Hope, a way of life for Gujarat riot victims

Gulam Ali lost 13 members of his family in the riots.  Sardarpura was one of the nine riot cases which were reinvestigated by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). The remaining are still at different stages of trial.

The Gulbarg society massacre is among the more gruesome of these cases. Sixty-nine people died in this carnage when a rioting mob cordoned off the society, a day after the Godhra train burning, and attacked it. Amongst the dead was former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was  burnt alive.

The initial investigations and the trial process has seen several twists and turns with the SC eventually ordering constitution of an SIT in 2008 following a complaint filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri. The SIT, headed by R K Raghavan, a former head of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), reopened the nine crucial riot cases.

Inspiration for film

The Gulbarg society also, with most of the houses damaged or burnt, was later abandoned. Of the 18 houses which were burnt, only one has been repaired, though none of the families returned, while some of them congregate each year on the anniversary of the incident and offer prayers. This incident also inspired filmmaker Rahul Dholakia to direct an award winning film called Parzania, based on the Parsi family which resided in the society and whose son, Azhar, went missing.

Apart from the riot cases, the SC had also ordered the SIT to look into a complaint filed by Zakia seeking filing of  FIRs against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others, including several ministers, alleging a larger conspiracy. The complaint included VHP leaders Praveen Togadia and Jaideep Patel, and then DGP of the State P C Pande, for abetting the riots.

During the Gulbarg trial, some witnesses, including Roopa Modi and Imtiyaz Pathan, have testified that despite desperate attempt for help from the Chief Minister by the former Congress MP, the police had acted as mute spectators. The SC has recently ordered the SIT to hand over its final report on Zakia’s complaint to the magistrate's court.

As far as the trial is concerned, a special court in Ahmedabad is hearing the case. Trial against 66 are currently on. Importantly, of the accused, 57 are out on bail.

Naroda Patiya

The other most talked about riot case of Gujarat, Naroda Patiya, which witnessed appalling violence, including the rape of a pregnant woman, saw the death of 95 people from the area. Once handed over to the apex court-appointed SIT, the case saw some arrests of high profile leaders like the BJP MLA from the area and minister, Maya Kodnani.

This case, which was substantiated by call records, also saw an inquiry being instituted against IPS officer Rahul Sharma, who claimed to have maintained the call records during the riots. Sixty-two stand trial in the case. Even in this case, 49 accused are out on bail.

Battle on

In the remaining cases, including Dipda Darwaza in North Gujarat and Ode in Central Gujarat, the trial is currently on at the special court. With already a decade lost, victims point out as long as the verdict is not pronounced and accused not punished, they cannot rest in peace. Says Iqbal, a crucial witness in the Dipda Darwaja case, “Our battle will be on till the verdict is not delivered and the accused are not punished for the massacre.’’ He, however, said that the Sardarpura verdict has brought some hope to the families of riot victims in this case as well.


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