Demonisation of Ehsan Jafri is now complete

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
Nilanjan MukhopadhyayJun 18, 2016 | 15:38

Demonisation of Ehsan Jafri is now complete

The demonisation of Ehsan Jafri is complete. A court in Ahmedabad has concluded that Jafri caused the slaughter of 69 people – including his own - in Gulbarg Society.

14 years after one the biggest carnages of the Gujarat riots, the honourable judge, in his wisdom, ruled "private firing on the part of the deceased Ehsan Jafri" acted as a catalyst for provoking the mob that was not "really interested in causing deaths". The victim is guilty. If one wants to cite an instance of travesty of justice, look no further.


With the June 17 sentencing in the Gulbarg Society massacre case, the attempt to reverse the identity of the actual victim has been reversed. The court may have given lifers to eleven, and twelve people were sent to jail for seven years; but the real culprit, according to the court, is Jafri because he who provoked a mob that was "largely involved in stone-throwing and attempting to burn and damage the vehicles, and properties of members of the minority community outside Gulbarg society".

By picking up a gun in self-defence, he incensed the hoodlums.

Better sense should have prevailed on Jafri and he ought to have waited for the goons to break into his house, douse him with kerosene or slit his throat. He should have waited till he and available witnesses were cocksure that his life was actually under threat before picking up a gun.

Ehsaan Jafri's wife Zakia at her old house at Gulbarg Society.

By picking up his gun and causing "some deaths from amongst the members of the mob and injuries", Jafri "infuriated the mob". He should have realised that the mob was actually not a killer gang. They were in fact on a peace mission. Because "no less than 15 persons were injured in such private firing, of which one person fatally succumbed to the injuries", the group got angry and engaged in brutalities.


One person. And, they killed 69!

That Jafri, in a way was the real villain, was a theory floated by then chief minister Narendra Modi. A day after the massacres, when Gujarat was still aflame, in an interview to Zee News, he declared:

"Kriya pratikriya ki chain chal rahi hai. Hum chahate hain ki na kriya ho aur na pratikriya (A chain of action and reaction is being witnessed now)... Godhra mein jo parson hua, jahan par chalees mahilaon aur bacchon ko zinda jala diya, isssey desh main aur videsh main sadma pahuchna swabhavik tha. Godhra ke is ilake ke logon ki criminal tendencies rahi hain. In logon ne pahele mahila teachers ka khoon kiya. Aur ab yeh jaghanya apraadh kiya hai jiski pratikriya ho rahi hai’ (Day before yesterday in Godhra, the incident in which forty women and children were burnt alive had to naturally evoke a shocking response in the country and abroad. The people in this locality of Godhra have had criminal tendencies. They first killed the women teachers and now this horrifying crime the reaction to which is being witnessed.)


On March 1, 2002 when this interview was granted, a decisive criminal profiling was done of an entire locality of Godhra even though the horrible attack on Sabarmati Express may have been the handiwork of a select few. Moreover investigations were underway and instead of being circumspect, he had been decisive in his utterance.

In any case, when violence was still on the rampage in the state, was use of Newton’s third law of motion expected from the custodian of peace and normalcy in the state? While it is true that Modi did not accuse any person who died in the violence for provoking retaliation specifically, how different was his argument from Rajiv Gandhi’s outrageous state regarding the earth shaking when a big tree falls?

Eight years after the events, the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team in its preliminary report stated:

"In spite of the fact that ghastly violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere; the reaction of the Govt was not the type which could have been expected by anyone. The Chief Minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every ‘action’ has an equal and opposite 'reaction'."

Though the SIT eventually declared that Modi’s interview was not "sufficient to make out a case against Modi", but can one justify the court using the same perverse logic in its verdict which demonstrates little knowledge of how mob violence is orchestrated?

I am not going into the issue that the SIT toned down its submitted in 2012 and how this has been contested by many including the apex court’s amicus curiae. But the SIT Court’s verdict on the quantum of sentence in the case raises disturbing questions regarding the right of a person to defend when threat to life is apprehended.

Because dead men can’t speak for themselves, it is very easy to demonise them. To use Modi’s depraved logic, the "action" was the crowd’s and Jafri’s was the "reaction". But the court has ignored the first kriya and converted the pratikriya into the "original" action.

Jafri was not spared in life. His memory has now been further maligned.

Last updated: June 20, 2016 | 10:45
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