Zakia Jafri is the wife of the late Indian politician and ex-Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jafri. She is well-known for filing several litigations in court against the Gujarat government’s alleged role during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Zakia Ahsan Jafri was born in 1937 (age 85 years; as of 2022) in Khandwa, Princely State of Indore, British India (now Madhya Pradesh, India).
Zakia Jafri belongs to a Muslim family from Madhya Pradesh.
Her father was a farmer. Not much is known about her mother.
Husband & Children
Her husband, Ehsan Jafri, was a politician and a lawyer. He was killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots when a mob attacked his residence in the Gulbarg Society.
Her daughter, Nishrin Jafri Hussain, is a deputy manager in Larsen & Toubro (L&T).
Her elder son, Tanvir Jafri, is a businessman.
Her youngest son, Zubair Jafri, is a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) in a private firm in the United States of America.
Zakia Jafri follows Islam.
The 1969 riots in Madhya Pradesh
In 1969, there were communal riots in Zakia Jafri’s hometown, Khandwa, which resulted in her house being burned down by a mob. As a result of this, Zakia, along with her family, had to move to a refugee camp. In 1970, after staying in a refugee camp for a few months, Zakia moved to Ahmedabad with her husband.
The 2002 Gujarat riots
On 27 February 2002, the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express, carrying Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya to Gujarat, was burnt which resulted in the death of 59 pilgrims. According to the Nanavati-Mehta Commission’s report, the train was set on fire by a Muslim mob of 1,000 to 2,000 people. To conduct further inquiry into the burning of the train, in 2002, the central government constituted a commission which, in its report, stated that the fire was started by an accident. In 2003, the commission was held unconstitutional. After the burning of the train, there was a massive outbreak of riots in Gujarat. On 28 February 2002, a mob surrounded the Gulbarg Society, where a majority of the residents were Muslims, with the intent of burning it down. Many residents went to Ehsan Jafri’s home to take refuge from the angry mob. The mob, somehow, managed to breach the society’s compound and started attacking the residents. They even set Ehsan Jafri’s house on fire, which killed more than 69 people. After burning down his bungalow, the mob dragged Ehsan out of his house and lynched him brutally. While the house was being attacked by the mob, Zakia Jafri hid on the first floor of the house and was saved.
Filing her petition in the Supreme Court
On 8 June 2006, Zakia Jafri, along with social activist Teesta Setalvad, ex-DGP of Gujarat police R. B. Sreekumar, and ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, filed a joint petition in the Supreme Court in which she alleged that the 2002 Gujarat riots were instigated by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, VHP leaders Praveen Togadia and Jaideep Patel, and the then DGP of Gujarat police, P. C. Pandey. Following the filing of a petition, the Supreme Court, in 2008, constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the chairmanship of the then chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) R. K. Raghavan. In 2010, the SIT submitted its report to the Supreme Court, after which the report was submitted by the apex court to its amicus curiae (advisor to the court), Raju Ramachandran. In the same year, the amicus curiae submitted his report to the court, in which he pointed out the discrepancies found in the SIT’s report. In 2011, rejecting the amicus curiae’s observation, the SIT filed a closure report. On 10 April 2012, upon finding no conclusive evidence, the Supreme Court acquitted all of the accused, including the then CM of Gujarat. On 15 April 2013, Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), and Zakia Jafri filed a joint protest petition in the Supreme Court, in which they demanded that the evidence collected by the SIT must be handed over to the petitioners for examination. Filing a counter-petition in the same year, the SIT stated,
Teesta Setalvad and others have falsified the complaint targeting the chief minister who had never said that go and kill people. Their lawyer further submitted that the so-called incident of Chief Minister (Narendra Modi) giving instructions (in the meeting) to high-level police officers not to take action against the rioters is a sole creation of Teesta Setalvad. There is no evidence of the same and that Setalvad was not present during the incident.”
Gulbarg society’s massacre trial
In 2006, following Zakia Jafri’s PIL in the Supreme Court, a case was registered against sixty people, accusing them of playing a role in the Gulbarg society’s massacre. On 17 June 2016, the Supreme Court delivered its verdict against the accused. In its verdict, the apex court acquitted 36 people due to a lack of evidence against them and convicted 24 people for playing an active role in the 2002 Gulbarg society massacre. The court while handing over the sentence to the convicts, stated 28 February 2002 to be the “darkest day in the history of civil society of Gujarat.” Out of the 24 convicts, 11 were given life imprisonment, one was given a ten-year prison sentence, and twelve were given a seven-year prison sentence. After the court announced its verdict, Zakia Jafri expressed her disappointment. In an interview she said,
All the convicts were part of the same riot mob who committed the heinous crime and should have, equally, been sentenced to life imprisonment. Those acquitted earlier should also have been similarly brought to justice. I would consult her lawyers on the next course of action. The case has not ended for me. I will pursue the case against the acquitted. This is injustice. A person who did so much for the people, was cut and burnt on the streets. I cannot agree with this. I demand life imprisonment for every convict because everyone was present that day.”
Petition against SIT’s clean chit to the accused
On 13 November 2018, Zakia Jafri, Teesta Setalvad, R. B. Sreekumar, and Sanjiv Bhatt filed a joint petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the clean chit given by the SIT and the Supreme Court to those accused of playing a part in the 2002 Gujarat riots, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In June 2022, the Supreme Court, upholding the SIT’s investigative report, quashed the joint petition. The court, in its verdict, stated that Teesta, Sreekumar, and Bhatt have played with the emotions of Zakia Jafri for their gains. The court in its judgement stated,
Teesta and others have been vindictively persecuting this lie for their ulterior design by exploiting the emotions and sentiments of Zakia Jafri. The proceedings have been pursued for the last 16 years to keep the pot boiling, for ulterior design. All those involved in such abuse of process need to be in dock and proceeded with in accordance with law. The appeal against 2012 decision of the court is with malafide intent and under the dictation of someone. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation.”
- Every year, on 28 February, Zakia Jafri visits her house that was burnt by the mob during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
- In 2022, 92 former bureaucrats and several activists requested the Supreme Court to withdraw and review its observations given out during its verdict in June 2022.
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