February 28...2002...

Little before 2pm...


Gujarat Deputy Commissioner of Police Sanjiv Bhatt was a worried man...

In the aftermath of the Godhra train tragedy, an event still shrouded in mystery (even some die-hard BJP supporters believe that fire in the bogeys carrying Kar Sewaks was set 'from the inside' and not 'from the outside' by Muslims), planned attacks had already broken out all over Ahmedabad and Gujarat.

Reports of wholescale killings of Muslim men, killing and rape of Muslim women, tearing apart babies from the wombs of Muslim mothers, flooding Muslim colonies and killing the inhabitants by electrocution--killings, killings and more killings of Muslims through unspeakable means--by well-organised VHP-BJP-RSS-Bajrang Dal groups--were pouring in from all corners.

A huge mob had already gathered around Gulberg Society, armed with petrol bombs, cycle chains and swords, shouting slogans. This particular society was the home of Ehsan Jafri, a poet par excellence, a symbol of Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, and an ex-Congress MP.

Jafri had won from Ahmedabad in 1977, during the anti-Indira Gandhi wave!

But today, Jafri was a beleaguered man. He had suffered from communal violence before; his house was burnt down once. Since moving to Gulberg Society, he had seen right wing violence in the late 1980s.

But Jafri's faith in Indian composite culture and the Indian law and order machinery was supreme. He was a progressive man, a liberal Muslim.

Many of Jafri’s neighbours, as well as Muslims from neighbouring slums, had come to his house seeking safety, expecting that his status as a former member of Parliament would afford them protection. “He must have made over a hundred phone calls for help,” Jafri’s wife, Zakisa, later told the media. He called the Gujarat Director-General of Police, the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, the State Chief Secretary and dozens of others, pleading for their intervention.

A witness who survived the carnage later told a court that Jafri even called then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Word of Jafri’s frantic calls for help even reached then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani in Delhi. A BJP insider close to Modi, who was with Advani that day, told the Press later, how the BJP leader had even called Modi’s office himself to ask about Jafri!

By 2.30 pm, the mobs had broken through the gates of Gulberg Housing society. A flood of men converged on Jafri’s home. Women were raped and then burnt alive; men were cut to pieces; children were not spared.

According to records later submitted in court, Jafri was stripped and paraded naked before the attackers cut off his fingers and legs, and dragged his body into a burning pyre.

Official police report indicates that 59 people were murdered in Gulberg Society, though independent inquiries put the number at 69 or 70. Jafri’s wife, Zakia, and a few others who had locked themselves in an upstairs room survived.

In the aftermath, CM Modi was to maintain that he had no knowledge of the events at Gulberg Society until he was briefed by police officers that evening.

That day itself, police officer Sanjiv Bhatt --as he later documented in an affidavit---had spoken with Modi over the phone several times before 2 pm, and reported that a mob had circled Gulberg.

Now, a worried Bhatt decided to confront the CM. During the meeting, Bhatt told Modi that "the situation demanded immediate intervention..."

But Modi's response was strange...Modi first listened to Bhatt...and then said, "Sanjiv try to find out in in the past, Jafri has been in the habit of opening fire.”

Outside the chief minister’s office, in the corridor, Bhatt bumped into the former Chief Minister Amarsinh Choudhary and former Home Minister Naresh Rawal. Both the ex-ministers told Bhatt that Ehsan Jafri has been giving frantic calls from Gulberg, and they have come to meet Modi.

Then, a few minutes later, Bhatt got a call on his cellphone. The voice at the other end told Bhatt that "Jafri has opened fire.”

When Bhatt reached his office, a short report was lying on the table saying Jafri opened fire in 'self-defence'. Just as the Chief Minister had said earlier.

Zakia Jafri said her husband did not fire, but gave himself up to the mob with the promise that they will leave other people gathered in his house for protection alone.