Ehsan Jafri

14 Dec 2019
28 Feb 2002
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Ehsan Jafri (1929 – 28 February 2002) was an Indian politician and former member of the 6th Lok Sabha for the Congress Party, who was killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre, which was one of the episodes of mob violence against Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

It has been alleged that on February 28th 2002, he was killed by a mob armed with machetes when he pleaded with them to spare the lives of the women and children who had taken refuge in his home. The Special Investigating Team concluded that he was killed after he fired at a agitated mob outside his house. His widow Zakia Jafri has subsequently argued that the state of Gujarat and its then Chief Minister or the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi was partly responsible for the violence and for the lack of police intervention in favor of the victims at Gulbarg Society. This argument has been rejected by a Special Investigation Committee which concluded that Modi had no responsibility for the incident.

Ehsan Jafri was born in Burhanpur, present day Madhya Pradesh in 1929, and his father was Dr. Allahbaksh Jafri. In 1935, Ehsan moved to Ahmedabad, studying at the R.C. High School.

Subsequently, he was elected General Secretary of the Progressive Editor’s Union. Around this time, he also completed his Law degree and started practising as an attorney in Ahmedabad.

In the 1960s, he had joined the Congress Party of Indira Gandhi, and was heading the city unit by 1972. In 1977, after the emergency when the party was routed in most Indian states, Ehsan managed to win the Ahmedabad seat and became a parliamentarian in the 6th Lok Sabha. Thereafter, he remained active in the party and held several key organizational posts in the Congress Party Administration in Gujarat.

On 28 February 2002, when riots broke out in Gujarat, he was killed by a rampaging mob. By early morning, a large mob gathered at the Gulberg Society in the Chamanpura suburb of Ahmedabad. This was an almost entirely Muslim housing society where the septuagenarian Ehsan Jafri lived. According to First Information Report of the incident filed by police inspector K.G. Erda, the violent Hindu mob started attacking Muslim owned establishments in the morning and were dispersed by the police. However, they reassembled around 1 PM armed with swords, sticks, pipe and kerosene.had blown up gas cylinders to blast through walls in the Gulbarg Society. The report also mentions that the rioters were guided by voter lists and computer printouts with the addresses of Muslim-owned properties, information obtained from the local municipal administration.This claim was repeated by at least five Muslim witnesses presented before the Nanavati Commission

Gory details of how former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was hacked limb by limb at Gulbarg Society, then burnt, have been reported in Indian media exposes, in the words of those who did it.”

Chamanpura is in central Ahmedabad and barely a kilometre from the police station, and less than 2 km from the Police Commissioner’s office. Believing the area to be safe given Jafri’s presence, many Muslims in the area had gathered in his compound. Around 10:30 in the morning, the Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police, P.C. Pandey, personally visited Jafri and apparently assured him that police reinforcement would be coming. In the next five hours, Jafri and top Congress officials of the state repeatedly kept calling the police and other government officials requesting safe transport for the residents, but no help arrived. The FIR by Erda further stated that the police station had 130 policemen on duty that day, and were well armed with teargas shells. However, no one was deployed to disperse the crowd, despite Ehsan Jafri and top Congress politicians repeatedly contacting the Director General of Police, Police Commissioner, the Mayor, Leader of Opposition in the State parliament, and other top government officials.

The Tehelka report elicited no response from the Gujarat police, and four months later, the Supreme court appointed a high level investigative team, including the ex-chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate eleven major unresolved cases arising from the riots, including this murder. However in April 2012, a Special Investigation Team found that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had absolutely no role in the killing of Ehsan JafriLater a protest petition was filed by his wife Zakia Jafri seeking rejection of the said SIT report to local Metropolitan Magistrate B J Ganatra.SIT has strongly opposed this petitionand said that “Modi has never said that go and kill people”. Later Supreme Court through Gujarat High Court stayed the routine transfer of the metropolitan magistrate who was hearing the petition on the information of the amicus curiae Harish Salve that the routine transfer due to the end of his term may delay the case.However in December 2013, metropolitan court rejected the petition.Zakia told she will appeal against it in the higher court in a month.

Jafri’s wife, Zakia Jafri, survived the carnage. His daughter, Nishrin Hussain, lives in Delaware.

Ahsan Jafri had a lifelong interest in literature. While at school, he had brought out an Urdu magazine. He kept writing even during his years of Labour union struggle. In 1996, he published his volume of poetry titled Qandeel (“Lantern”) in Urdu.

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