04 August 2006

Ehsan Jafri's brutal end

Gulberg Society, Chamanpura

This is probably the first carnage to have been unleashed after the Godhra tragedy, after the corpses of the burnt bodies had been taken from Godhra to the Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. The attack on Gulberg society, which was home to Ahsan Jafri, former trade unionist and MP of the Congress party, was launched with military precision from 7.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on Thursday, February 28. A 20-25,000 strong mob surrounded the Chamanpura area in the heart of Ahmedabad city. The FIR lodged by KG Erda of the Meghani Nagar police station itself gives a detailed account of the utter failure of the police to put off the assailants or protect the trapped residents. The FIR admits that the arson and destruction began from that morning itself. The Tribunal recorded detailed testimonies of all the eye-witnesses to the Gulberg society carnage, including a Parsi, who was with Ahsan Jafri until the end, when, at around 2.30 p.m., he surrendered himself to the mob in a desperate attempt to save the persons who had sought shelter in his home from nearby chawls. One of the most shocking aspects of the Gulberg society carnage, to which two eyewitnesses and two others testified, is the fact that the commissioner of police, Ahmedabad, PC Pandey, visited Ahsan Jafri at 10.30 a.m. that day, and assured him of police reinforcements. The CP stands directly indicted because he did not keep his promise of sending police help. The few men who were deputed from the Meghani Nagar chowki, merely watched as 70 persons were butchered and burnt in a macabre dance of death. The 10-12 women among the victims were brutally gang raped.
The centre of an Indian commercial city saw a medieval and macabre dance of death, humiliation and revenge heaped on women, children and men. Ten to twelve gas cylinders were exploded that day and used as arsenal in the attack. Members of the Tribunal visited the site on May 3, 2002. We found hundreds of little glass bottles containing a whitish powder scattered all round. This was used to heighten the impact and intensity of the fire and ensured that the bodies were burnt to ashes.
According to eyewitness accounts as well as the full list of dead and missing persons attached to the FIR, about 70 persons have died — 49 from the society, and 18-20 from outside, who had come to seek shelter at Jafri’s home. This is not the figure mentioned officially. (The official figure released is 59.) Evidence of one Manoj Kumar, a Hindu neighbour, has also been placed before the Tribunal. He testified to the fact that the attackers pulled the babies out with the men, then poured petrol over them and burnt them. The police merely stood back and watched. When questioned about this gross dereliction of duty, commissioner PC Pandey shrugged and said: "We were outnumbered."(The Times of India, March 2, 2002.)
At about 10.30 a.m., police commissioner Pandey, with Ambalal Nadia, the Congress mahamantri, Ward No. 19, and Kannulal Solanki from Ward No. 20, visited Jafri and gave him a personal assurance that they would send reinforcements and that he would be fully protected. Within five minutes of the CP’s departure, at 10.35 a.m., the Zahir Bakery and an autorickshaw just outside Gulberg society were burnt. The stoning of Gulberg society began around 11.15-11.30 a.m. Forty-five minutes later, at about 12.15-12.30 p.m., stones, acid bulbs, bottles and petrol bombs were thrown at Gulberg society from the rear side of the complex of buildings and bungalows. From the terrace of an adjacent bungalow belonging to a non-Muslim, between 12.30 and 12.45 p.m., there was heavy stone throwing, including big boulders. This caused the biggest damage, because, without this frontal attack using premises from within the residential colony itself, the residents might have been able to protect themselves. The volley of huge stones, along with acid bulbs and burning cloth balls, continued until 1-1.15 p.m. Around 1 p.m., one Yusuf, a resident of the society, was caught, cut up and torched. Fear amongst the residents had mounted. By this time there were nearly 80 persons in Jafri’s house. Amid shouts of "Ghusijao" ("Get in!"), between 2.30-2.45 p.m., suddenly the gate at the rear end of the Society, near the railway tracks, was broken down. Between 2.30-2.45 p.m., Ahsan Jafri, who was clearly a specific target, allowed himself to be dragged out of his own house. There, just outside the home that he had so painfully created, for 45 minutes, he was brutally dismembered and then finally decapitated. He was stripped, paraded naked, and asked to say, "Vande Mataram!" and "Jai Shri Ram!" He refused. His fingers were chopped off and he was paraded around in the locality, badly injured. Next, his hands and feet were chopped off. He was then dragged, a fork-like instrument clutching his neck, down the road, before being thrown into the fire. A man who had devoted his life to public service, had met a brutal end. In this attack, Jafri was killed along with his three brothers and two nephews.

No comments: