24 convicted in Gulbarg massacre case, 36 let off

02 June 2016

Fourteen years after a mob of nearly 20,000 attacked Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad killing 69 people, including former Congress lawmaker Ehsan Jafri, 24 people were today convicted by a special SIT court in Ahmedabad.

Key accused Bipin Patel, a BJP corporator, is among 36 people who have been acquitted.

The Ahmedabad court will sentence those convicted today on 6 June. Eleven have been convicted for murder and 13 for lesser offences. The court said there was not enough evidence against the 36 people acquitted.

Ehsan Jafri's wife Zakia said after today's verdict, "I am very unhappy with the judgement. I will carry on the fight, will do whatever it takes."

Activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been helping the families of those killed in the case, said the option of appeal against the acquittal of the 36 was "open".

A mob of nearly 20,000 had attacked Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad on 28 February 2002, a day after coaches of the Sabarmati Express train were burnt at Godhra station leaving 59 people dead.

The Gulbarg mob set houses afire and killed 69 people. Ehsan Jafri was burnt to death. His frantic phone calls to police officers and senior politicians for help allegedly went unanswered.

Bipin Patel, acquitted today, is a sitting BJP corporator from the Asarwa area. He was accused of being part of the mob and was charged with murder. Patel was the corporator in 2002 too and has won multiple elections since.

Among those convicted is Atul Vaid, a prominent Ayurveda doctor from the area and a member of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

The Gulbarg massacre is among the 10 major Gujarat riot cases re-investigated by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court.

Zakiya Jafri had alleged the complicity of then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and other ministers in the Gujarat 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 Modi and his state government took all necessary steps to bring back law and order after the Godhra killings.

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