Fact: The following is some part of Arundhati Roy’s article in weekly Outlook dated 6 May 2002 on the Ehsan Jafri case:
“Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping. It took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn’t very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved ‘OM‘ on her forehead…
…A mob surrounded the house of former Congress MP Iqbal Ehsan Jaffri. His phone calls to the Director-General of Police, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) were ignored. The mobile police vans around his house did not intervene. The mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burned them alive. Then they beheaded Ehsan Jaffri and dismembered him. Of course it’s only a coincidence that Jaffri was a trenchant critic of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, during his campaign for the Rajkot Assembly by-election in February…”
Outlook had the guts to publish a rebuttal from a senior functionary of the BJP, the then Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj. The following was the reply:
“Fiddling With Facts As Gujarat Burns
Introduction: The Roys in the media are harming India with half-truths and worse.
“(Here Balbir Punj quotes some sentences from Roy’s article dated 6th May 2002)…
That was the Goddess of small things, Arundhati Roy, painting the big picture of Gujarat in Democracy: Who’s she when she’s at home? (Outlook,May 6, 2002). Roy sums here neatly almost all the charges against the Sangh Parivar. When a reputed weekly like Outlook publishes a Booker Prize-winner, it is meant to be serious commentary.(NOTE: Here we completely disagree with Balbir Punj for a change. In our opinion, Outlook is not a reputed weekly but a weekly run by a Congress sychophant loyalist Vinod Mehta, and Arundhati Roy is no respected writer whose writing is serious commentary, but an ultra-Left author whose articles are not to be taken seriously as she has written many imaginary stories full of hyperbole). And concomitantly, Roy has put her brilliant linguistic skills to the service of “truth”. Read her graphic details—”The mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burnt them alive”. Roy speaks with the confidence of an eyewitness. Alternatively, she must’ve access to an eyewitness. Anyway, it reads heart-rendingly honest.
Heart-rending, yes, but honest, no. Jaffri was killed in the riots but his daughters were neither “stripped” nor “burnt alive”. T.A. Jafri, his son, in a front-page interview titled Nobody knew my father’s house was the target (Asian Age, May 2, Delhi edition), says, “Among my brothers and sisters, I am the only one living in India. And I am the eldest in the family. My sister and brother live in the US. I am 40 years old and I have been born and brought up in Ahmedabad.”
So, Roy is lying—for surely Jafri is not. But what about the hundreds of media lies that haven’t been exhumed as yet? Her seven-page long (approx: 6,000 words) hate charter against India and the Sangh Parivar is woven around just two specific cases of human tragedy, one of which—by now, we know for sure—is a piece of fiction…
…She terms Gujarat the “petri dish” of the Sangh Parivar. The fact is that Godhra has been used as a crucible by the secular fundamentalists. No wonder, after the roasting of the Ram sevaks, they, while condemning the crime, blamed the victims. Many of them invented events such as a quarrel with hawkers, misbehaviour with women and shouting of provocative slogans to justify the horrendous crime…
…But was what happened in Gujarat a “pogrom” targeted at Muslims? Loss of 900-odd innocent lives (both Hindus and Muslims) is definitely not a “genocide” of any one community. Yet it is one more shameful event in the long and unfortunate chain of communal riots in India, since the 1893 Bombay and Azamgarh riots. Beginning from the 1714 Holi riots in the Mughal period, Ahmedabad itself has witnessed no less than 10 major recorded riots.
The Sangh Parivar was not there in 1714, nor was it a dominant force during the ‘69 and ‘85 riots. So what explains these riots when Gujarat was not a ‘Sangh Parivar petri dish’?…
…Following Godhra, massive spontaneous violence broke out in various parts of Gujarat against the Muslims. Since the rioters were mainly Hindus, they also accounted for about 75 per cent of those who fell to police bullets in the first three days. In fact, till April 18 Hindus accounted for more deaths in police firing than Muslims.
But for almost three weeks now, the violence has been led by Muslims against Hindus and, naturally, a bulk of the casualties are accounted for by them. The police have booked 34,000 rioters, majority of whom are Hindus. Both communities have suffered heavy loss of business and property in the arson and looting. While rioters are communal in picking their targets, looters are not—and they target at random. One lakh Muslims are struggling in relief camps, but so are 40,000 Hindus. This is a horrible riot, which is sad enough, but why call it a genocide? Whom does it help? Not the riot victims, only our enemies across the border.
The country hasn’t suffered so much loss of face in the world as it has now, though it is like one of the scores of riots India has seen. Why? The obvious culprits are those who set ablaze a compartment full of innocent kar sevaks at Godhra and those who indulged in the senseless violence in the following weeks. But the real villains in tarring India’s image are the Roys in the media and a section of public life, who mix half-truths with fiction to settle their ideological or political scores with the Sangh Parivar.
