December 26, 2008 12:21:40 am
Zarina Mansuri, a 30-year-old Muslim woman who was believed to have been brutally hacked to death and later burnt to ashes by a mob in the Naroda Patiya massacre of February 28, 2002, was not even alive at that time. She had died of tuberculosis (TB) some four months earlier.
Zarina’s brother-in-law, Yunus Mansuri, made this startling revelation before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing cases of the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots, during his recent deposition.
Deposing before the SIT on June 24 this year, Yunus had disclosed that Zarina was suffering from chronic TB and that she had succumbed to her ailment while under treatment in civil hospital here. He further stated that Zarina died in the month of Ramzan in 2001, which was roughly four months before the post-Godhra communal riots broke out in Gujarat.
The SIT has appended Yunus’s statement in the case chargesheet it filed before a city court here about a fortnight ago, a copy of which is available with The Indian Express. The 44-year-old Yunus works as an autorickshaw driver and stays with his wife and three kids in their ancestral house at Pandit Ni Chali area in Naroda Patiya.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Yunus said Zarina’s daughter, Anisha, who was then 12 years old, had told the police that her mother was murdered and her body was burnt by the rioting mob that day. Anisha is now 18 and stays with her in-laws in Kumbharvas area in Gomptipur here.
Yunus added he came to know about his niece’s ‘incorrect’ statement only this year, when the SIT summoned him in connection with further investigations in the case. “I was shocked to know that she (Anisha) had said all this about her mother. I told SIT that someone in the relief camp might have tutored Anisha to say all this. It is strange that the police relied on the 12-year-old’s statement and never cross-checked it with us.”
About the rape of one of her friends, Shabana (15), which Anisha is said to have witnessed (according to her statement recorded by police on May 15, 2002), Yunus’s deposition said: “This, again, is wrong. Anisha had witnessed nothing like that that day. We, along with several others, were hiding on the same terrace of a house in Gangotarinagar at that time and none of us had seen anything like that.”
However, “after the riots, while my family stayed in the Shah-e-Alam relief camp, Anisha along with her father and others was in the relief camp near Sonal Cinema. Her statement was recorded that time and it seems to have been fabricated,” he told The Indian Express.
“I even scolded Anisha for having said all this. But then there was a second thought that she was only 12 then and might not have even known all that was written in her name,” Yunus’s deposition said. When asked if Anisha could be contacted, Yunus said she was pregnant and should not be disturbed at this stage.
Yunus, who owned a kerosene business in Naroda Patiya area in 2002, recalled: “I remember distinctly that she (Zarina) died on the 9th day of Ramzan in 2001. She was buried in the Kabaristan (Muslim cemetery) near Naroda Gam bus stand. I was present during her last rites and also have the cemetery’s receipt.”
“Some people even suggested that I should remain mum and seek compensation for Zarina’s death. But I am a God-fearing man and cannot do what Islam does not allow. I, therefore, told SIT the truth,” Yunus added.
More than 90 people were killed in Naroda Patia in the post-Godhra riots. While Zarina had died of TB four months earlier, according to Yunus, her husband — Yunus’s elder brother and Anisha’s father — Kasam Mansuri had succumbed to the same disease in 2003.
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