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2002 Gujarat riots: Ex-Cong MP Jafri fired in "self-defence", SIT closure report on Modi role had asserted

Ehsan Jafri
By Our Representative
While CBI judge PB Desai's verdict on Gulberg Society trial has courted controversy for the assertion that former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri's gun fire triggered the gruesome mob attack, which led to the massacre of 69 persons, a recent human rights report has revealed that even the special investigation team (SIT) in its closure report called the firing an act of “self-defence”.
The 2,200 word report into the whole episode, extensively quoting different sources, says, “Curiously, in a background note in the SIT's Closure report to Zakia Jafri’s complaint, the SIT says Jafri fired in 'self-defence'” which stands in “in contrast to how it portrays the same incident later in the report, when it invokes the action–reaction words of chief minister Narendra Modi.”
The report quotes from the SIT as saying, “Jafri fired from his private, licensed weapon in self-defence causing injuries to 15 persons in the mob. One of the victims of the said private firing succumbed to injuries later.” However, it adds, “Within the space of a few pages, however, what the SIT saw as self-defence in one context had become a provocation”.
Prepared by sabrangindia.in, a human rights site run by well-known social activist Teesta Setalvad, the report says, “Police witnesses Arvindbhai Shankarbhai Vaghela, Dhanesing Becharsing, Natwarji Javanji Bhati have all stated that joint police commissioner MK Tandon came with a striking force and police inspector KG Erda was present here on the road outside G.B. Society.”
Thereafter, the report says, “The two officers met each other. The former had with him a Vrij vehicle with all the equipment. Mob gathered there and the police fired shells at the mob. KG Erda requested Tandon to send more force, but the latter left the area without any action.”
The report further says, “Besides, eye witness testimonies have stated that violent members of the mob forcibly closed down shops at 9 am, attacked the Ankur Cycle shop at 10 am, burned down a rickshaw between 10-10.30 am. Witnesses have also testified to the commissioner of police, PC Pande coming to the society and leaving around 10.30 am.”
“Yet”, says the report, “Judge PB Desai finds that the well-armed mob that had gathered for well over four hours on the morning of February 28, 2002 only got really violent around 1.30 pm after the reported incident of Ehsan Jafri’s firing.”
While Jafri's son, Tanvir, has called it a “complete insult to the life, work and memory of my father”, the report says, reading through the judgement “seems perilously close to the arguments of the defence council over the past week, seeking a reduction of the sentence” of those found guilty.
“Crucially, these arguments ignore the testimony of police witnesses that have stated that joint commissioner MK Tandon came to the Gulberg society around 10.30 am with a vehicle fully armed and a ‘strike force’ but left the area without leaving the strike force behind to protect the society already under attack”, the report argues.
In his judgment, the judge wrote, the “ugly” massacre of so many men, women and children of the minority community took place, in his opinion, because of “the incident of private firing on the part of the deceased, Ehsan Jafri, which resulted in some deaths from amongst the members of the mob and injuries to a number of persons of the mob which infuriated the mob.”
The judge says this on the basis of “the recovery of empty cartridge shells established ballistically to have been fired from the muddamal weapon recovered from the Bunglow of Ehsan Jafri, and a large number of police witnesses have categorically testified with regard”.

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