Gulbarg Society massacre: 36 accused let off; 'unfortunate' says Zakia Jafri

The hearing for the 2002 post-Godhra riots case of Gulbarg Society, in which 69 persons including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri were killed, is underway. 11 accused have been convicted so far for the murder and 13 more have been convicted under other charges.

FP Staff June 02, 2016 12:12:49 IST
Gulbarg Society massacre: 36 accused let off; 'unfortunate' says Zakia Jafri

A special SIT court in Ahmedabad on Thursday convicted 24 of the 66 accused, including a VHP leader, in the 2002 post-Godhra Gulbarg Society massacre, which left 69 people including former Congress MP Eshan Jafri dead.

Special Court Judge PB Desai also acquitted 36 others including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel and also dropped the conspiracy charge (120 B) against all the accused. Out of the 66 accused, six had died during the trial. Of the 24 convicted, 11 have been charged with murder, while other 13 have been convicted for lesser offences.

The court said that there is no evidence of criminal conspiracy in the case, while dropping section 120 B of the IPC. The quantum of sentence for those convicted in the case will be delivered on 6 June. The 24 convicted includes VHP leader Atul Vaid.

Gulbarg Society massacre 36 accused let off unfortunate says Zakia Jafri

Survivors of the 2002 Gujarat riots weep inside a house that was burnt and damaged in the riots at the Gulbarg Society. Reuters

According to NDTV, the judge said that charges against a BJP corporator were inconclusive. Bipin Patel, a sitting BJP corporator from the Asarwa area, was charged with murder and rioting like the other 65 people who stood trial. Patel, was the corporator in 2002 too and has won multiple elections since.

The verdict comes 14 years after a mob of nearly 20,000 attacked Gulbarg society - a cluster of 29 bungalows and 10 apartment buildings housing mostly Muslims - killing 69 people, including former Congress lawmaker Ehsan Jafri.

The rioters had breached the boundary wall of the housing complex and set houses afire. Ehsan Jafri was dragged out, hacked and burnt to death along with 68 others. His frantic phone calls to police officers and senior politicians for help allegedly went unanswered. Jafri's wife, Zakia Jafri, now 77, has pursued justice through the years despite failing health and has said she wants the death sentence for the killers of her husband.

After the judgement, Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, said that it is unfortunate that 36 accused were let off and all of them should have been punished because they killed people and destroyed their property. "I saw them doing so with my own eyes," she said, adding as a woman she does not have the courage to demand capital punishment but they should get stringent punishment.

She also said that they will appeal against the verdict in higher courts.

Her son Tanvir Jafri said he would consult lawyers on how 36 others were acquitted before deciding their next strategy.

Tanvir expressed surprise how only 24 people were convicted when a mob of 400 were involved in the rioting. He said it was a tough time for the family, neighbours and other residents of the society who had to approach the highest court for the legal fight.

CNN-News18 reported Teesta Setalvad as saying that after analysing the verdict, they will appeal to court if required.

The court verdict received mixed response. Speaking with CNN-News 18, former SIT chief RK Raghavan said he was neither fully happy nor completely disappointed with the court verdict.

Congress corporator Meghsinh Chaudhari and KG Erda, then police inspector of the area under which the Gulbarg Society was located, are among those acquitted. During the trial, riots victim's lawyer had argued that the massacre was a pre-planned criminal conspiracy hatched by the accused to kill minority community members of the Gulbarg Society. The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after slain Congress MP Eshan Jafri fired several rounds at them.

PTI had earlier reported that Special Court judge PB Desai will deliver the judgment over eight months after the trial concluded on 22 September, 2015. Ahmedabad has been put on high alert for the same.

The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the case, had directed the SIT court to give its verdict by 31 May. There are 66 accused named by the SIT in the case for the murder of 69 people. Nine of the accused are behind bars since 14 years, while others are out on bail.

Five have died during the trial among the 66 accused, which has been conducted under four judges. The Times of India added that over 338 witnesses were examined in the case, and is the only one where then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had been questioned.

Last week, the court had turned down pleas moved by two accused — Narayan Tank and Babu Rathod — to conduct narco analysis and brain mapping tests on them to prove their innocence. The court maintained that it was not required when the verdict was imminent.

The Gulbarg Society case is the eighth of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court appointed SIT. A Hindu mob had attacked the muslim neighbourhood Gulbarg Society in Chamanpura, Ahmedabad on 28 February 2002 and burned down houses. Many were burned alive, and the total death toll was 69.

The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra train station, where in 58 'karsevaks' were killed.

With inputs from PTI

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