“Justice has been only half-delivered,” said Zakia Jafri, reacting to Thursday’s verdict by an Ahmedabad special court on the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre that left 69 people dead, including her husband Ehsan Jafri, a former Congress MP.
“Mujhe aur jaddojahad karna padega…mera case khatam nahi hua (I will have to make more efforts...the case is not over for me as yet),” the seventy-seven-year old widow said. “Of 66 accused, 24 have been convicted,” she told HT.
A visibly-disappointed Zakia, who had travelled from Surat to Ahmedabad for the judgment, questioned the rationale behind the acquittal of BJP corporator, Bipin Patel, suspected of being the main plotter behind the murderous attack. “Why corporator Bipin Patel has been acquitted? And also the police officer (Irda)…my battle will continue…it has been hard, but I will fight till my last breath,” she said.
Zakia, who now lives with son Tanveer in Surat following her husband’s death, said her fight for justice will continue. “I thought my battle will be over today…but I am not satisfied…I will soon move higher courts,” she said in one breath.
Her son Tanveer also voiced surprise over the verdict, pointing out that though it was “good” that 24 people have been convicted, “it is still hard to believe that just 11 people were responsible for this gruesome incident”.
But Bipin Patel termed the verdict as a “long-awaited relief”. “A big blot has been cleared from my head,” the councilor who has won three consecutive elections said.
Jayesh Patni, who was among those acquitted, said: “We have been saying there was no conspiracy behind the incident. We stand validated today.”
Reactions to the verdict were divided on political lines.
“It’s a setback for the Congress as its conspiracy to hold Narendra Modi and the BJP responsible for the incident has fallen flat…Gujarat is the only state where convictions in riot cases are taking place. On the other hand, victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots are still waiting for justice,” BJP Gujarat president Vijay Rupani said.
The Congress termed the verdict as “half justice”. “It is half justice. The main accused, a BJP corporator, has been let off. Why he is being let off remains to be studied and analysed but in all such cases, our experience has been that the main masterminds somehow manage to get themselves free,” said party spokesperson Jairam Ramesh said. Congress legislative party leader Shankersinh Vaghela said, “What happened in 2002…the riots cases across Gujarat…including Gulberg…was a conspiracy by the BJP to stay in power.”
Gulberg society case
- February 28, 2002: Muslim dominated Gulberg Society is attacked by a mob leaving 69 people dead, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri.
- June 8, 2006: Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, submits a complaint, alleging the police did not register FIRs against Narendra Modi and 62 others, including senior ministers.
- March 26, 2008: The Supreme Court orders state government to re-investigate 9 riots cases, including the Gulberg case.
- April 27, 2009: The top court asks SIT to look into Zakia’s complaint over Modi’s alleged role.
- March 27-28, 2010: SIT questions Modi.
- April 10, 2012: SIT submits report, says no proof to substantiate the allegations against Modi.
- April 18, 2013: Zakia Jafri files protest petition in the metropolitan court challenging SIT’s clean chit to Modi and closure report by the SIT.
- October 28, 2013: Magisterial court defers verdict.
- December 26, 2013: Order on Zakia Jafri’s petition rejected. SIT’s closure report upheld.
- March 18, 2014: Zakia Jafri moved the Gujarat high court challenging the magisterial court verdict, which accepted the SIT report on clean chit to chief minister Narendra Modi.
- September 22, 2015: Special court concludes trial for Gulberg Society massacre.
- June 2, 2016: 24 accused convicted, 36 acquitted by Ahmedabad high court. BJP councillor Bipin Patel, among key accused, acquitted. Quantum of punishment to be announced on June 6.