Ahmedabad: Gulbarg Society killings, 2002

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A timeline, the Gulbarg society case; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 3, 2016
A timeline, 2002-16, the Gulbarg society case; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 3, 2016

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

2016: The Judgment

The Times of India, Jun 03 2016

11 convicted for 69 Gulbarg murders

In 2016, fourteen years after the gruesome killing of 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, at Gulbarg Society on February 28, 2002, a special court found 24 people guilty and acquitted 36 others. Eleven of the 24 people were found guilty of murder in the carnage that took place 4 km from the Ahmedabad police commissioner's office, including five for lynching Jafri before other residents were burnt alive. Thirteen accused were convicted for lesser offences like rioting, ar son, unlawful assembly , loot, trespass, etc, that include a maximum sentence of up to 10 years. With this, the number of convictions in 10 major cases of the 2002 riots, including the Godhra train burning, has reached 188.

Gulbarg was the second biggest communal massacre of the 2002 riots after the Naroda Patiya killings in Ahmedabad where 97 lives were snuffed out by marauding mobs following the burning alive of 59 kar sevaks travelling in the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra station the previous day , on February 27, 2002.

The conflagration occurred within five months of Narendra Modi taking over as Gujarat CM and cast a cloud over his political career which eventually lifted following successive electoral wins. Designated SIT judge PB Desai has fixed June 6 to hear the convicts and decide on quantum of punishment.Among those convicted include VHP official Atul Vaidya. Significant acquittals are of then Meghaninagar police inspector KG Erda, BJP councillor Bipin Patel and former Congress councillor Meghsinh Chaudhary .They were given the benefit of doubt by the court for lack of evidence.

“We will argue for capital punishment for the 11 convicted for murder in the Gulbarg case,“ R K Raghavan, former CBI chief and present chairman of the Supreme Courtappointed SIT, told TOI.

Although the killings took place during a VHP-organised bandh, the court rejected the prosecution's theory of criminal conspiracy . A special court on Thursday concluded that the Gulbarg massacre was a spontaneous attack following the killing of VHP workers in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra.Special prosecutor R C Kodekar said that evidence was not strong enough to substantiate conspiracy charges.

It bears reiteration that Ehsan Jafri's widow Zakia had alleged larger conspiracy and claimed involvement of then CM Narendra Modi among others. SIT had questioned Modi for nine hours and later gave him a clean chit after it could not find any prosecutable evidence against him.

“The judgment is not in favour of victims. All those involved in killings should have been convicted. We will approach higher courts for justice,“ said Zakia.

The court also refused to believe allegations of gang rape as all four people accused of raping two women were exonerated of these charges. These four, however, have been convicted for murder and other offences.

Shivcharan alias Laalo, who is in jail for the last seven years, was acquitted and ordered to be set free immediately . Two others may also walk free on the day of sentencing, as they have been in jail for 14 years and convicted for lesser offences.

Altogether, 66 people were charged in this case.Six people died during the pendency of the trial, which lasted for seven years and has been conducted by four successive judges. The court examined 338 witnesses during the trial.

Gulbarg Society , a Muslim residential pocket of about 19 bungalows and eight apartment blocks in Chamanpura, had come under attack by a 20,000 strong mob a day after the Sabarmati Express was torched in Godhra.

2013: Clean chit for the Chief Minister

The Times of India, Jun 03 2016

The Gulbarg Society massacre is the only case in which then CM Narendra Modi's name figured -during the trial and in former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri's widow Zakia Jafri's allegation of a larger conspiracy behind the 2002 riots. When the Supreme Court decided to send the SIT report for trial to a magisterial court, Modi had in September 2011 instantly tweeted: `God is Great'. When the magisterial court upheld the SIT's clean chit in December 2013, Modi again reacted with a tweet: `Satyamev Jayate'.The clean chit paved the way for Modi to march ahead into the national political arena.

Zakia had been alleging since 2006 that there was a larger conspiracy behind the riots and the violence at Gul barg Society was just its manifestation. She had accused Modi and 62 others, including politicians, senior cops and bureaucrats of involvement in the conspiracy .

When Gujarat police did not accept her complaint, she moved the Gujarat HC but to no avail. The SC, however, heeded her complaint and asked the SIT, formed to investigate the riots cases, to look into her complaint. Later, on March 27, 2010, Modi was questioned for nine hours by SIT officials.

The SIT, however, did not find any prosecutable evidence against Modi and gave him a clean chit. This was later upheld by a magisterial court. The matter is now pending before the Gujarat HC.

Before Modi was questioned on Zakia's complaint, a prime witness in this case ­ Imtiyaz Khan Pathan ­ said in his deposition before the court that Ehsan Jafri had made frantic calls to various people for help as the situation outside Gulbarg Society became more tense. He claimed he had called the CM, who did not respond.

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