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Zakia Jafri Case: Why 83-Year-Old Widow Won't Give Up Her Fight for Justice

Zakia Jafri has challenged the findings of the 2012 Special Investigation Team report on the Gulbarg Society case.

Updated
India
5 min read
Zakia Jafri Case: Why 83-Year-Old Widow Won't Give Up Her Fight for Justice
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(This article was first published on 10 December 2021. It has been republished from The Quint's archives over SC judgment Zakia Jafri's plea challenging the clean chit given by SIT to the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in the alleged larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat Riots.)

Seventy-two-year-old Ehsan Jafri, a long-time Congress party leader and Member of Parliament, was one of the 69 people who were killed by a mob in the 2002 Gujarat riots. He was reportedly dragged out of his home in the upper middle class colony, Gulbarg Society, in north Ahmedabad, beaten up and killed by the mob.

Jafri's then 64-year-old wife Zakia Jafri survived the mob attack. But almost two decades after the incident, the now 83-year-old widow refuses to give up. The octogenarian has challenged the findings of the 2012 Special Investigation Team (SIT) report, which cleared several top officials in Gujarat, including the then chief minister Narendra Modi.

As the Supreme Court reserves its verdict on her petition, which seeks a fresh probe in the Gujarat riots, The Quint recapitulates what happened in Gulbarg society – and what Zakia Jafri's petition seeks. Read on.

Zakia Jafri Case: Why 83-Year-Old Widow Won't Give Up Her Fight for Justice

  1. 1. What Happened in Gulberg Society in 2002?

    On 27 February 2002, a coach in the Sabarmati Express was set ablaze by a mob near the Godhra railway station in Gujarat. At least 58 Hindu pilgrims, who were returning from Ayodhya, were killed in the attack. One day after the incident, on 28 February 2002, Gujarat was engulfed in violence – with angry mobs taking over the entire state – including the capital city of Ahmedabad.

    Gulbarg Society is located in Chamanpura area in north Ahmedabad. With the area gripped by violence, a bunch of Muslim residents sought shelter in the home of the then Congress MP Ehsan Jafri.

    The parliamentarian reportedly kept pleading the administration to send help for hours to protect the residents taking shelter at his house. However, his house was breached, attacked, and torched by the mob.

    At least 69 people lost their lives in the Gulbarg Society massacre. Ehsan Jahri was among those who died.

    Zakia Jafri, who was hiding in a room on the first floor of their house, survived the attack. Till this date, she continues to fight for justice, despite having spent the last two decades chasing shadows in courtrooms.

    Expand
  2. 2. Zakia Jafri's Complaint & The Long Road Taken

    Zakia Jafri first filed a complaint alleging police inaction on 8 June 2006. She named the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, several ministers in his cabinet, VHP leaders Praveen Togadia and Jaideep Patel, the then DGP of Gujarat PC Pandey, among others.

    According to the FIR, she alleged a conspiracy to allow the mass killing of Muslims and claimed that the cops and bureaucrats did not respond to her husband's pleas for help. She accused those named in the FIR of abetting the riots.

    Meanwhile, in March 2008, the Supreme Court constituted the SIT headed by former CBI Chief RK Raghavan and included former DG of UP Police CD Satpathy and three IPS offices from Gujarat cadre – Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia – as its members, to look into the incident. The report, the SC said, will be submitted to Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Ahmedabad.

    The SIT, in its closure report in 2012, stated that there was no “prosecutable evidence” against Modi and others mentioned in Zakia Jafri's complaint. The magisterial court accepted the SIT's closure report.
    Expand
  3. 3. Gulbarg Society Massacre Trial

    In June 2016, 14 years after the incident took place, the trial came to an end with the court convicting 24 persons – and the trial court calling the killings as the “darkest day in the history of civil society of Gujarat.”

    Eleven people were convicted for life, one convicted for 10 years, and the remaining 12 given seven years of rigorous imprisonment.

    But the verdict was no victory to Zakia Jafri as both the SIT and the court reiterated that a private firing by Ehsan Jafri triggered the mob. The court said that the firing "infuriated" the mob, and so it went out of control. She moved the court to challenge the findings of the SIT.

