By Sushil Kutty
Zakia Jafri is at least a decade older than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the way things are shaping up, it looks like Zakia will live long enough to see closure to the Gujarat riots case. Then Gujarat Chief Minister and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a clean chit by the Special Investigation Team probing the case.
That was in 2012. Today, a decade later, Zakia is challenging the SIT’s clean chit to Modi and though she appears quiet, but beneath the calm, what? The SIT, her lawyer Kapil Sibal says, chose to blindside evidence like they didn’t exist. The SIT also appeared to have come to baseless conclusions with no reason or logic to back them up. At least this is what got Zakia Jafri’s goat.
So much so, she could do with some explanations which make sense. You cannot expect an 81-year-old to sleep tight with unanswered questions jostling in the head! Zakia is the widow of Ehsan Jafri, the Congress MP, who was brutally murdered in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Murder most foul. But the SIT probing the riots is as if ‘Murder, yes, but ‘foul? O! No.’
Kapil Sibal disputed the SIT claims. The SIT did not do a clutch of things. For one, did not record statements and seize phones. Two, how were the bombs manufactured? Without any of these answered, the SIT filed closure reports. And Narendra Modi got his clean chit.
Zakia’s hunt for justice has been on for nearly 20 years. In the meantime seasons changed, the world got warmer, the Paris Accord was signed; Donald Trump came and went and Modi became PM, not once but twice. Ehsan Jafri was one of 68 killed in Gulberg Society of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002.
It now seems like it was ages ago. But Zakia remembers it like it was yesterday. No SIT can make Ehsan Jafri’s murder and memory fade away. The closure report must come with a grain of truth, at least. Zakia says the SIT made it wishy-washy. The SIT gave clean chits in February 2012 to Modi and 63 others. Why? “No prosecutable evidence,” said SIT. Modi became Prime Minister of India in 2014!
Did anything change? For Zakia nothing. She kept her determination to get to the light at the end of the tunnel alive. There were times when SIT and Zakia and Modi seemed to converge. Now, the top court has once again started hearing the case.
Kapil Sibal is arguing before the bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar. Sibal told them he too was a “victim of communal violence” and harked back to Partition. That will not do, Sibal should stick to point. At an earlier hearing, he had told the court that “the issue goes beyond Gulberg society” and that Zakia’s fight was about “law and order and administrative failure – people were massacred because of police inaction… I just want matter to be investigated… This is all about law and order and rights of individuals.”
Sibal says forget the “high dignitaries”, they don’t matter. But they should not get clean chits. There was alleged conspiracy, “complicity of bureaucratic officials, deliberate hate speeches and unleashing of violence. The SIT did not look at and into 23,000 pages of evidence.”
Kapil Sibal oftentimes slips into a séance-like phase and then he is like a poet unleashed in prose: “There were people who were massacred because of police inaction. Where will people go if none of the courts look into the issue? The republic stands or falls based on what the Court does… This republic is too great to look the other way.”
Sibal spoke on November 10, 2021 and then on November 11. He spoke on why the SIT cannot just give a clean chit and scoot. It chose to ignore evidence. The army wasn’t called when it should have been called. There was massive police failure. The culprit is somebody, the charge is on somebody else.
Kapil Sibal spoke of Article 21. He said investigation needs to find the footprints. And, then the court retired for lunch! But the court had earlier in October made it clear that there wouldn’t be any more adjournments. This was it, the last and final hearing! SIT beware. Will the top court oblige? (IPA Service)