Roy (a role model for several in the secular pack) opens her hate charter with the case of a woman named Sayeeda “whose stomach was ripped open and stuffed with burning rags”. I heard similar horror stories in Parliament. The most frequently quoted were the cases of women raped (in some cases gang-raped), their stomachs ripped open, foetuses taken out and paraded on swords or trishuls. But no one was able to give me even one specific case with all the particulars. Roy gave one, but it proved to be a piece of fiction…
… Blatant myths and fiction have lacerated the facts on Gujarat. The Times of India(March 3) reported Modi’s much-publicised misquote of Newton’s third law—”Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. In fact, the CM had never said such a thing and no other paper except for Times of India had carried the misquote in its original reportage. But later on, numerous editorials were penned on the basis of this canard. All his denials were thrown in the dustbin…
…The Editor’s Guild came down heavily on the Gujarati press and hailed the role of the English press in coverage of the riots. The former might have been guilty of exaggeration but I am sure it has not concocted stories the way the Roys did in the English media. Surprisingly, the Guild has nothing critical to say on the role of the electronic media and of the Roys, guilty of blackening India’s name, generating more communal hate at a critical time and demonising a section of citizens through half-truths and complete lies. Some rioters may be guilty of rape and should be punished for their heinous crimes, but what about those who have raped the truth and the country in the last two months?”
This really gave the game up. After this, Arundhati Roy wrote “An apology”. The full text of that apology is reproduced here:
“To the Jaffri Family, An Apology
In a situation like the one that prevails in Gujarat, when the police are reluctant to register FIRs, when the administration is openly hostile to those trying to gather facts, and when the killings go on unabated—then panic, fear and rumour play a pivotal role.(Note how she blames others for her fault!) People who have disappeared are presumed dead, people who have been dismembered and burnt cannot be identified, and people who are distraught and traumatized are incoherent. So even when those of us who write try and use the most reliable sources, mistakes can happen.
But in an atmosphere so charged with violence, grief and mistrust, its important to correct mistakes that are pointed out.
There is a factual error in my essay Democracy: Where’s she when she’s at home? (May 6). In describing the brutal killing of Ehsan Jaffri, I have said that his daughters had been killed along with their father. It has subsequently been pointed out to me that this is not correct. Eyewitness accounts say that Ehsan Jaffri was killed along with his three brothers and two nephews. His daughters were not among the 10 women who were raped and killed in Chamanpura that day.
I apologise to the Jaffri family for compounding their anguish. I’m truly sorry.
My information (mis-information, as it turned out) was cross-checked from two sources. Time magazine (March 11) in an article by Meenakshi Ganguly and Anthony Spaeth; and “Gujarat Carnage 2002: A Report to the Nation” by an independent fact-finding mission which included K.S. Subrahmanyam, former IGP Tripura, and S.P. Shukla, former finance secretary. I spoke to Mr Subrahmanyam about the error. He said his information at that time came from a senior police official.(What was the name of the senior police official? Neither Subrahmanyam nor Arundhati Roy reveal it!)
This and other genuine errors in recounting the details of the violence in Gujarat in no way alters the substance of what journalists, fact-finding missions, or writers like myself are saying.”
Years later, Balbir Punj wrote in weekly Organiser dated 9 July 2006:
“Some four years ago I had a clash in print with Arundhati Roy. The occasion was the Gujarat riots that had come as a windfall to ‘secular’ brigade’s publicity campaign. Those ‘secularists’ are no where visible, not even with a telescope, when Hindus are killed in Doda. Roy, in her article Who’s she when she is at home? (The OutlookMay 6, 2002) had given a vivid account of a mob attack on house of ex-Congress MP Iqbal Ehshan Jafri, who was unfortunately killed in the riots. Roy gave a graphic detail-“mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burnt them alive”.
This event became a media-occasion for Roy to demonise Hindutva. But those who had read The Asian Age (May 2, 2002) would not have been impressed because in it late Ehshan Jaffri’s son T.A. Jaffri said -“Among my brothers and sisters, I am the only one living in India. And I am the eldest in the family. My sister and brother live in the US. I am 40 years old and I have been born and brought up in Ahmedabad”. So Roy was describing the stripping and killing of Ehshan Jafri’s daughter’s in Gujarat riots, who in reality were safe in another part of the globe.
Roy had begun her charter of hate with another damning description: “Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping. It took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn’t very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved ‘OM’ on her forehead”.
Shocked by this despicable “incident”, I got in touch with the Gujarat government. The police investigations revealed that no such case, involving someone called Sayeeda, had been reported either in urban or rural Baroda. Subsequently, the police sought Roy’s help to identify the victim and seek access to witnesses who could lead them to those guilty of this crime. But the police got no cooperation. Instead, Roy, through her lawyer, replied that the police had no power to issue summons. Thus she hedged behind technical excuses. I took up this incident in my rejoinder published as Dissimulation In Word and Images (The Outlook, July 8, 2002).”
