The Supreme Court’s judgement dismissing a petition by Zakia Jafri in connection with the 2002 Gujarat riots was deeply disappointing, the Congress said on Tuesday.
Zakia Jafri, the wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, had challenged the report of a Special Investigation Team that had cleared Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the matter. Ehsan Jafri was among the 69 people who were killed when a mob went on a rampage in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002, setting fire to homes.
On June 24, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition, saying that the proceedings were pursued “to keep the pot boiling...for ulterior design”.
Jairam Ramesh, the Congress’ general secretary in-charge for communications, said that the party stands by Ehsan Jafri and his family.
He said that the judgement leaves several fundamental questions unanswered, such as what is the constitutional and moral responsibility of the chief minister and the state government in a case of communal riots. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when the riots took place in 2002.
“Will the chief minister, Cabinet and state government never be held accountable, even if a State is thrown into a circle of violence and riots?” he asked.
The Congress leader said that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was “so affected by his [Modi’s] lack of action” that he had to publicly remind him to perform his rajdharma, or his sacred duty as a leader.
Ramesh also referred to the Supreme Court’s remarks about the riots from April 2004, when it said that “modern-day Neros were looking elsewhere” while innocent children and helpless women were burning. The Supreme Court had made the remarks while quashing the acquittal of 21 accused persons in the Best Bakery case, which was also related to the 2002 riots.
“Why did sections of the BJP, including now member of the Modi Cabinet Smriti Irani protest and call for his dismissal as CM if he was not guilty of any wrongdoing?” he asked.
The Congress leader also said that several persons were convicted on the basis of evidence collected by the Special Investigation Team. “No amount of propaganda by the BJP can ever erase these facts,” he added.
Congress silent on arrest of activist: Kerala CM
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the Congress was silent on the arrests of activist Teesta Setalvad and former Gujarat Director General of Police RB Sreekumar a day after the Supreme Court judgement, according to The Indian Express.
The Gujarat Police had arrested them for alleged forgery in cases related to the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Vijayan said that their arrests should be seen as an attempt to intimidate anti-BJP forces. “The Congress is maintaining silence before the Sangh Parivar’s threat,” he said. “The Congress is crawling on its knees fearing the BJP. All those parties, including the Indian Union Muslim League, which stand with the Congress, should consider this seriously,”
However, Congress leader and Kerala Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan accused Vijayan of “telling blatant lies”, PTI reported.
He said that Setalvad was awarded the Padma Shri during the United Progressive Alliance government’s tenure in 2007. “So, the chief minister doesn’t need to teach the Congress the lessons of secularism,” Satheesan added.