Repeating what he said in 2005 to Prabhu Chawla, presently Editorial Director of The New Indian Express, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi told an Urdu daily that “he is ready to be hanged, if he has sinned” in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In response to a question from Shahid Siddiqui, who edits Urdu daily Nayi Duniya, on why shouldn’t Modi as a state head apologise now, 10 years after the 2002 riots, “like Rajiv Gandhi apologised for the 1984 riots”, the Gujarat Chief Minister quoted verbatim from his interview to Chawla.
“You should see the statements I made at that point. From that you will understand what Modi thinks and believes. There was a 2005 interview of mine with Prabhu Chawla. He asked me the same question and I told him, why should I apologise? If a government is responsible for this (riots), then it should be hanged in the middle of the road. And they should be hanged as a deterrent -- so that no administrator dares to do this again.
They should not be forgiven, because that is encouraging the crime. If Modi has sinned, then Modi should be hanged. But, even after trying sincerely to save many lives, some people want to badmouth me due to political reasons, then I cannot answer them”.
Following his 2005 interview to Chawla, Modi rarely spoke about the riots and his alleged role therein. He opened up only now in an interview to Siddiqui, who is also a former Samajwadi Party MP.
In the interview, Modi said the media should apologise to him if no case is made out against him. (“I will give you all the documents with my statements. And if you are convinced that I was not involved in it, then you should also publish that you were harsh on me. Then you should say that ‘for the past 10 years, we have defamed Modi’ and you should apologise to me”.)
As predicted, the interview led to a war of words between the Congress and BJP.
Union Minister Kapil Sibal said the statement had probably been made keeping in mind the upcoming election in Gujarat, while his Cabinet colleague M Veerappa Moily termed Modi’s statement “highly repressive and irresponsible”.
On the other hand, former BJP president Rajnath Singh slammed the Union Government and said there was a plan “to malign Modi”.
On his part, Siddiqui said he had taken the interview in his “capacity as a journalist” and he being a Samajwadi Party member had nothing to do with it. He said the interview might be a part of Modi’s bid for an image makeover, but added in the same vein that “it was not going to be easy for him”.