Gulbarg Society case: All you need to know about the 2002 massacre

After 14 long years, a Special Sessions Court in Ahmedabad on Thursday convicted 24 people and pronounced 36 others as innocent in the sensational Gulbarg Society massacre case in Gujarat in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were brutally killed in 2002 in Ahmedabad.
According to reports, the sentencing will be announced on 6 June. According to NDTV, the judge said that charges against the 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.
On 28 February — a day after a coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra railway station, killing 58 people — 250 people, most of them upper class Muslims, took refuge in the house of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri in Gulbarg Society, Chamanpura (a hindu-dominated area), Ahmedabad, expecting his political status to shield them from the impending doom. The Hindu mob in the following hours ravaged the society, leaving at least 65 dead, including Jafri, who according to a Human Rights Watch report was hacked and burned to death.
The report further pointed out that no help was sent by the closest police station, which was less than a kilometer away from the society. Jafri had also made numerous calls to the police, the Chief Minister and the central home minister, asking for protection, but the mob remain unconstrained for more than six hours. Among the perpetrators, were several VHP and Bajrang Dal officials and party workers who were identified.
The names of the main accused failed to appear in the chargesheet filed in the Gulbarg riots case. The victims of the massacre have argued that the incident was pre-planned in order to target minority members living in the society. However, the defence, in its reply, stated that the mob turned violent only after Jafri had fired several rounds on them.
The government had initially appointed assistant commissioner of police P N Barot, an officer with strong VHP connections, to investigate the incident. The case was later transferred to someone else. The media too questioned the credibility of the reports filed in the case.
Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan, on 8 June 2006 filed a complaint, alleging that the police had not registered FIRs against the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi as well as the 62 other perpetrators, including several ministers and top officials of the state administration. In 2007, the Gujarat High Court refused to entertain her plea.
According to this Hindustan Times report, in 2008 the Supreme Court ordered the Narendra Modi government to re-investigate nine cases in the 2002 Gujarat riots, one of which was the Gulbarg Society massacre. The court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan to look into the matter. In March 2009, the Supreme Court asked the SIT to look into Zakia’s complaint regarding the involvement of Narendra Modi and other party officials from VHP and Bajrang Dal.
In March 2010, Modi was summoned by the SIT and was questioned extensively and in May, the SIT presented a report to SC saying that there was not enough evidence to prosecute Narendra Modi.
Raju Ramchandran, a senior advocate, who had been appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the allegations made against Modi, raised doubts against the SIT ruling, and submitted a report and claimed to have enough available evidence to prosecute the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
When in 2011 the Supreme Court denied access and kept the report confidential, Zakia Jafri and social activist Teesta Setalvad, who had been fighting for victims of the Gulbarg massacre and was fighting cases for them, filed another petition seeking access to the report.
The petition by Zakia and Teesta related not just to the killing of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri and others in the Gulbarg massacre. It targeted Modi and others, in the larger picture, for the incidents following the Godhra train carnage of 27 February 2002, as mentioned in this Firstpost report. In 2012, the magisterial court after observing SIT’s closure of the case owing to lack of evidence against Modi, ordered the SIT to provide a copy of the Gulbarg case report and all other doccuments to Zakia within a month