NEW DELHI, June 30: In a setback to India's fabled secular democracy, and with international ramifications, the Gujarat government has destroyed incriminating records of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms, victims' lawyers and political opponents said on Thursday.The Congress party said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Chief Minister Narendra Modi had carried out a criminal conspiracy to destroy the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) records.
Pakistan's human rights icon and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Asma Jehangir had met Mr Modi in 2008 to underscore her concerns. However, according to a Gujarat official, the records had already been destroyed in 2007.
“This is nothing short of a criminal conspiracy to see that the truth does not emerge. It clearly points out that the state government is trying to cover up the entire matter,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said in New Delhi.
Alleging there was an attempt to 'hide' the truth regarding the alleged involvement of Chief Minister Modi and his cabinet colleagues, representatives of victims and survivors demanded an independent inquiry under the supervision of the Supreme Court into the BJP government's action.
Mr Tewari found it a 'complete travesty' that documents pertaining to a 'massacre and carnage', which is under investigation of the highest court of the land and in which the “needle of suspicion is directly at the Chief Minister of Gujarat”, gets destroyed in this manner.
In the state capital, Gandhinagar, lawyer Mukul Sinha of the NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch, which represents some of riot victims, said: “It is a terrible thing for the government to do. We had a doubt that they had been destroyed.”
“Since all the allegations were against police officer for inactions and negligence, destruction of SIB records could have serious implications,” he said.
Now with the records destroyed it would be difficult to prove the allegations against the accused policemen and political leaders, Mr Sinha said.
“This could also affect judgment in the Godhra train burning case as the phone call records, movement records of police and political leaders prior, during and after the incident are no more,” he added.
Senior Gujarat counsel S. B. Vakil representing the state government in the Nanavati Commission, probing the 2002 violence, had on Wednesday told reporters that telephone call records, officers' movement registers and vehicle log books of the SIB pertaining to the period of 2002 riots were destroyed in 2007, as per government rules.