One major event which received a great deal of attention from the media was the conflagration at the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad, home of a former Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jaffri. This man, rather refined and usually respected, did not feel threatened. But on February 28th morning, a crowd surrounded his house, in which a number of Muslims had taken refuge. Jaffri made a number of panic-stricken phone calls for help to authorities and to his colleagues, journalists and friends. The crowd was growing … (from 200 to 20,000, figures vary in the reports). The Indian Express (March 1st, 2002), as well as police records, reported that “eventually, in panic, he fired at the 5,000-strong mob … 2 were killed and 13 injured ... That incensed the mob …” which at 1:30 P.M. set the bungalow ablaze by exploding a gas cylinder. Final toll: 42 (March 11th edition).
Human Rights Watch, an NGO based in New York, published a dossier (on April 30th, 2002) about the Gujarat events which caused a sensation and fed a large number of articles in the international press.
In this report, Smita Narula had an unnamed “witness” at hand, to relate the attack on Jaffri’s house. First “a 200 to 500-strong mob threw stones; refugees in the house (also 200-250 people — sic!) also threw stones in self-defence.” Then the crowd set the place on fire at about 1:30 P.M. Our witness then jumped from the third floor where he was hiding — and from where he had been observing in minute detail all that was going on in the ground floor, even the theft of jewels (it would seem the floors between the third and the ground floor were transparent). At that point we jump into the sensational. Narula’s witness sees that “four or five girls were raped, cut, and burned …; two married women were also raped and cut. Some on the hand, some on the neck” …; “Sixty-five to seventy people were killed.” Those rapes and hackings are said to have started at 3:30 P.M. ... when the house was already on fire. Was the mob waiting for everything to be reduced to cinders to commit its crimes?
Among the most morbid canards, the novelist Arundhati Roy’s vitriolic article (Outlook magazine, May 6th, 2002). She describes the event which precedes Ehsan Jaffri’s death (extract):
...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...
Wait a minute. Jaffri was burned alive in the house, true — is it not awful enough? Along with some other 41 people. Not enough? 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 2nd, Delhi ed.), felt obliged to rectify:
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.
There we are, reassured as regards Ehsan Jaffri’s children. He had only one daughter, who was living abroad. No one was raped in the course of this tragedy, and no evidence was given to the police to that effect.
The Gujarat Government sued Outlook magazine. In its May 27th issue, Outlook published an apology to save its face. But in the course of its apology, the magazine’s editors quoted a “clarification” from Roy, who withdrew her lie by planting an even bigger one: the MP’s daughters “were not among the 10 women who were raped and killed in Chamanpura that day”! From Smita Narula to Arundhati Roy, “four or five girls” had swollen to “ten women,” equally anonymous and elusive.
Roy begins theatrically:
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.
Balbir Punj, Rajya Sabha MP and journalist, shocked by this “despicable incident” which allegedly occurred in Baroda, decided to investigate it. He 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.
This redefines the term “fiction writer.”