February 28, 2002, Ahmedabad, India
A mob of thousands of Hindus led by leaders of Hindutva organisations including the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, attacked Gulberg housing society in which mainly Muslims lived. They brutally murdered around 70 persons, gang raped 10-12 women and burnt down scores of houses as handful of policemen watched. Among those killed was a former member of Indian Parliament,
The attack was in retaliation to a fire following a Hindu-Muslim skirmish in a train that killed around 59 Hindu pilgrims in Godhra, Gujarat on the previous day. The Hindutva forces led by the then Chief minister of Gujarat and current Prime minister, Narendra Modi, had alleged that the fire was an act of terrorism by Muslims, even before Police had registered a case and started enquiring. The bodies of the fire victims were paraded in capital city Ahmedbad and attacks on Muslims and their properties started soon after. It continued for several days resulting in loss of lives of more than thousand people. The Gulberg society massacre was one among those brutal attacks.
After 14 years the trial court has come out with a verdict today that disappointed many human rights activists. Most of the identified leaders of the mob were acquitted for want of evidence. The court did not agree that there was a conspiracy in the attack. 36 of the 60 accused were let off. 13 were pronounced guilty of lesser offences other than murder. Only 11 were pronounced guilty of murder. The court will announce the punishment on June 6.
Many activists had feared that with Modi in power in Delhi and controlling all investigating officers, both in centre and state, no one would be convicted. Under the prevailing circumstances in India, many feel this verdict is a partial delivery of justice.
Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia said after today’s verdict, “I am very unhappy with the judgement. I will carry on the fight, will do whatever it takes.”
Yes, there cannot be any real closure for the near and dear ones of the victims of Gujarat riots. Nor can there be any respite for activists in the fight against the rabid virus of religious hatred.