Yesterday, a special trial court in Ahmedabad announced a verdict in the 2002 Gulburg Society massacre case, in which 69 Muslim residents of the society were killed by a mob of Hindu attackers. The court convicted 24 people: 11 were convicted of murder, the rest of arson and rioting charges, among others. However, the court acquitted 36 others, including the BJP leader Vipin Patel and the former police inspector KG Erda. At the time of the incident, Erda was posted at the Meghaninagar police station, where the Gulburg Society is located. It also dropped the conspiracy charges against the accused, stating that there was not enough evidence. The judge termed this a "partial" victory for the defence.
In 'The Emperor Uncrowned,' his 2012 story on the rise of Narendra Modi, Vinod Jose had reported on the massacre. Among the slain was Ehsan Jafri, a prominent Congress leader and former member of parliament. Jose spoke with Jafri's wife, Zakia, and other survivors. In this excerpt from the story, he recounts how, as the mob surrounded Gulburg Society, Jafri called several Gujarat state officials, asking for help. One of the people he reportedly called was the then chief minister of the state, Narendra Modi.
One day in early February 2002, a 12-year-old girl named Anika, the daughter of a senior engineer at Larsen and Toubro in Surat, got word she would be giving a dance performance at her school’s annual day on 1 March. It was to be her first dance in costume, and Anika insisted that her grandparents, who lived in Ahmedabad, should come to Surat to see her on stage. Her grandfather assured Anika he would certainly be there to see her perform.
Two days before Anika’s performance, on 27 February, 58 people—many of them women and children—were killed on a train passing through Godhra, 160 kilometres east of Ahmedabad. The train was carrying members of the VHP and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, who were returning from Ayodhya after celebrating the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid, and initial reports suggested that a mob of Muslims in Godhra had executed a pre-planned attack on the coach.
As word began to spread from Godhra—and pictures and video from the scene hit the airwaves—fury mounted, led by the activists of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS, baying for revenge. By the evening, the VHP called for a statewide bandh the next day, which was endorsed by the ruling BJP.