    On 5 October 2017, the Gujarat High Court rejected Zakia Jafri's plea challenging a lower court order upholding the SIT's clean chit.

    After years of battle, the Supreme Court, on 13 November 2018, agreed to hear Zakia Jafri’s plea seeking a review and probe of the SIT’s clean chit. The case is being heard in the apex court, three years later. On 9 December, the court reserved its verdict on the petition.

    “We challenged the closure report in High Court as well as the Magistrate’s Court but both refused saying that they don’t have the power to re-examine the report. That is why we returned to the Supreme Court in 2018 with the current petition, because what else do we do with so much evidence. Do we throw it away?”
    Tanveer Jafri, Zakia Jafri's son, to The Independent
    Expand
  4. 4. What Does Her Petition Seek?

    In her petition before the Supreme Court, Zakia seeks that the SIT report, submitted in 2012, be re-examined.

    Arguing on her behalf, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that the report "ignored crucial evidence."

    "The case has not ended for me. I will pursue the case against the 36 acquitted and the 13 convicts who were not imprisoned for life. I’ll have to consult my lawyers again now. This is injustice. I was there since morning. A person who did so much for the people, was cut and burnt on the streets. I cannot agree with this. I demand life imprisonment for every convict because everyone was present that day."
    Zakia Jafri in 2018

    The purpose of the petition, Sibal has stressed, is not to single an individual, but to point out and discuss the issue of communal violence.

    “Communal violence is like lava erupting from a volcano, be it by any community. It is institutionalised violence,” Sibal said in court, according to LiveLaw.

    Expand
  5. 5. What Is the SC Saying?

    A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and CT Ravikumar began hearing the matter on Wednesday, 10 November.

    Sibal told the Supreme Court that instead of taking cognisance of the evidence, the probe was carried out in a way to whitewash the entire investigation, Bar & Bench reported.

    He also pointed out that there was a bigger conspiracy to teach a lesson and that neither did the SIT arrest anyone involved in this larger conspiracy nor did it take basic investigative steps like seizing important evidence (including phones of key accused) or following up on claims by witnesses. He also argued that the court should have looked at the gathered evidence independently, and the SIT's botched findings should have been disregarded.

    "You are attacking the manner of investigation done by the SIT. It is the same SIT that had filed chargesheet in other cases, and they were convicted. No such grievance in those proceedings," the bench pointed out on 16 November.

    During a 3 December hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is representing the SIT, alleged:

    “See what’s the kind of sinister plot coming out, her complaint had named 63 persons and in her appeal before Gujarat high court, further 50 more names were added. There is expansion of this case at every stage."

    On 28 February 2022, it will be 20 years since Zakia Jafri lost her husband. But the case is unlikely to see an end even by then.

    (With inputs from The Hindu, Live Law, Bar and Bench)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Happened in Gulberg Society in 2002?

On 27 February 2002, a coach in the Sabarmati Express was set ablaze by a mob near the Godhra railway station in Gujarat. At least 58 Hindu pilgrims, who were returning from Ayodhya, were killed in the attack. One day after the incident, on 28 February 2002, Gujarat was engulfed in violence – with angry mobs taking over the entire state – including the capital city of Ahmedabad.

Gulbarg Society is located in Chamanpura area in north Ahmedabad. With the area gripped by violence, a bunch of Muslim residents sought shelter in the home of the then Congress MP Ehsan Jafri.

The parliamentarian reportedly kept pleading the administration to send help for hours to protect the residents taking shelter at his house. However, his house was breached, attacked, and torched by the mob.

At least 69 people lost their lives in the Gulbarg Society massacre. Ehsan Jahri was among those who died.

Zakia Jafri, who was hiding in a room on the first floor of their house, survived the attack. Till this date, she continues to fight for justice, despite having spent the last two decades chasing shadows in courtrooms.

ADVERTISEMENT

Zakia Jafri's Complaint & The Long Road Taken

Zakia Jafri first filed a complaint alleging police inaction on 8 June 2006. She named the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, several ministers in his cabinet, VHP leaders Praveen Togadia and Jaideep Patel, the then DGP of Gujarat PC Pandey, among others.

