Ahmedabad : Special SIT court judge P.B. Desai’s verdict in the Gulberg Society massacre states that the mob of thousands which killed 69 people would not have attacked the residents had former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri not fired at them from his private revolver, but witnesses and police records have said the killing spree started in the colony right in the morning and the firing could have happened only in the afternoon.
Backing this, at the same time, are official records of Ahmedabad Police Control Room (PCR) which state that despite desperate calls for help by Meghaninagar Police Inspector K.G. Erda to his seniors to send forces immediately since he alone could not handle such a large mob, they did not act. This was at least two hours before 2.30 p.m., when Ehsan Jafri was supposed to have fired from his revolver and “provoked” the mob.
It is also on record that Ehsan Jafri, who was mercilessly killed, was making incessant desperate calls to police officials, political leaders and bureaucrats for help. But to no avail.
Tanvir Jafri, Jafri’s son, told IANS that, “Our houses were looted, plundered and set on fire right since the morning. How could they find my father’s revolver and cartridges from the ashes? The police does not have a single witness who saw my father firing. This is complete humbug and a blatant lie.”
He asserted, “I am shocked by the judgment. It is the prosecution which is to be blamed for not putting up a strong case. If the police makes such a weak case, the court will eventually go by what is produced.”
A key eyewitness and survivor, Imtiyaz Khan, told IANS that Ehsan Jafri could have opened fire only after exhausting all his efforts and calls for help to stop that huge mob.
Besides, he says Additional Police Commissioner M.K. Tandon had personally come to their society in the morning and assured Jafri that adequate forces will be sent and then left the place. Nobody came. Half an hour later, around 10.30 a.m., the attack started with the mob first pelting stones at the Gulberg Society.
“Jafri-saab may have opened fire, but when? Only and only after we all were left completely helpless. Nobody is bothering to find out why did Jafri-saab have to fire? Did he open fire just like that? You think he was fiddling with his revolver like a toy when a mob of 20,000 was attacking?” Imtiyaz asserted.
“I have not seen Jafri-saab firing, I am not sure if anybody else had or not. We had taken shelter in his bungalow. But I am saying that even if you assume that he did open fire, he was not doing it for fun,” he added.
In his 20s, Imtiyaz Khan and his family had taken shelter on the upper storey of Jafri’s building, and this is why they escaped the crowd. He was present when Ehsan Jafri was making calls. “He was calling senior police officials, politicians and even Narendra Modi in my presence,” Imtiyaz said, adding that his testimony is in court records.
He says, “When a crowd had started gathering near the society, Tandon-saab (Additional Police Commissioner) came. He was there for a few minutes, gave an assurance that nothing will happen, and left. Half an hour later, around 10.30 (a.m.), the attack started,” he said. “He (Tandon) had not come empty handed, he came with the Vraj truck (riot combat truck) and went away with it, I have seen it, we have all seen it.”
Teesta Setalvad, whose Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had also taken up cudgels for Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri, told IANS: “Why only eyewitnesses, even official witnesses of the police have stated that the build-up had started right from 9 a.m. and the frenzy continued beyond 1 p.m. on that day. And they have also testified that Tandon went there with the riot combat vehicle, did nothing and went away.”
“I wonder how the prosecution advocates just glossed over the main events between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., of which there are voluminous testimonies. It is clear that the prosecution did not put up a strong case, otherwise the judge would have considered these vital facts,” she asserted.
Going by the Ahmedabad police control room (PCR) call records, it is clear that the safety of the entire Meghaninagar area during the most crucial period of the day, from 11.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m., was put on Police Inspector K.G. Erda’s shoulders despite the fact that Erda had himself asked the PCR to inform his bosses about the gravity of the situation, and also to ensure that senior officers remained physically present as things were beyond his control.
The records also state that at 2.09 p.m. Erda even asked for Central Forces but there was no deployment of paramilitary forces in the area till late in the evening.
Asserts Setalvad: “It was clearly evident that top Gujarat police officers turned a deaf ear to all calls for help and Meghaninagar area was left unmanned by senior police personnel even when an entire residential society along with a neighbouring police chowky were set on fire leading to huge casualties.”
On Friday, the SIT court sentenced 11 of the 24 convicts to life in prison, one man for 10 years and 12 others for seven years for the February 28, 2002 mass murder.