Bhatt, who was DCP, State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) in 2002, claimed before the panel that he had personally informed Modi about the “imminent” threat to slain ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jaffery and the people of Gulburg society (attacked by a mob), and the reports of police inaction from across the city.
He also claimed, while deposing before the Commission comprising retired Judges G T Nanavati and Akshay Mehta, that the CM did not give any specific instructions on measures to protect the people of Gulburg society, where Jaffery and 68 others were killed by a rioting mob on February 28, 2002.
The 1988-batch IPS officer, in his affidavit filed in the apex court, has maintained that he was present at the high -level meeting of officials called by Modi on the night of February 27, 2002 after the Godhra train burning incident.
Bhatt told the commission, probing the post-Godhra riots, that he had provided all the information to the SC-appointed SIT as required by them in connection with the complaint filed by Jaffery’s wife Zakia before the Supreme Court.
When the Commission asked about the statement with regard to Modi, he owned up to what was stated. In his affidavit, Bhatt had alleged that Modi, in the February 27 meeting, had said that “Hindus be allowed to vent out their anger”, and “Muslims be taught a lesson.”
During his cross-examination by Mukul Sinha, counsel for Jan Sangarsh Manch (JSM), the NGO representing some of the riot victims, Bhatt said during the late night meeting, Modi was apprised about intelligence reports coming from across the state in the backdrop of the Godhra train burning incident in which 57 people, mostly kersevaks, were killed.
“It was sought to impress upon the Chief Minister (Modi) by me that as per intelligence information, there was large-scale mobilisation of Sangh Parivar cadre in major cities as well as in far-flung rural areas of the state,” he told the Commission when asked if the top police officers of Gujarat had informed the CM about the emerging situation.
“(Then) DGP K Chakrabarthy and city Police Commissioner P C Pande had presented the case before Modi that they were extremely short of manpower in order to meet the situation of Gujarat bandh called by VHP (on February 28, 2002). It was further conveyed that in case of communal violence, state police resources would be stretched and become ineffective,” Bhatt told the panel.
The IPS officer further told the riot panel that Pande and Chakrabarthy, during the meeting, had stated that it was not a good idea to bring the bodies of those killed at Godhra to Ahmedabad.
“The officers said this would inflame communal passion. They further said that taking out funeral procession would act like adding fuel to the fire.”
According to Bhatt, Modi was also advised against BJP supporting the VHP-sponsored bandh over the Godhra incident as it would result in serious misconception in the minds of the party cadres that the shutdown was officially supported by the State Government.
Bhatt told the Commission that besides attending the February 27 meet, he was also present in two other meetings held on the next day.
“During the first meeting on February 28, 2002 we had information of rioting mobs building up as well as specific information of sporadic incidents of targeted communal violence. By the time of second meeting in late afternoon, we had started receiving specific information about emerging situation,” the officer said.
Asked about if he had any specific reports regarding the Gulburg society on February 28, Bhatt said by afternoon they were receiving real-time information on situation emerging there.
“At the second meeting with the CM, we had information that lives of ex-MP Ehsan Jaffery and people of Gulburg society were under an imminent threat.”
When quizzed if he had informed Modi about the situation in Gulburg, Bhatt said he had personally briefed him about the status there and also about reports of police inaction in the area.
“The Chief Minister did not give any instructions on measures to protect the people of Gulburg,” he replied, when asked if the CM had given any specific order with regard to the housing society here.
He said the SIB had repeatedly informed the Police Commissioner’s office about the situation building up in Gulburg and also requested them to take necessary measures.
Asked about the communal riots in Naroda Patiya area of the city on the same day (February 28), Bhatt said they did not have substantial information about the incident.
His cross-examination by the Government counsel would take place on May 23.
The reason for lack of information on Naroda Patiya was that the police machinery was stretched and they were focusing more on Gulburg society, Bhatt said.
The police officer also filed an application with the Commission seeking direction to the SIB to provide him with records from the state control room for the period February 27, 2002 and September 17, 2002.
The probe panel said it would decide on the application at a later stage.