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We don't expect to get justice in Gujarat: eyewitnesses

By Anjali Mody

NEW DELHI OCT. 8. Zakia Naseem Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri former Congress MP killed in last year's violence in Gujarat, said today that families like hers had no expectation of justice in the State. She and four eyewitnesses to the Gulbarg Society massacre, are here to attend tomorrow's Supreme Court hearing on two petitions asking for the transfer of cases outside the State.

Fakir Mohammed, a Congress party worker, was with Ahsan Jafri on 28 February, when the Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad, P.C. Pandey, assured him that there was no need to evacuate the colony and that security would be provided. Mr. Mohammed, whose 45-year old son was also killed in the massacre, said that he and his family continued to receive threats from Bajrang Dal activists and named a person as his son's killer. Police also continued to harass his family, he alleged. A few days before they left Ahmedabad, he, his son and grandson were summoned to the local crime branch office.

Mrs. Jafri, who now lives with her eldest son in Surat, said that although Bajrang Dal and VHP activists had tried to intimidate her after she deposed before the Nanavati Commission in August, she was not an eyewitness to the February 28, 2002 massacre and, therefore, not a threat to those charged in the case. Her son, Tanvir Jafri, said that what was striking was that police did nothing to stop the Bajrang Dal/VHP activists. Ironically, the fact that they were Ehsan Jafri's family was also a form of protection, he said.

However, he said, that those like Mr. Mohammed, who were eyewitnesses faced threat. Syed Khan Ahmed Khan Pathan, another eyewitness, said that they had "no faith" in the Gujarat state administration, the "only way we will get justice is if the case is taken out of the state." He received threatening calls from a Bajrang Dal activist, Atul Vaid, who was also charged in the case. Mr. Pathan claimed that police removed the names of numerous VHP and Bajrang Dal activists whom he had named in his FIR. Many charged in the case, with offences including murder, were out on bail. He alleged that a local police inspector at the time of the massacre continued to visit Ahmedabad "just to intimidate witnesses".

Feroz Mohamed Gulzar Mohammed Pathan, 29, who lost four members of his family, was provided personal security after the Supreme Court passed strictures against the Gujarat Government in August, as were Fakir Mohammed and Syed Khan Pathan.

However, Mr. Feroz Mohammed said this did not mean they were really secure. None of the Gulbarg Society families had been able to return to their homes. They had been told they could not go back "for their own safety".

If any of them wants to go, just to see how things are, they have to get "police permission". In an atmosphere where it is "unsafe to go home" argued, Syed Khan Pathan, "where is the hope of justice?" But he and the other witnesses of the Gulbarg Society massacre would not be cowed down. They said they would have their day in court.

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