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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 24 New Delhi June 4, 2016

Gulbarg Judgment and Khadse Affair

Monday 6 June 2016, by SC


As we go to press, two issues have come to prominence.

A special court today convicted 24 persons while acquitting 36 people in the Gulbarg Society massacre in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. Former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was among those killed in that incident. As for the remaining 13 persons, they have been convicted for rioting and on other charges but not murder.

The sentences for those convicted are to be pronounced by the court on June 6. What is significant is that the court has ruled that the massacre was not the consequence of a “pre-planned conspiracy”, a point repeatedly underscored by activists like Teesta Setalvad indefatigably fighting for justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat carnage including those who perished in the Gulbarg Society massacre.

It is also noteworthy that BJP councilor Bipin Patel and former police inspector K.G. Erda, whose names were added as accused in the case by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Apex Court to reinvestigate the nine most crucial cases of the Gujarat happenings, were among those acquitted.

Reacting to the verdict Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, said she would continue to fight for justice as many accused have been acquitted by the court.

No I am not satisfied with the verdict. I did not like it. All should have been given punishment for what they did and what they did not. I know it all and as I have seen the massacre, I expected all to be convicted... how they killed people, how they made them homeless, I saw it myself.

And Teesta Setalvad informed that “we will study the judgment” in depth and thereafter appeal to a higher court. She said she was convinced “this is a case of criminal conspiracy”.

Interestingly, the SIT, appointed by the Supreme Court in 2009, had submitted that the massacre was a pre-planned conspiracy as the rioters had targeted the minority-dominated housing society in the area. This was contested and refuted by the lawyers appearing for the accused.

As for the second issue, after Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis’ meetings with the PM and BJP President today in New Delhi, the former said the BJP will decide “appropriate action” with regard to the State’s Revenue Minister, Eknath Khadse.

Khadse is under fire not only from the BJP’s political opponents but also its ally, the Shiv Sena, over several charges of corruption, notably the alleged impropriety over purchase of a land belonging to the government-owned MIDC at Pune at a throwaway price.

Fadnavis’ statement has given rise to the speculation that Khadse is on his way out, perhaps in a couple of days. Observers of the Maharashtra political scene point out that Khadse being senior to Fadnavis, the CM was not prepared to take action against him keeping the national figures in the party’s central leadership in the dark. Hence his trip to the Capital.

Nevertheless, even if action is belatedly taken against Khadse, the latter’s activities and his defiant continuance in power have only exposed the hollowness of Narendra Modi’s tall claim that the ruling party is immune to any form of corruption unlike its predecessor in office.

June 2 S.C.

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