According to the FIR, she alleged a conspiracy to allow the mass killing of Muslims and claimed that the cops and bureaucrats did not respond to her husband's pleas for help. She accused those named in the FIR of abetting the riots.

Meanwhile, in March 2008, the Supreme Court constituted the SIT headed by former CBI Chief RK Raghavan and included former DG of UP Police CD Satpathy and three IPS offices from Gujarat cadre – Geeta Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia – as its members, to look into the incident. The report, the SC said, will be submitted to Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Ahmedabad.

The SIT, in its closure report in 2012, stated that there was no “prosecutable evidence” against Modi and others mentioned in Zakia Jafri's complaint. The magisterial court accepted the SIT's closure report.
ADVERTISEMENT

Gulbarg Society Massacre Trial

In June 2016, 14 years after the incident took place, the trial came to an end with the court convicting 24 persons – and the trial court calling the killings as the “darkest day in the history of civil society of Gujarat.”

Eleven people were convicted for life, one convicted for 10 years, and the remaining 12 given seven years of rigorous imprisonment.

But the verdict was no victory to Zakia Jafri as both the SIT and the court reiterated that a private firing by Ehsan Jafri triggered the mob. The court said that the firing "infuriated" the mob, and so it went out of control. She moved the court to challenge the findings of the SIT.

On 5 October 2017, the Gujarat High Court rejected Zakia Jafri's plea challenging a lower court order upholding the SIT's clean chit.

After years of battle, the Supreme Court, on 13 November 2018, agreed to hear Zakia Jafri’s plea seeking a review and probe of the SIT’s clean chit. The case is being heard in the apex court, three years later. On 9 December, the court reserved its verdict on the petition.

“We challenged the closure report in High Court as well as the Magistrate’s Court but both refused saying that they don’t have the power to re-examine the report. That is why we returned to the Supreme Court in 2018 with the current petition, because what else do we do with so much evidence. Do we throw it away?”
Tanveer Jafri, Zakia Jafri's son, to The Independent
ADVERTISEMENT

What Does Her Petition Seek?

In her petition before the Supreme Court, Zakia seeks that the SIT report, submitted in 2012, be re-examined.

Arguing on her behalf, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that the report "ignored crucial evidence."

"The case has not ended for me. I will pursue the case against the 36 acquitted and the 13 convicts who were not imprisoned for life. I’ll have to consult my lawyers again now. This is injustice. I was there since morning. A person who did so much for the people, was cut and burnt on the streets. I cannot agree with this. I demand life imprisonment for every convict because everyone was present that day."
Zakia Jafri in 2018

The purpose of the petition, Sibal has stressed, is not to single an individual, but to point out and discuss the issue of communal violence.

“Communal violence is like lava erupting from a volcano, be it by any community. It is institutionalised violence,” Sibal said in court, according to LiveLaw.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Is the SC Saying?

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and CT Ravikumar began hearing the matter on Wednesday, 10 November.

Sibal told the Supreme Court that instead of taking cognisance of the evidence, the probe was carried out in a way to whitewash the entire investigation, Bar & Bench reported.

He also pointed out that there was a bigger conspiracy to teach a lesson and that neither did the SIT arrest anyone involved in this larger conspiracy nor did it take basic investigative steps like seizing important evidence (including phones of key accused) or following up on claims by witnesses. He also argued that the court should have looked at the gathered evidence independently, and the SIT's botched findings should have been disregarded.

"You are attacking the manner of investigation done by the SIT. It is the same SIT that had filed chargesheet in other cases, and they were convicted. No such grievance in those proceedings," the bench pointed out on 16 November.

During a 3 December hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is representing the SIT, alleged:

“See what’s the kind of sinister plot coming out, her complaint had named 63 persons and in her appeal before Gujarat high court, further 50 more names were added. There is expansion of this case at every stage."

On 28 February 2022, it will be 20 years since Zakia Jafri lost her husband. But the case is unlikely to see an end even by then.

(With inputs from The Hindu, Live Law, Bar and Bench)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from news and india

Topics:  Kapil Sibal   Explainer   Ehsan Jafri 

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