Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, British India
|Died||28 February 2002 (aged 72–73)|
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Ehsan Jafri (1929 – 28 February 2002) was an Indian politician and former member of the 6th Lok Sabha for the Congress Party, who was killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre, which was one of the episodes of mob violence against Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
A Special Investigating Team appointed by the Supreme Court of India concluded that he was killed after he fired at an agitated Hindu mob outside his house. His widow Zakia Jafri has subsequently alleged that the state of Gujarat and its then-chief minister, now the current prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, was partly responsible for the violence and lack of police intervention in favor of the victims at Gulbarg Society. This argument was rejected by a Special Investigation Committee appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008. A review petition was filed by her again and is currently in the Supreme Court.
Subsequently, he was elected General Secretary of the Progressive Editor's Union. Around this time, he also completed his law degree and started practising as an attorney in Ahmedabad. His family had to suffer during 1969 Gujarat riots too.
In the 1960s, he had joined the Congress Party of Indira Gandhi, and was heading the city unit by 1972. In 1977, after the emergency when the party was routed in most Indian states, Ehsan managed to win the Ahmedabad seat and became a parliamentarian in the 6th Lok Sabha. Thereafter, he remained active in the party and held several key organizational posts in the Congress Party Administration in Gujarat.
On 28 February 2002, when riots broke out in Gujarat, he was killed by a rampaging mob. By early morning, a large mob gathered at the Gulberg Society in the Chamanpura suburb of Ahmedabad. This was an almost entirely Muslim housing society where the septuagenarian Ehsan Jafri lived. According to First Information Report of the incident filed by police inspector K.G. Erda, the violent Hindu mob started attacking Muslim owned establishments in the morning and were dispersed by the police. However, they reassembled around 1 PM armed with swords, sticks, pipe and kerosene. The mob had blown up gas cylinders to blast through walls in the Gulbarg Society. The report also mentions that the rioters were guided by voter lists and computer printouts with the addresses of Muslim-owned properties, information obtained from the local municipal administration.[unreliable source?] This claim was repeated by at least five Muslim witnesses presented before the Nanavati-Mehta Commission.
Gory details of how former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was hacked limb by limb at Gulbarg Society, then burnt, have been reported in Indian media exposés, in the words of those who did it.
Chamanpura is in central Ahmedabad and barely a kilometre from the police station, and less than 2 km from the Police Commissioner's office. Believing the area to be safe given Jafri's presence, many Muslims in the area had gathered in his compound. Around 10:30 in the morning, the Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police, P.C. Pandey, personally visited Jafri and apparently assured him that police reinforcement would be coming. In the next five hours, Jafri and top Congress officials of the state repeatedly kept calling the police and other government officials requesting safe transport for the residents, but no help arrived. The FIR by Erda further stated that the police station had 130 policemen on duty that day, and were well armed with teargas shells. However, no one was deployed to disperse the crowd, despite Ehsan Jafri and top Congress politicians repeatedly contacting the Director General of Police, Police Commissioner, the Mayor, Leader of Opposition in the State and the Parliament, and other top government officials.
Investigation of death
The Tehelka report elicited no response from the Gujarat police, and four months later, the Supreme Court appointed a high level investigative team, including the ex-chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate eleven major unresolved cases arising from the riots, including this murder. Gulbarg Society massacre trial restarted at a special court with Supreme Court monitored Special Investigation Team acting as prosecution. On 18 June 2016, Court convicted 24 persons: 11 for life, one for 10 years and the remaining 12 given seven years of rigorous imprisonment. The judgment termed the killings "unfortunate" and the "darkest day in the civil society of Gujarat", but reiterated that "it was the private firing by Ehsan Jafri that acted as a catalyst and which infuriated the mob to such an extent that the mob went out of control…". Though the survivors of the Gulbarg massacre say that Jafri fired his gun only in self-defense after the violent mob started attacking the complex. In April 2012, a Special Investigation Team absolved the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from killing of Ehsan Jafri Later a protest petition was filed by his wife Zakia Jafri seeking rejection of the said SIT report to local Metropolitan Magistrate B J Ganatra. SIT has strongly opposed this petition and said that "Modi has never said that go and kill people". Later the Supreme Court, through the Gujarat High Court, stayed the routine transfer of the metropolitan magistrate who was hearing the petition on the information of the amicus curiae Harish Salve that the routine transfer due to the end of his term may delay the case. However, in December 2013, metropolitan court rejected the petition. Zakia subsequently filed an appeal against it in the higher court.
Ehsan Jafri had a lifelong interest in literature. While at school, he had brought out an Urdu magazine. He kept writing even during his years of Labour union struggle. In 1996, he published his volume of poetry titled Qandeel ("Lantern") in Urdu.
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- Shah, Rajiv (5 March 2002). "'He made 200 phone calls for help' | India News". The Times of India. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
- FIR no. 4/5.200, filed at Meghani Nagar police station, quoted in book by Varadarajan, p. 140-141
- Gujarat: the making of a tragedy (2002). Siddharth Varadarajan. Penguin Books India.p.140-144
- "Police officials led attackers: HRW report on Muslims' massacre in Gujarat". Dawn. 30 April 2002. Archived from the original on 28 April 2012.
- Human Rights Watch Report
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- "Court says of Gulberg massacre victim Jafri: His firing angered mob, made them kill". IndianExpress (newspaper). 16 June 2016.
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- Narendra Modi had no hand in Jafri killing, says SIT Hindustan Times - 10 April 2012
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- "SIT opposes Zakia's plea on Modi clean chit". Hindustan Times. 24 April 2013. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Modi did not incite riots: SIT". Hindustan Times. 25 April 2013. Archived from the original on 26 April 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
- "Zakia's plea against clean chit to Modi rejected". The Hindu. 26 December 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- "Jafri's NRI daughter pays tearful visit to Gulbarg Society". The Times of India. 9 September 2002. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2010.