On the fateful day of February 27 2002, four coaches of the Sabarmati Express returning from Ayodhya were torched by a mob near Godhra, resulting in the deaths of 58 people including 25 children.

The violence that began following the incident in Godhra, resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus but even among all those incidents the massacre at Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad remains one of the worst.

b’58 people were burnt to death in the tragic burning of the Sabarmati Expressxc2xa0| Source: Reuters’

With 69 deaths, including that of a Congress MLA, here’s how one of the most horrifying tales from the 2002 Gujarat riots unfolded.

  • Following the burning of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra on February 27 where 58 people were killed, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) declared a bandh in the state.
  • By February 28, incidents of violence against Muslims across the state were reported, as a curfew was declared in several towns and cities in Gujarat, The Times Of India reported.
  • On the morning of February 28, a mob of around 20000 people had gathered outside the Gulbarg society in Ahmedabad’s Muslim locality Chamanpura, raising slogans.
b’Violence broke out on February 28, after VHP declared a statewide bandhxc2xa0| Source: PTI’
  • Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was a resident of the society with 29 bungalows and 10 apartments, and others gathered in his house to seek refuge.
  • As the mob lay siege on the society, Jafri desperately made phone calls for five hours to the police commissioner, the Chief Minister’s office and to Congress leaders in Delhi, pleading for help, a Tehelka report said. 
  • Among those taking refuge at Jafri’s house, were also Muslims from adjoining slums who had taken with the society’s residents.
b’A mob of around 20,000 laid siege to Gulbarg society, and later turned violentxc2xa0| Source: Reuters’
  • At around 2:30 in the afternoon, the mob finally turned violent, as it stormed the society as they set fire to houses and attacked residents.
  • Ehsan Jaffri was dragged out of his house by the mob, following which he was hacked to death and burnt, and his remains were never found, Business Standard reported.
  • Among residents, 39 others were either hacked to death or burned alive by the mob. Others who went missing were later presumed dead, taking the death toll to 69.
b’Zakia Jafri with picture of her husband Congress MLA Ehsan Jafri who was killedxc2xa0| Source: Reuters’
  • The victims of the carnage stated that the incident was one of pre-planned violence, to target members of the minority community in the society, as 338 witnesses were examined in the trial.
  • The main petitioner in the case, Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri alleged that the then CM Narendra Modi was involved in the violence along with senior ministers and police officials, The Hindu reported.
  • The defence maintained that the incident was not planned and alleged that the mob got violent after Jafri opened fire on them.
b”A survivor of the massacre at Ehsan Jafri’s deserted housexc2xa0| Source: Reuters”
  • The then CM Modi was questioned by a Special Investigation Team SIT in 2010 for nine hours. In 2012, the SIT said there was no prosecutable evidence against him.
  • The trial was also put on hold in March 2010, after the special prosecutor and his assistant resigned alleging that the trial judge was biased and the SIT did not coordinate efforts with them, The Hindu reported.
  • In 2012, The Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court rejected Zakia Jafri’s plea to make the SIT report public.
b’Survivor with a picture of his mother, who was in the house when it was burned downxc2xa0| Source: Reuters’
  • On June 2, 2016, a special court convicted 24 of the 66 accused in the case, while 36 were acquitted, while one accused is missing and five others have died, NDTV reported.
  • Zakia Jaffri promised to continue the fight and told The Hindu that, “I am happy to see 24 have been found guilty but at the same time, 36 have been let off so its incomplete justice.”

Feature image source: AFP