In custody, for mentor’s murder

On Friday, Meghsingh Chaudhary, one of the accused in the Gulbarg Society massacre of 2002, surrendered before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) along with VHP leader Atul Vaidya.

Among the 70 people who were killed that day was former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri. In a photograph The Sunday Express managed to get, Chaudhary is seen sitting almost reverentially at Jaffri's feet at a prayer meet on communal harmony held in the 1980s outside Sabarmati Ashram.

The irony is not lost on Saeed Khan—ten of his kin, including his wife, mother, grandchild and nephews, were killed that day in Gulbarg—who points to the photo and says, "The man in the grey safari suit is Meghsingh, and the one with white hair and specs on his left is Jaffri saheb."

Chaudhary's father Rupsingh was Khan's friend, and Chaudhary used to address him as 'Chacha'.

Jaffri, says Khan, helped Chaudhary get a Congress ticket for the councillor's post. "But the second time, Jaffri saheb did not help him," recollects Khan, at his electrical shop on Vejalpur Road. Formerly employed in a textile mill, Khan relocated to the neighbourhood soon after the riots.

"Meghsingh was different in those days. He was not a bad man," Khan says. "His father was a nice man too, we were friends. He would address me only as Chacha. His office was right opposite the gate of Gulbarg Society, where we lived."

On the day of the massacre—March 28, 2002—Chowdhary was allegedly part of the armed mob, egging them on to kill the Muslims, along with VHP leader and BJP councillor Bipin Patel and others from the neighbourhood. "Perhaps we became just Hindus and Muslims that day, nothing else mattered. Or he may have been unhappy with Jaffri saheb for not recommending him for a ticket for a second term," Khan says.

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