However, here it is worth mentioning a couple of things which even Balbir Punj did not mention. This apology is also false, since Roy claims that 10 women were raped and killed that day. In reality, after reading the then English newspapers in the first week of March 2002, one finds no mention of any rapes at all. These stories of rape starting coming out in the middle of March 2002, after Time magazine concocted lies in its issue of 11 March 2002, copied by Arundhati Roy. Neither Roy nor the Time correspondent can point out any rapes, because they just didn’t happen. Roy also apologizes to the Jafri family- not to the BJP or Narendra Modi for defaming them by her incorrect claim. She should also have done that. And she should also have apologized to the country. Note how while giving the apology Roy makes sure that is only “To the Jafri family”.
Second incorrect fact- the police did nothing to stop the mob in Jafri’s house. India Today weekly dated 18 March 2002 clearly admits that at least 5 people were shot dead by the police outside Jafri’s house. The police also saved the lives of some 200 Muslims, since only 68 out of the 250 people inside the house died. It was impossible for the police to control the mob of around 10,000 people- and the mob had gone crazy after Jafri fired from his revolver on the crowd- which injured 7 Hindus- and allegedly killed 3 Hindus. But despite this- police saved 200 Muslims in this episode. . It was impossible for the police to control the mob of around 10,000 people- but they managed to disperse the mob by 8 PM on 28 February- according The Times of India’s online report at 9:41 PM published the same day. And nowhere did The Times of India accuse the police of not doing anything. On the contrary- it said that the furious mob, gone crazy by Jafri firing on it, did not allow fire tenders to reach the house. And this Times of India report POSTED ONLINE at 2:34 PM of 28 February also says that police fired on the crowd injuring 6, who were taken to hospital where 3 were critical at that time, and ultimately 5 died.
Out of the 250 people in the complex- police saved around 200, at least 180. Everyone has hidden the fact that Police Commissioner PC Pandey had visited Ehsan Jafri at 10 AM on February 28, 2002 and offered them safe passage but Jafri did not accept the offer. The Human Rights Watch in its report quotes 38 year old Mehboob Mansoori, a witness who lost 18 from his family at Gulbarg Society as saying: “Early in the day at 10:30 the police commissioner came over and said don’t worry. He spoke to Jaffrey and said something would work out then left. The name of the commissioner of police that visited in the morning is P.C. Pandey, commissioner of police Ahmedabad…”
Actually the testimony of this witness is a poorly constructed story. S K Modi in his book “Godhra: The Missing Rage” had quoted this story and completely dismantled it. But even he mentions that P C Pande visited the place at 10:30 AM. What he doesn’t mention is that he offered a safe passage to Jafri- which Jafri refused.
Also Roy says-“His phone calls to the Director-General of Police, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) were ignored. The mobile police vans around his house did not intervene.” What rubbish again! Police vans outside his house not only intervened, they shot dead 5 Hindus outside his house and saved the lives of 200 Muslims, at a great risk to their own personal life.
Note here that Roy does not claim that Jafri telephoned the Chief Minister Narendra Modi as late as May 2002! Now- lies are out that Jafri actually phoned Modi as was abused by Modi on phone! The fact is- that day day the situation was out of control- Modi frantically called the Army to Ahmedabad and he was very busy handling the situation. There is NO RECORD of any call made by Jafri to Modi.And yet- liars like Teesta Setalvad seem to have paid bribes to witnesses to falsely claim that Modi had abused Jafri on phone- and Jafri old them this fact before he died!!! Imtiaz Pathan lies when he says that Jafri called Modi, there is no record of any call being made to Modi, and though Modi had a mobile phone at that time, he didn’t use it much. That day, all his official lines were busy and he was very busy handling the riots. Imtiaz Pathan has also lied that police did not come till 4:30- 5 pm when everything was over. He have already seen Times of India’s online report published at 2:34 PM on 28 February 2002 that police fired on the Hindu crowd injuring 6 at that time and that the police and the fire brigade had come. This destroys all credibility that Imtiaz Pathan may have had.
The Times of India in its online edition on 28 February 2002 reported at 2:34 PM :
“Ahmedabad: At least six persons were injured when police opened fire to disperse a rampaging mob in Meghaninagar area of the city on Thursday afternoon. The injured were brought to civil hospital where the condition of at least three is stated to be serious…the incident took place at Chamanpura area under Meghaninagar police station…”
That is- as early as 2:34 PM itself police had injured 6 outside Ehsan Jafri’s house and actually 5 were killed in their firing. This despite the hopeless situation- which is clear from reading The Times’ report that Fire Brigade and Police were not allowed to be reached by the mob. Though police gained control only after 8 PM- they fired much before that- before 2 PM and saved 200 Muslims. Kalupur was already under curfew before 2:34 PM.
Some other questions which can be raised here are: Why didn’t Jafri call any CONGRESS LEADER- and ask the Congress Party to assemble 500 workers outside his house- to save his life? Why couldn’t the Congress Party have do anything to save its former MP?
Even the National Commission for Women in its report stated that the media needlessly exaggerated the plight of women victims of the communal carnage. On 22nd April 2002, Tehelka’s website said–“Nafisa Hussain, a member of the NCW, has gone on record saying that several organisations and the media have needlessly blown out of proportion the violence suffered by minority women in the communal riots of Gujarat.”