Governance · Law

Gulbarg Massacre: Turning through the pages of history

Since time immemorial, India has been a place of controversies and the reason is as yet, undiscovered. Some say it’s due to the religious diversities, while some others blame it on the laxity of governance. We still haven’t found the real culprit. In the midst of all the drama of discovering the reason of disturbances in the country,  India is lined with scratches from the past on her bosom which are freshened up by hearing and re-hearing the cases and petitions lined up since years.. Time passes, but the wounds given by the gloomy massacres are not forgotten. One such day was 28th February, 2002.  Thirteen years back, most of the houses were burnt, and at least 35 victims including a former Congress Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive, while 31 others went missing after the incident, later presumed dead, bringing the total deaths to 69.[1]

Historical background

 The Gulbarg Society Massacre took place on 28th February, 2002, during the 2002 Gujarat riots, when a Hindu mob attacked the Gulbarg Society, a Muslim neighbourhood in Chamanpura, Ahmedabad. At 9 a.m., on 28th February, 2002, a day after the Gujarat riots had begun, a mob, shouting slogans gathered outside the Gulbarg Society in the Hindu-dominated Chamanpura area of Ahmedabad. It was claimed that Jafri unsuccessfully made repeated attempts to contact the police by telephone.[2] By noon, the mob had turned violent, breached the boundary wall and started to set fire to houses and attack residents. Among the dead was Ehsan Jafri, who was hacked to death and later burnt, while at least another 35 people were either hacked to death or burned alive.[3]

Supreme Court proceedings

The Supreme Court, on 26th March 2008, ordered the Narendra Modi government to re-investigate 10 cases in the 2002 Gujarat riots.[4]

Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, who was burnt alive on the day, first made the complaint on 8th June, 2006 alleging that the police had not registered the FIRs against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and 62 others including several ministers and alleging a conspiracy to allow the massacre of Muslims, which involved instructing policemen and bureaucrats not to respond to pleas for help from Muslims being attacked during the riots. She then approached the Gujarat High Court with her complaint, which on 3rd November, 2007, refused to entertain her plea, and instead asked her to present the case before the Magistrate’s court. Subsequently, she approached the Supreme Court of India, which on 27th April 2009 appointed a five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by R. K. Raghavan, a former head of the CBI, to investigate into these cases, and asked the SIT to look into her complaint of alleged collusion of the state machinery and the rioters over the two days of Gujarat riots.[5]

In March 2010, the Gulbarg Society case trial was stayed by the Supreme Court after the special public prosecutor R K Shah resigned after accusing the trial judge and SIT of being “soft on the accused”. He alleged that, “The SIT officers are unsympathetic towards witnesses; they try to browbeat them and don’t share evidence with the prosecution as they are supposed to do.”[6]  On 14th May 2010, the SIT submitted a report under a sealed cover. Prior to this, the SIT had requested additional time to file a report, as it wanted to question VHP International President, Praveen Togadia, which it did, on 11th May 2010.[7]

On 15th December, 2010, Zakia Jafri and others victims filed an application with the Supreme Court, requesting it to direct SIT to submit the report before the Ahmedabad court as ordered by the SC, within 30 days.[8] Thereafter on 8th February, 2012, SIT submitted its final report to a Gujarat Magistrate’s court, which, after evaluating it, would decide whether further investigation is required or not.[9]

In its closure report filed in the Zakia Jafri case, the SIT submitted that Jafri was killed because he provoked a “violent mob” that had assembled “to take revenge of Godhra incident from the Muslims.” It further submitted that Jafri fired at the mob and “the provoked mob stormed the society and set it on fire.”[10]

However, in April 2012, a Special Investigation Team found that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had absolutely no role in the killing of Ehsan Jafri[11]  Later, the Gujarat High Court stayed the routine transfer of the Metropolitan Magistrate hearing the petition on the information of the amicus curiae, Harish Salve, that the routine transfer due to the end of his term may delay the case.  However in December 2013, Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court rejected the petition filed by Zakia Jafri. Jafri filed a Criminal Revision Application against the order in the Gujarat High Court on 15th March, 2014.[12] The next hearing on the case was on 15th October, 2014.[13] As for now, SIT has been asked to provide closure report to victims.

The lacuna

  • It took four years for the SIT to declare that there was no prosecutable evidence against Narendra Modi and the others and file a closure report indicating that its inquiry had concluded.
  • Arguments were over in September, 2013. SIT Counsel, R.S. Jamuar argued before the court that no direct or circumstantial evidence supporting Jafri’s allegations was found, while her lawyers argued that SIT ignored the relevant evidence and shielded the main culprits.
  • Magistrate B.J. Ganatra said that he would deliver the order on October 28, but it was deferred to December 2, and then to December 26 , 2013.

Conclusion

The foundations of a strong, riot-free and peaceful country can be laid by embedding values of humanity and compassion on the part of the groups, whether majority or minority. Discussion over the matter can be very useful to solve the issues. To bring harmony, it is necessary to bridge the prevalent communal divide through dialogue between different communities. Arguing over a matter would do no good; rather it would destroy the tranquillity of the nation. We have to become real patriots and for this we must join hands and give our fullest to the country.

[1] “Safehouse of Horrors”Tehelka. 3 November 2007.

[2] id

[3] “The Gulbarg Society massacre: What happened”. NDTV. 11 March 2010.

[4] “SC tells Modi govt to reinvestigate Guj riots, In depth”. CNN-IBN. 26 March 2008

[5] “Scan Modi: SC to SIT”The Economic Times. 28 April 2009

[6]  “Nero Hour The SIT has summoned him in a Gujarat ’02 case. But the trail is muddied.”Outlook. 29 March 2010

[7] “Gujarat riots: SIT submits report to SC”The Indian Express. 15 May 2010

[8]  “Zakia Jafri moves SC in Gulbarg Society case”The Times of India. 16 January 2012.

[9] “Clean chit to Narendra Modi in Zakiya Jafri case: Sources; petitioners file fresh plea”. NDTV. 9 February 2012

[10]  “SIT says Ehsan Jafri ‘provoked’ murderous mob”. BBC News. 11 May 2012.

[11] Narendra Modi had no hand in Jafri killing, says SIT Hindustan Times – 10 April 2012

[12] BS Reporter (19 March 2014). “Gujarat riots: Jafri questions SIT clean chit to Modi, moves HC”.

[13] “2002 Gujarat Riots: Zakia Jafri’s Hearing Adjourned Again”International Business Times. 16 July 2014.

About the Author

SanyaSanya is a student of B.Sc. LL.B. Hons., pursuing her five year integrated course from Central University of Bihar. She loves to spend her leisure time in going through books on law and works of Shakespeare. She also has a special interest in reading Case Laws and keeping herself updated. Currently, she is interning at the Model Governance Foundation.

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