“There Was No Question Of Help”: Zakia Jafri On the Gulburg Society Massacre

05 October 2017
An abandonded building in Gulburg Society in 2012. Ten years ago, nearly 70 people were killed in this mostly Muslim uppermiddle class neighbourhood in Ahmedabad.
SHARAN GOEL FOR THE CARAVAN
An abandonded building in Gulburg Society in 2012. Ten years ago, nearly 70 people were killed in this mostly Muslim uppermiddle class neighbourhood in Ahmedabad.
SHARAN GOEL FOR THE CARAVAN

On 5 October 2017, the Gujarat High Court dismissed an appeal challenging a lower court’s decision to uphold a closure report by a special investigation team that looked into the massacre at Gulburg Society during the riots in Gujarat in early 2002. The Supreme Court constituted the SIT in 2008, in a case arising out of a petition filed by Zakia Jafri, the wife of Ehsan Jafri—a veteran Congress politician who was among 69 Muslim residents of Gulburg Society who were killed by a mob of Hindu attackers.Jafri’s petition accused 63 persons, including Narendra Modi, then the chief minister of the state, and other senior state government officials, of being complicit in the violence, and alleged that the state machinery had remained deliberately inactive.

In 2012, the SIT submitted a closure report to the apex court, stating thatthe allegations against Modi “are not made out.” The report noted: “the allegation about the inaction on part of the State Govt. as well as police department is … not established.” In 2014, Jafri approached the Gujarat High Court after the lower court rejected her petition challenging the SIT report. While dismissing her appeal against the acceptance of the SIT report, however, the court held that Jafri was free to move a petition demanding a fresh investigation. According to the Indian Express, the high court notedthat, “The trial court has self-limited itself in saying that further investigation, in this case, can’t be ordered.” It continued: “This order of lower court deserves interference.”

In “Emperor Uncrowned,” his 2012 story on the rise of Narendra Modi, Vinod K Jose, the executive editor of The Caravan, reported on the massacre. Jafri recounted to Jose that, as the mob surrounded Gulburg Society, Ehsan called several Gujarat state officials for help—including 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.

Vinod K Jose is the Executive Editor of The Caravan.

Keywords: Narendra Modi Gujarat Godhra riots 2002 riots Gulburg Society Ehsan Jafri Zakia Jafri
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