When Modi held a “midnight meeting” and told his top officials to lay off when rioting began…

By Manu Joseph*
This is the origin of the perception that on the night of February 27, 2002, Narendra Modi held a “midnight meeting” during which he told his top officials to lay off when rioting began…
In May, 2002, a few weeks after the burning of the train in Godhra, I was in the office of a human rights activist. There, by chance, I got to know that Haren Pandya, a minister in Modi’s cabinet, had deposed before a people’s tribunal, which included retired judges.
The minister had said that about twelve hours after the burning of the train, Modi held a meeting in his house. Some of the most senior bureaucrats and cops in the state were present at the meeting. Modi asked them, according to Pandya, to let Hindus vent their anger.
I went to meet Pandya and told him that I have stumbled on this sketchy story, did he have anything to say. He did not want the news of his deposition to be made public, so we had an arrangement. He would give me all the details of his deposition, more than what I know already, and I would conceal his name. (Weird arrangement because the moment the story was released everybody in Gujarat guessed it was Pandya because his dislike for Modi was widely known.)
Pandya told me he was not present at the meeting himself but he was briefed by more than one person who attended the meeting. And Pandya gave me the details of the meeting and a list of officials who were present. (Intelligence Bureau officers would tell me that on the morning of February 28 goons first created minor trouble just to check if the police did in fact look the other way. When that was confirmed the slaughter began, according to the IB officers.)
I tried to reach the officials mentioned by Pandya to confirm if they were present at the meeting but none would speak to me. The meeting did take place, it is what transpired at the meeting that is disputed.
I filed my story and thus came to the mainstream the theory that Modi had held a ‘midnight meeting’ during which he asked his top officials to fall in line. Pandya’s name was revealed by Outlook only after his murder.
An uncorrected sentence in my story suggested that the deposition of Pandya was a confirmation of a fact. His deposition was, in reality, an allegation. Some of the officials Pandya had claimed were present at the meeting, it turned out, were not. "Outlook" later ran a clarification.
In Pandya’s list though there was no mention of Sanjiv Bhatt, the police officer who would claim, many years later, that he was present at the infamous ‘midnight meeting’. I had not heard of him at the time in 2002 or in the months that followed when I tried to obtain eyewitness accounts of the meeting. In my view it is very highly unlikely that he was indeed present as he claims.
I remember calling the former DGP K Chakravarthy, who was among the officials present at the meeting. Pandya had told me that he was the only official who had protested. So I told him something about conscience but Chakravarthy chuckled and disconnected the phone. Several reporters have since tried to find out what exactly occurred during the meeting. There have been official probes, too, of course. I gather we don’t know yet. 
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*Journalist, novelist. Author of "Serious Men" and "The Illicit Happiness of Other People". Source: https://www.facebook.com/manu.joseph.56614

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