Scarred Gulbarg families wait on for justice

February 28, 2002: Bajrang Dal and VHP activists begin milling outside the Gulbarg Society premises; burn a rickshaw belonging to a minority youth. Tension brews.

Ahmedabad Police Commissioner PC Pandey arrives at the scene of action. Leaves after promising to send additional force. Stone pelting begins immediately after.

Pandemonium at around 1pm: LPG cylinders and other explosives ignited. While 68 are massacred, 40 are burnt alive inside Ahshan Jafri's bungalow.

Rioters leave at 4.30 pm but only after 19 bungalows and 8 apartments in the society are torched by rioters.

Police appear on the scene only after 7 pm. Some 40 people come rushing out crying for help through the thick smoke surrounding the society block.

It's been five years since the Gulbarg Society (Gujarat) massacre but the families of the victims are still battling their demons. The family members of former Congress MP, septuagenarian Ahsan Jafri, who was allegedly burnt alive outside his Gulbarg Society residence on February 28, 2002 have pinned their hopes on the Supreme Court. In spite of the passage of time his wife Zakia and son Tanvir are hopeful of justice.

The police chargesheet in the case holds Jafri responsible for instigating the mob by firing at them from his licensed revolver. While Tanvir has not rubbished the chargesheet he has requested the court to entertain more facts. "There are several witnesses who can identify the rioters and prove how they went ahead about with the massacre in an organised manner," says Tanvir.

Zakia and Tanvir still can't fathom that the police had colluded with the rioters. "My father had asked for vans to evacuate the society residents. His request went unheeded even though we were barely 1km from the local police station and only 2 km from the Police Commissioner's office. I still cannot bring myself to register how the police could have colluded with the rioters," said Tanvir.

... contd.

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