Gujarat riots: Gulbarg society massacre verdict out – 24 convicted, 36 acquitted

Know-facts-abou31924AHMEDABAD: A special SIT court on Thursday pronounced its verdict in connection with a 2002 post-Godhra riots case of Gulbarg society massacre.Of 66 accused, 36 have been acquitted. Also, 24 have been convicted in the case. Eleven persons have been convicted for murder. Quantum of punishment to be out on June 6.

Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri’s widow Zakia has said that it’s sad that 36 have been let off.”Complete justice has not been done; I will continue to fight,” Zakia Jafri added.In Gulbarg society massacre, 69 persons including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri were killed.

Special Court Judge PB Desai delivered the judgement over eight months after the trial concluded on September 22, 2015.There are 66 accused named by the SIT in the case, of which nine are behind bars since 14 years, while others are out on bail.

The Gulbarg society case is one of the nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots probed by the Supreme Court appointed SIT.The incident had taken place a day after S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra train station, where in 58 ‘karsevaks’ were killed.

The defence had refuted the conspiracy theory of prosecution and claimed that the mob resorted to violence only after slain Congress MP Eshan Jafri fired several rounds on them.

The court will sentence those convicted today on June 6; 13 of them have been charged with conspiracy and other charges.Activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been helping the families of those killed in the case, said the option of appeal against the acquittal of 36 of the accused was “open”.
The verdict comes 14 years after a mob of nearly 20000 attacked Gulbarg society – a cluster of 29 bungalows and 10 apartment buildings housing mostly Muslims – killing 69 people, including former Congress lawmaker Ehsan Jafri.

The mob had  attacked the housing complex  on February 28, a day after coaches of the Sabarmati Express train were burnt at Godhra station leaving 59 people dead. 66 people were charged in the case; five died during trial and one is missing.

The rioters had breached the boundary wall of the housing complex and set houses afire. Ehsan Jafri was dragged out, hacked and burnt to death along with 68 others. His frantic phone calls to police officers and senior politicians for help allegedly went unanswered.

Mr Jafri’s wife, Zakiya Jafri, now 77, has pursued justice through the years despite failing health and has said she wants the death sentence for the killers of her husband. Ms Jaffri had also alleged the complicity of then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and other ministers in the riots that left more than 1,000 people dead, and has moved the High Court after the lower court gave them a clean chit.

The lower court agreed with the SIT that Mr Modi and his state government took all necessary steps to control law and order after the Godhra killings. The Gujarat High Court is now hearing Ms Jafri’s petition.

Trial in the Gulbarg case began in 2009, seven years after the massacre, and concluded last year in September. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the case, had directed the special court to give its verdict by May 31.
The SIT had said in court that 39 charred bodies were found and are proof that the victims were burnt alive. It has also said that petrol cans, lathis and swords found at the site indicate that there was a large-scale massacre.

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