Ever since Hindu rioters killed 69 Muslims, including former MP Ehsan Jafri, at his house in Ahmedabad on 28 February 2002, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has denied any complicity in that massacre. But Jafri’s widow, Zakia, has now furnished mobile phone records to claim that six of Modi’s close aides visited their neighbourhood, Meghaninagar, just a day before the murderous mob attacked their house.
Last week, Zakia Jafri told a metropolitan magistrate in Ahmedabad that she believed Modi himself visited the area with his aides on 27 February and, during that visit, conspired with Hindu zealots linked to his BJP to carry out the next day’s attack on her apartment in the housing complex named Gulberg Society. As such, she told the magistrate, Modi’s role in the conspiracy behind that attack needs to be investigated.
Anil Mukim, an IAS officer now posted in New Delhi, is the highest-ranking official among the six whose presence is shown in Meghaninagar. Phone records show Mukim (9825049391), who was then additional principal secretary in Modi’s office, visited the area twice on 27 February: first at 3.33 pm, and at 10.01 pm. JM Thakkar (9825037429), the PR officer in Modi’s office, too, was in Meghaninagar at 3.34 pm.
Around 4 pm, both officers had left with Modi for Godhra town, 160 km east of Ahmedabad, where earlier that day a train fire blamed on local Muslims had burnt 57 passengers to death. Most of the dead had been workers of BJP affiliates, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Jafri claims that Modi himself had told a Special Investigation Team (SIT), which the Supreme Court had set up in 2009 on Zakia’s petition to probe Modi’s role, that the two officials went with him to Godhra.
The log at Ahmedabad’s airport, quoted in the SIT report, confirms that Modi drove in there earlier from his office in the state capital, Gandhinagar, adjoining Ahmedabad, and flew to Vadodara city in an aircraft chartered from the Reliance Group. From Vadodara, he flew to Godhra in a helicopter of the State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Commission.
“Meghaninagar is not on the route from his office in Gandhinagar to the Ahmedabad airport,” says Teesta Setalvad, a civil rights activist who has worked closely on this case. “It needs to be investigated why Modi went there.”
The other four officials whose presence in Meghaninagar is indicated were Modi’s personal assistants. Records show three of them — OP Singh (9825000836), Sanjay Bhavsar (9825037432) and AP Patel (9825037439) — were at Meghaninagar at 3.48 pm. The fourth, Tanmay Mehta (9825000837), was there until later at 4.01 pm, by when Modi had likely left the location. What were they doing that day so far away from their offices in Gandhinagar?
On his way back, Modi left Godhra by car at 7.45 pm for Vadodara, from where he flew back to Ahmedabad. Mukim was on the plane with Modi. Mukim also joined a meeting Modi called of his ministers, bureaucrats and police officers, at 10.30 pm at his residence. But in between, phone records show Mukim at Meghaninagar at 10.01 pm. Did Modi go to Meghaninagar with Mukim after returning to Ahmedabad? If yes, why? Or did Mukim go to Meghaninagar alone from the airport? If yes, then to what business?
The presence of Modi’s closest aides in Meghaninagar that day is perplexing as the state government has consistently maintained it did not think the area would see any violence as it wasn’t traditionally communally sensitive. Jafri says the SIT erred in not investigating these phone records. “The SIT went out of its way to not probe Modi’s role in the killings,” says Setalvad. “Modi should be tried for the crime.”