Ehsan Jafri fired or not but can it justify lesser punishment to killers of 69?

By Masood Peshimam for,

After 14 years of sweat and toil A SIT Court held a mirror to reality by terming the Gularg society massacre in Gujarat the darkest day in the civil society and awarded the life terms to 11 convicts for burning alive 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, in one of the worst riots of post Godhra violence of 2002.

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However, the judgement left Jafri’s widow Zakia and civil rights activist’s red faced because they found the said sentences lenient considering the brutality and scale of violence in the residential colony of Gujarat’s capital.

However notwithstanding the controversy over the quantum of punishment the paradox of the judgment is not understood as in one stroke the massacre of Gulberg society in Gujarat is accepted as the darkest day and in the same stroke the conspiracy angle is ruled out with the assertion that firing by Ehsan Jafri provoked the mob into a killing frenzy with the further emphasis that the firing cannot condone the acts of the mob. The question arises as to what for the huge mob gathered at the Gulberg society? Did the huge mob gather at the Gulberg society to distribute sweets to Ex MP Ehsan Jafri and other victims? The audacious and frenzied mob was well equipped with the arms, gas cutter and other weapons as a fall out of the Godhra outrage in which 59 people were killed. The facts and circumstances of the Godhra outrage have also run into controversy as to whether the inflammable material was poured from outside or from onside or what are the circumstances leading to the occurrence of the most condemnable carnage. The Godhra carnage has swept the wave of shock and anger across the state. Those responsible for Godhra carnage deserve the maximum punishment. The train carnage at Godhra is bound to smell conspiracy hatched by the mob and there is no other explanation. In the given scenario did the mob gather at Gulberg society to distribute the sweets to late Ehsan Jafrey and other victims?

A horrible scene from 2002 infamous Gujarat riot in which thousand of Muslims were killed [Outlook photo]

First of all there is no direct evidence to support the theory that Ehsan Jafri fired at the mob thus infuriating it as it is said. There was no witness or the finding of the gun. If at all it was used then it was done in the self defence. The police perspectives in such situations are open to question as the paralysis of the law enforcing machinery has always encouraged the spread of communal violence.

Sri Krishna Commission in Maharashtra has stood testimony to the inaction or partisan role of the police. Sri Krishna Commission has indicted the police personnel who are allegedly participated in the worst ever communal violence in Mumbai. The so called secular government in Maharashtra promoted the police officers indicted by the Sri Krishna Commission.

What is more that a good number of top cops with the end of their tenure have joined the rank and file of communal organisations. Their communal or prejudiced inclinations would have been reflected in their performance. The hard fact is that as to what sorry mess these government officers must have done while on job and authority.

It is in the teeth of the questionable performance of the police that the Gulberg society continued to burn throughout and there was the total failure of law and order and there was no police force objectively deployed to restrain the mob fury. What was the merit in the presence of the police force when it allowed the situation to turn ugliest? In the teeth of the turbulent times Jafrey kept phoning to good many a bigwigs but to no avail. His own party failed to save Jafrey and others.
It is in the wake of the escalating turmoil the Muslim judges were asked to leave the court premises with the fear to their lives.

In the circumstance it is worth to recall the waxing eloquence by the former chief justice Ahmadi at Islam Gym Khana in Mumbai about the virtues of the ideals of secular democracy prevalent in the country and the credentials of secular democracy ensuring all round safety. Justice Ahmadi’s tall talk of the virtues of secular democracy sounded hollow when someone from the audience referred to the news of the Muslim judges fleeing from the court premises with the fear of being targeted kept hounding them.

Concerning Gulbarg the special S.I.T. Judge did not stop at Jafri’s firing claiming one life thus provoking the mob but went a step further giving the reasons why he thought this was not fit case for capital punishment. He said no previous antecedent has been placed on record. He further said that after the massacre 90 percent of the accused were released on bail and yet no complaints against them have been given even by victims or they committed any offence when they were on bail. Reflecting on the comments of the Judge it can well be said that the people swelling the mob in the riots are different from other criminals as they are swayed by the religious bigotry and bellicosity. It is not necessary that such elements have the criminal antecedents. What is not to be ignored is the fact that the victims are not fool enough to make complaints to trigger another communal backlash. An incident of the communal violence in 2002 rocking the Kalyan city in Maharashtra is worth quoting. A Bohra Muslim was seen in the Kalyan Court premises during the course of the hearing of the 2002’s riot in Kalyan. He had come to bail out the person who was allegedly involved in burning his shop in predominantly majority area. He reasoned his action stating that he is to live in that area.

The verdict of the Gulberg makes one smell some sort of softness. The flaw many a time can’t be attributed to the judges as the judges decide on the basis of the facts and circumstances placed before it by the prosecution. Still the satisfaction of the better standards of justice is expected as the judiciary is the only ray of hope in the otherwise alarmingly darkening scenario.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the verdict on Gulberg society massacre in Gujarat the wife of former Congress M.P. Ehsan Jafri who was among the 69 killed in that society said that court did “injustice” to her. The lack of satisfying the standards of justice is never personal. The lack of satisfying the standards of Justice defines the injustice to the very concept of Justice.

Zakia Jafrey is the tenacious fighter for the cause of Justice with her challenge to the political bigwigs. In the relentless dedication for the cause of Justice in the Gujarat massacre the other names like Teista Stalewad, Sanjeev Bhatt, Malika Sarabhai are also to be reckoned.

Their fight is a beckoning light in the otherwise alarmingly gloomy scenario and a rebuff to those Muslim sycophants whose only talent is sycophancy promoting their fortunes at the cost of Justice and Truth.

(Author is an advocate by profession and a social activist)