity in the
Naroda Patiya massacre. But when it came
to the complaint directly related to Modi,
along with 60 others of his regime for the
entire Gujarat carnage, the Supreme Court’s
monitoring of the SIT investigation proved
to be far from effective.
The saving grace is it yielded rich material
laying bare, however unwittingly, despite the
lengths to which the SIT had gone to shield
Modi. The oxymoronic title of my book is
indeed inspired by the travesty of fact-finding on Zakia Jafri’s complaint.
Modi said in a recent interview that there
was ‘no grain of truth’ in the allegations about his complicity in the post Godhra riots?
He also admitted in that interview that he
had stopped taking questions from the
media about the riots way back in 2007. This
is disingenuous because, in the wake of all
the details that have come to light through
the SIT investigation, Modi has much more
to explain now than ever before.
The recording of his testimony put him on
the spot on why he had not intervened in the
Gulbarg Society massacre and why in his
address to Doordarshan the same evening
he had denounced only the Muslim perpetrators of Godhra and not the Hindu perpetrators of post-Godhra violence. Hence, his
claim to the SIT that, despite the succession
of meetings he had held with the police, he
had no clue to the massacre of 69 Muslims in
Gulbarg Society for as long as five hours.
My book has brought out several such
implausible claims which he would be hard-pressed to justify.
In what way would you say is the hushing
up of Rajiv Gandhi’s or his government’s
complicity in the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage different from the SIT’s hushing up of facts to
protect Modi’s complicity in the massacres
that took place in Gujarat?
The cover-up of political and State complicity in the 1984 carnage was even more
blatant. Back then, the notion of accountability was much less developed. The NHRC
(National Human Rights Commission),
which served as a catalyst in dealing with the
2002 carnage, had come into existence nine
years after the 1984 massacre.
Luckily for Rajiv Gandhi, the judicial
activism had not evolved enough yet for the
Supreme Court to intervene in politically
motivated mass crimes.
What could be the most crucial questions
you would have asked Modi — which you say
in your book that SIT did not — if you were
in place of SIT chief Raghavan?
Listing out the questions that had been
deliberately left out by the SIT would make
little sense without going into the context of
each of them. In my book, you will find both
the questions and their context. And in this
interview, I have already cited the example of
unasked questions in the context of the
Gulbarg Society massacre.
Such follow-up questions could have
pinned down Modi, much in the manner in
which he had recently been forced by a tightening of the electoral system to admit for the
first time that he had a wife.
Manoj Mitta, author of The Fiction
Of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra
speaks to Prasanna D Zore about
that much touted ‘clean chit’
‘Had SIT not balked, Modi
would have been facing trial’