On June 2, a special SIT court convicted 24 people in the 2002 post-Godhra riots case of Gulberg Society and acquitted 36 of the 66 accused, including sitting BJP corporator Bipin Patel. On Friday, 11 convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment till death, while the remaining 12 convicts were awarded 7 years imprisonment each, and one convict was given a 10-year sentence.What happened in Gulberg Society?<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On February 27, 2002, 59 ‘karsevaks’ were killed after the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra railway station. A day later, the Muslim residents of Gulberg society in Chamanpura area (a Hindu-dominated locality) of Gujarat took refuge in former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri’s house in the same society. Around noon, a violent mob gathered around the society and torched down most of the houses there. According to reports, around 69 people were killed in the massacre, including Jafri. A Human Rights watch report states that Jafri was hacked and burnt to death.
ALSO READ Gulberg Society massacre: 24 including VHP leader convicted, 36 acquitted; Zakia Jafri says ‘fight will continue’The report also states that Jafri tried calling the police station, the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, and the then central home minister LK Advani asking for protection, but to no avail. His telephone line was reportedly disconnected once his neighbour’s house was set on fire.Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri, who is the main petitioner in the case, had alleged that the Chief Minister had an understanding with police officials, senior ministers and bureaucrats to induce the violence in the state.
ALSO READ Gulberg Society massacre: Court likely to pronounce quantum of sentence todayThe perpetrators were identified as VHP and Bajrang Dal officials and party workers.The question of attack on minorities was raised by the victims, however the defence claimed that Jafri had fired several rounds, which made the mob turn violent.
ALSO READ 2002 Gulbarg Society case: SC allows Ahmedabad court to pronounce judgmentNarendra Modi too was under the scanner In 2008, the Supreme Court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan to look into the matter. The Gujarat government was also ordered to re-investigate nine cases in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Gujarat High Court in 2007 had refused to entertain Zakia’s plea pertaining to a 2006 complaint alleging that FIR was not registered against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other perpetrators, which included several top officials and ministers of the state. Taking a cognisance her appeal, the apex court in 2009, asked SIT to look into the matter. The state government had filed an appeal against the court’s stand by saying that SIT is exceeding jurisdiction in examining Modi’s role in the riots case.On March 27, 2010 Modi appeared before the SIT and in April 2012, he was given a clean chit by the team stating that there were not enough evidence against him. Teesta Setalvad’s fight for the victimsIn 2011, the Supreme Court had denied access to reports about the incident. Social activist Teesta Setalvad, who had been fighting cases for victims of the Gulberg massacre, along with Zakia, filed a petition seeking access to the reports. Setalvad’s fight targeted Modi and others in the incident. The magisterial court in 2012 ordered an SIT to provide the report and the documents relating to the incident to Zakia.However, Setalvad got herself into a controversy when Rs 14.2 lakhs were transferred from her NGO’s account into her and her husband’s personal account. A demand was raised for her arrest, and the state government sought a probe into Setalvad’s NGO, alleging that the funds received from Ford Foundation were used for ‘communal disharmony’.Road to the verdict On the basis of Zakia’s plea in the Gujarat High Court challenging a lower court’s order giving a clean chit to Modi and others, the final hearing began on August 4, 2015. The Supreme Court had directed to conclude the case in three months. By September 2015, the trial came to an end after the prosecution examined 338 witnesses. In February 2016, contradicting its previous order of not declaring the final verdict, the apex court lifted the stay. On June 2, 24 accused were convicted and 36 were acquitted. The judgement was delivered by special court judge PB Desai over eight months after the trial concluded on September 22, 2015. Of the 24 convicted, 11 were charged with murder, and 13 others were charged with lesser offences, including VHP leader Atul Vaidya.The SIT had named 66 in the case, out of which six had died during the trial and nine people have been behind bars for 14 years, while others are out on bail.