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New case piles pressure on aspiring Indian PM

Modi's innocence in murderous riots challenged again

New case piles pressure on aspiring Indian PM
The deaths of Hindu pilgrims on a train in 2002 sparked riots in which hundreds of Muslims died reporter, Ahmedabad

April 16, 2013

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The 2002 Gujarat riots came back to haunt controversial prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Monday as the widow of a politician killed in the tragedy filed a new legal petition.

The petition by Zakia Jafri, widow of lawmaker Ehsan Jafri, alleged that the massacre responsible for the death of her husband and 68 others was a conspiracy planned and executed by Modi with his cabinet colleagues and co-accused.

Filed in the metropolitan court in the Gujarat commercial capital Ahmedabad, the petition seeks to reject a Special Investigation Team (SIT) closure report that was filed in the same court in February last year. The earlier report exonerated Modi of all blame for the 2002 events.

The Ahmedabad court is set to hear Zakia’s petition on April 24. Meanwhile, Zakia has demanded a further investigation by an independent agency other than the Supreme Court-appointed SIT.

Modi has been the state minister of Gujarat since 2001 and is the prime ministerial candidate of the ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janat Party (BJP) for elections due next year.

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a Mumbai-based group set up in the wake of the riots which is providing legal aid to Zakia, described Modi’s role in the tragedy as “a cold blooded and clear cut conspiracy” in a statement issued on Monday to coincide with the petition.

The riot began after Muslims allegedly set fire to the passenger car of a train returning from the holy Hindu site of Ayodhya, resulting in the deaths of 58 pilgrims in Godhra, eastern Gujarat, on February 27, 2002.

Riots then engulfed Gujarat, leading to the deaths of 1,186 people – mostly Muslims – and the destruction of property worth hundreds of millions of rupees.

CJP has accused Modi, as Gujarat’s chief minister, of organizing the riots along with other Hindu leaders “ensuring that the tragedy at Godhra became ready fuel for the meticulously planned massacre of innocent Muslims all over Gujarat.”

Zakia’s 514-page petition claims to detail “how the administration and police were deliberately paralyzed and neutralized” and how Modi was allegedly in close consultation with his cabinet colleagues during the riots.

The records included in the petition claim to show that intelligence services forewarned Modi’s administration about the riots but that the state government did not act.

Modi's candidacy for prime minister has come under severe scrutiny over his alleged role in the affair, with Bihar State Minister Nitish Kumar leading criticism of Modi in recent weeks.

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