Breaking his silence on the 2002 Gujarat riots, Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday, 25 June, lauded the Supreme Court's judgment, which dismissed a plea by Zakia Jafri challenging the clean chit given by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the case.
Shah said that he had "closely seen" the prime minister endure the "pain" of the allegations levelled against him in connection with the riots.
"I have closely seen Modi ji enduring this pain, facing the allegations despite being on the side of truth. Since the judicial process was underway, he did not speak. Only a man with a strong heart can do this," Shah said in an interview with news agency ANI.
'PM Modi Followed Lord Shiva, Who Held Poison In His Throat'
He also said that PM Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat when the riots occurred in 2002, had endured pain for the last 19 years without saying anything, adding that he followed "Lord Shiva, who swallowed poison and held it in his throat."
The Supreme Court had on 24 June upheld the magistrate's decision to accept the final report submitted by the SIT in the 2002 Gujarat riots case, claiming that the appeal filed by Jafri was "devoid of merits."
Jafri is the widow of Ehsan Jafri, a Congress MP who was killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre during the riots.
After the judgment, Shah demanded an apology from all those who had levelled "politically motivated" charges against Modi.
'Gujarat Govt Didn't Delay In Calling In the Army': Shah
He also said that the Gujarat government at the time did not delay in calling for the Indian Army to deal with the riots in 2002, adding that former Punjab Director General of Police KPS Gill had said that the government's actions were "prompt and neutral."
"The Gujarat government did not delay in anything. When the Gujarat Bandh was declared, we called the Army. The Army needed some time to reach. There was not even a day’s delay by the Gujarat government and this was also appreciated by the court," Shah said, as per ANI.
The home minister also targeted the Congress over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, alleging that "nothing was done for three days" despite so many Sikhs being killed.
He also took a jibe a Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the "satyagraha" being conducted on his behalf over his questioning by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the National Herald Case.
Shah said that when the then CM Modi appeared before the SIT in connection with the 2002 riots, he did so without any "drama or dharna."
Shah also referred to the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, in which he himself was facing arrest, saying that no "dharna" was undertaken at that time either.
"In a democracy, PM Modi presented an ideal example of how the Constitution should be respected by all political persons. Modi ji was also questioned, but nobody protested, and (BJP) workers from across the country did not gather in solidarity with Modi ji. We cooperated with the law. I was also arrested. There was no protest or demonstration."
Shah Slams Teesta Setalvad Over 'Baseless' Information on Riots
The home minister lashed out at activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad, whose NGO, he alleged, issued baseless information about the riots.
"I have read the judgment very carefully. The judgment clearly mentions the name of Teesta Setalvad. The NGO that was run being run by her – I don’t remember the name of the NGO – had given baseless information about the riots to the police," Shah said.
He also said that Setalvad had "exploited" the emotions of Jafri in connection with the case.
"The Supreme Court said that Zakia Jafri worked on someone else's instructions. The NGO signed affidavits of several victims and they didn't even know. Everyone knows Teesta Setalvad's NGO was doing this. When the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government came to power at that time, it helped the NGO," Shah told ANI.
(With inputs from ANI.)