Judge Buys Police, SIT’s Claim That Private Firing by Ahsan Jafri Triggered the Gulberg Society Massacre

Written by Sabrangindia Staff | Published on: June 19, 2016
judgement appears to suggest that the judge has ignored the detailed evidence led by the advocates for the witness survivors, reiterated again, in writing, in response to the defence arguments on June 9, 2016. The salient points of the table submitted by the witness lawyers SM Vohra and Salim Shaikh in Court are:
►Shops belonging to the Muslim minority selectively burned and looted in the Meghaninagar area, including Dr. Gandhi’s Chawl, Hukamsing’s Chawl, New Chawl, Hasan  Jivabhai’s Chawl, Ghee’s Chawl, Santokben’s Chawl, Muni. Slum Quarters, Chaturji’s Chhapra etc. Between 10.30 to 11 am on February 28, 2002. (Police and Eye-Witnesses).

►Stone-pelting and flinging of burning tyres and other inflammable items by the mob at the Gulberg Society by 12 noon.

►Police record and evidence gathered has shown that the police fired as many as 14-16 rounds on the mob (bullets/shells)  gathered at Gulberg Society between 12 noon and 2 pm.

►Phone call records of joint commissioner of police MK Tandon and DCP PB Gondia reveal that they were in constant touch, were barely 1.5 kilometres from Meghaninagar suggesting that the top policemen were fully aware of the mob attack on the society and yet did not act to prevent crimes nor order their men and force to intervene.

►Despite this huge build up at Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society (within two kilometres of each other) curfew was declared by PC Pandey, as per control room report, very late and only in Naroda Patiya at 12:38 pm (despite the mob gathered there since 9 am) and at the Meghaninagar only as late as 12:54 pm.

► Despite a VHP sponsored, BJP supported Gujarat Bandh a 5,000 armed strong mob was allowed free reign of Ahmedabd’s streets and curfew was declared as late as 12.54 pm in Meghaninagar.

Is this not enough evidence of conspiracy apart from the phone call records of PC Pande that show how he was in regular contact with the chief minister’s office (CMO) which fact too appears to have been ignored by the Judge?
Incidentally, it was in the RK Raghavan-led ‘Closure Report’ (authored by Himanshu Shukla of the crime branch, Gujarat police) in the Zakia Jafri Case (February 8, 2012) that for the first time SIT has stated that “Ms. Jafri's husband and former MP Ehsan Jafri was killed because he provoked a ‘violent mob’ that had assembled ‘to take revenge of Godhra incident from the Muslims’. Ehsan Jafri fired at the mob and ‘the provoked mob stormed the society and set it on fire’.
Ironically, the SIT makes this assertion even as it clears Narendra Modi of the charge that he had invoked the Newtonian theory of ‘action and reaction' to justify the post-Godhra anti-Muslim violence. The Hindu had reported on this in May 2012 and commented: “Yet, in trying to absolve Mr. Modi, the SIT fully implicates the Chief Minister and itself. Not once but twice.”
“The SIT first insists that Mr. Modi saw the firing by Ehsan Jafri as “action” and the “massacre that followed as ‘reaction'.” It follows this up by quoting the chief minister as saying the Sabarmati carnage was a “heinous crime, for which ‘reactions' were being felt.” Now the SIT not only confirms that Mr. Modi used the words “action” and “reaction” but endorses his statements even while holding that the “alleged statements” have been “quoted out of context … and therefore no case is made against him.”

