The Verdict of the Gulberg Society Massacres
by Fr Cedric Prakash Sj
Lebanon: The long-awaited verdict on the Gulberg Society massacres is finally out today! Thirty-six of the accused have been acquitted and twenty-four have been convicted; of the latter, only eleven have been charged with murder and the remaining thirteen for lesser offences. The quantum of punishment for those convicted is expected to be pronounced on June 6th.
The Gulberg Society massacres was one of the most gruesome acts of the Gujarat Genocide of 2002 in which sixty-nine innocent persons (including former MP-Ahsan Jafri), were brutally killed, burnt alive on February 28th, 2002. The verdict needs to be respected –at least 24 people have been convicted. There is some justice which has been done.
But for Zakhia Jafri and her family, Rupa and Dara Mody, Sairaben and Salimbhai and the many other victim-survivors, who have lost a loved one, their kith and kin-there is naturally a feeling of dissatisfaction. These heroic persons, have demonstrated sheer grit and determination – for more than fourteen years now, in their struggle for truth and justice. They have had to brave all hostilities, attempts at co-option and even betrayals- but they have stood resolute in their stand- as witnesses -of what actually happened. For them, when key BJP functionaries and a Police Official (who has also destroyed evidence) are let off, there is the expected feeling of unbelief. Like many others, they wonder how could ONLY eleven persons be responsible for the murder of 69?? Why have the big ones allowed to go scot-free??
Whilst the judgement needs to be studied –media reports inform there no ‘conspiracy’ has been found! This of course will not go unchallenged, when it is an established fact that around 20,000 people had attacked Gulberg Society –on that fateful day. The mob was led, knew where to go, and some were completely armed for this heinous crime. As Teesta Setalvad says “the option of appeal is still open” She and her team of lawyers will certainly be studying the verdict very carefully will respond adequately.
In the meantime, victim-survivors, human rights defenders and many others will continue their relentless pursuit of Truth and Justice- till the biggest perpetrators of the Gujarat Genocide are brought to book.
The Author Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is a Human Rights Activist; and Advocacy & Communications , Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) MENA Region, Rue de L’Universitie Saint-Joseph Achrafieh, BEIRUT LEBANON
24 convicted, 36 let off in Gulbarg Society
Ahmedabad, June 2 (IANS) After 14 long years, a special Gujarat sessions court on Thursday convicted 24 people, including Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Atul Vaidya, in the sensational Gulbarg massacre case in which 69 people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive on February 28, 2002.
Special sessions court judge P.B. Desai declared 36 of the 60 accused as ‘not guilty’.
The court rejected the conspiracy charge of the prosecution in the case.
An armed mob had set on fire the entire Gulbarg Housing Society in Ahmedabad’s Meghaninagar area, inhabited by members of the minority community, in broad day light killing 69 people.
While the charred bodies of 39 people were found from the spot after the arson, 30 other people were declared dead by the Special Investigation Team as there was no trace of them 12 years after the incident.
The sessions court judge will pronounce the sentences on the convicts on June 6.
Of the 24 people convicted, the court found 11 persons guilty of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and 13 others guilty of lesser crime.
All the 60 accused remained present in court while their family members thronged the court compound in large numbers.
The court had heard the case on a day-to-day basis on the instructions of the Supreme Court, which on February 22 this year, directed the sessions court to pronounce its verdict in three months time.
The Gulbarg massacre case is one of the nine major cases of the 2002 Gujarat violence which were probed by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Earlier, the apex court while instructing the special court to expedite the hearing of the case had also said that the judgment should not be pronounced without its permission.
The SIT had named 66 accused in the case. Nine of them have been in jail for the last 14 years, while the remaining were out on bail.