February 22, 2009 2:15:32 am
On Friday,Meghsingh Chaudhary,one of the accused in the Gulbarg Society massacre of 2002,surrendered before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) along with VHP leader Atul Vaidya.
Among the 70 people who were killed that day was former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri. In a photograph The Sunday Express managed to get,Chaudhary is seen sitting almost reverentially at Jaffris feet at a prayer meet on communal harmony held in the 1980s outside Sabarmati Ashram.
The irony is not lost on Saeed Khanten of his kin,including his wife,mother,grandchild and nephews,were killed that day in Gulbargwho points to the photo and says,The man in the grey safari suit is Meghsingh,and the one with white hair and specs on his left is Jaffri saheb.
Chaudharys father Rupsingh was Khans friend,and Chaudhary used to address him as Chacha.
Jaffri,says Khan,helped Chaudhary get a Congress ticket for the councillors post. But the second time,Jaffri saheb did not help him, recollects Khan,at his electrical shop on Vejalpur Road. Formerly employed in a textile mill,Khan relocated to the neighbourhood soon after the riots.
Meghsingh was different in those days. He was not a bad man, Khan says. His father was a nice man too,we were friends. He would address me only as Chacha. His office was right opposite the gate of Gulbarg Society,where we lived.
On the day of the massacreMarch 28,2002Chowdhary was allegedly part of the armed mob,egging them on to kill the Muslims,along with VHP leader and BJP councillor Bipin Patel and others from the neighbourhood. Perhaps we became just Hindus and Muslims that day,nothing else mattered. Or he may have been unhappy with Jaffri saheb for not recommending him for a ticket for a second term, Khan says.
Khan and others have testified to Chaudharys presence in the mob in their affidavits before the SIT. The mob was armed with swords and threw burning tyres,refusing to heed Jaffris pleas to stop and spare women and children. Khans testimony gives an account of how Jaffri was killed and how the womensome of them his relativeswere stripped and raped as he watched helplessly through the window of a toilet he hid himself in.
It also describes the role of the police. That police inspector K.G. Erdanow a deputy SP whom the SIT has arrestedensured that there was no evidence left. Late in the night,with the help of a bootlegger,Chothmal,petrol was poured and dead bodies burnt. Koi pehchaan nahin sakta tha (nobody could identify them),recollects Khan,a young police constable now standing outside his shop to protect him.
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