The SIT's controversial observations are recorded in a chapter dealing with a specific allegation made by Ms. Jafri: that Modi had given media statements, including an interview to Zee TV on March 1, 2002, where he justified the anti-Muslim pogrom as a reaction to the Godhra violence by Muslims. Strongly defending the chief minister against the charge, the SIT cites its own March 2010 interrogation of Mr. Modi: “As regards the Zee TV interview of 01-03-2002 is concerned, Shri Modi told the SIT that after a period of eight years, he did not recollect the exact words but he had always appealed only and only for peace … He also said that if his words cited in this question are considered in the correct perspective, then it would be evident that there is a very earnest appeal for people refraining from any kind of violence …”

In the closure report, the SIT summarises the episode, and goes on to offer its own conclusions: “In this connection, it is to be stated that Shri Narendra Modi has clearly stated in his Zee TV interview that it was late Ahesan Jafri, ex-MP, who first fired at violent mob and the provoked mob stormed the society and set it on fire. In this interview, he has clearly referred to Jafri’s firing as ‘action’ and the massacre that followed as ‘reaction’. It may be clarified here that in case late Ahesan Jafri, ex-MP, fired at the mob, this could be an immediate provocation to the mob, which had assembled there to take revenge of Godhra incident from the Muslims.”

The SIT also justifies Modi’s description of Godhra residents as people with “criminal tendencies” and his statement that the heinous crime (burning of Sabarmati train) had led to reactions. “Again with regard to the Godhra incident, [Modi] clearly stated that the day before yesterday 40 ladies and children were burnt alive at Godhra and the incident had shocked the nation as well as people abroad, and that the people belonging to this area had a criminal tendency and these people had earlier killed lady teachers and now they had committed heinous crime for which the reactions were being felt.”

So what caused Jafri to fire at the mob which was so “provoked” by the action that it “stormed inside” and killed nearly 70 Muslim residents of Gulberg Society? In 2004, then police commissioner PC Pande deposed on this before the GT Nanavati- KG Shah Commission. According to him, he got a message at about 12.15 p.m. on February 28, 2002 from the Meghaninagar police station (where Gulberg is located) that “a crowd of nearly 10,000 had gathered near Gulberg Society and that society is encircled and the crowd pelting stones.” Pande said in the deposition that he could not recollect if he got distress calls from Gulberg but he sent “two additional deputy superintendents of police with the police force.” He did not send further assistance because he felt that “generally PI (police inspector) and DCP (deputy commissioner of police) are capable to control such situation.”

Pande claimed that following a fresh request at 2 pm, he sent one section of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). However, Pande said he was unaware of the whereabouts of the men he had sent as reinforcement: “I cannot say where they were and what duties they were performing at the time when the persons of Gulberg Society were started to be burnt.” The police commissioner was also unaware of an affidavit filed by the police inspector attached to Meghaninagar wherein the PI had said that between 2.30 and 3 pm there were only 14 policemen near Gulberg society. This was the situation at Gulberg at about 3 pm, with the police commissioner not knowing where his men were and a police inspector complaining that there were only 14 policemen. By 5 pm the mob had killed Ehsan Jafri and many others.
Curiously, in a background note (in the same SITs Closure report ) to Zakia Jafri’s complaint, the SIT says Ehsan Jafri fired in “self-defence” — in contrast to how it portrays the same incident later in the report, when it invokes the action–reaction words of Mr. Modi.

This is what the SIT’s background note says about the Gulberg incident: “On the day of the bandh, i.e. 28.02.2002, a huge mob comprising about 20,000 Hindus gathered, armed with deadly arm weapons, in furtherance of their common intention and indulged in attack on the properties, shops and houses of Muslims as well as a madrasa/mosque of Gulberg society located in Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad city, resulting in the death of 39 Muslims, including Ahesan Jafri, ex-MP, injuries to 15 Muslims and 31 Muslims went missing. Late Ahesan Jafri fired from his private, licensed weapon in self defence causing injuries to 15 persons in the mob. One of the victims of the said private firing succumbed to injuries later.”

Within the space of a few pages, however, what the SIT saw as “self-defence” in one context had become a “provocation.”

It appears that the SIT (Raghavan led) and its prosecutor RC Kodekar’s stance in deliberately diluting arguments of criminal conspiracy in the Gulberg society trial are directly linked to its pre-determined stance to avoid further process and prosecution of powerful accused in the Zakia Jafri case.