Ahmedabad—In a recent interview, Narendra Modi, the man likely to be India’s next prime minister, was asked by a news agency why he long avoided questions by journalists about his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Despite YouTube videos showing Modi refusing to answer questions on this topic, Modi insisted, “I was not silent…. I answered every top journalist in the country from 2002 to 2007, but noticed there was no exercise to understand the truth.”
In Manoj Mitta’s new book The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra, published by Harper Collins India, Mitta argues that if there has been no real attempt to get to the truth of Modi’s actions during the riots, it’s because of the “cavalier” approach to justice. Through extensive documentation, Mitta shows that Modi might be on trial today, as opposed to campaigning for prime minister, if only he had been asked the right questions about his role in the riots.
Mitta is a senior journalist with the Times of India who specializes in human rights reporting. His first book, When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath, examined the investigation into the anti-Sikh pogrom in India’s capital of Delhi, when about 3,000 Sikhs were killed after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard. It was co-written with H.S. Phoolka, now a senior advocate with the Supreme Court, who fought for over a decade, to little avail, to get justice for the victims of the 1984 massacre. Mitta has said that his third book will examine India’s problem of caste violence.
In his latest book, Mitta focuses his attention on Modi. The timing could not be better. India’s elections began on April 7 and conclude on May 12, with results to be announced on May 16. Modi, who has been the chief minister of Gujarat since 2001 and is running under the banner of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has a 78 percent favorability rating, according to the Pew Research Center. His key opponents are Rahul Gandhi of the left-leaning Indian National Congress Party and Arvind Kejriwal of the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man Party. Many of India’s 814 million voters view Modi as capable of rescuing India from the economic slump it has been in under the incumbent Congress party, which, with the Nehru-Gandhi family, has ruled India for most of its sixty-seven-year post-independence history. But a major cloud still hangs over Modi’s head: the 2002 Gujarat riots.