Who is Ehsan Jafri? Why is a parallel being drawn between him and Tahir Hussain?
Photo: Nishrin Jafri Hussain/ Facebook

The recent spate of violence in Delhi has prompted many to draw parallels with the 2002 Gujarat riots. Many opposition leaders and political parties including the NCP, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury have claimed that the situation in Delhi is a "chilling reminder" of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Many on social media too appear to have adopted the comparison. While writing about Aam Aadmi Party councillor Tahir Hussain for example, netizens brought up former Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed on February 28, 2002 during the Gujarat riots.

To quote one Twitter user's rather sarcastic response to photos of alleged petrol bombs, stones and bricks on Hussain's roof, "Why didn't Tahir just die like Ehsan Jafri? How dare he have the audacity to fight back?"

For the uninitiated, 26 year old Ankit Sharma who worked with the Intelligence Bureau, was found dead in a drain near his residence on Wednesday. Sharma who lived in the violence-affected locality of Chand Bagh in northeast Delhi had gone missing the previous day.

Sharma's family has accused Hussain of being involved in his killing. The latter however denies the allegation. As he told ANI, "I worked to stop the violence. I am innocent. I stopped the people from climbing up my building". He has also called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

While there are people on both sides of the social media debate, many others have expressed similar sentiments. Which brings us to the question of who exactly was Ehsan Jafri was, and why he is at present trending on Twitter.

Jafri was a Congress politician who was a member of the 6th Lok Sabha. He also held several key positions in the Congress' Gujarat unit over the years. In 2002, when riots broke out in Gujarat, Jafri became one of the victims of the Gulbarg Society massacre.

This was a residential complex where a majority of the inhabitants belonged to the Muslim community. According to an article by Caravan Magazine, many of his neighbours had sought refuge in Jafri's house, hoping his stature as a political leader would help shelter them.

A Tehelka report adds that Jafri had spent over five hours making calls to the police commissioner, the chief minister’s office and to Congress leaders in Delhi and his friends. Now help however was forthcoming.

Jafri was burnt alive, but his remains were never found. Official reports state that around 59 people were murdered Gulbarg Society, although independent inquiries mark the death toll as being higher.

Many on Twitter have connected the two incidents.

Unverified videos circulating on social media appear to show a man presumed to be Hussain with a stick in his hand. This has been cited by the BJP in their criticism of Hussain and the AAP.

Other videos show a group congregated on the roof of a house even as smoke rises in the background.

Photos that have been shared on social media claim that Hussain had had petrol bombs, stones and bricks on the roof of his residence. While these images remain unverified, they have nonetheless been criticised by many.

"All those baying for Tahir Hussain's blood, have a look at this video. Clearly his house is under attack and he's trying to defend himself," wrote a Twitter user, sharing one of the aforementioned videos.

The Delhi Police in the meantime has sealed a factory belonging to the AAP Councillor Northeastern Delhi's Khajoori Khaas area.

Also on Thursday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addressed the allegation, saying that all rioters would be punished, irrespective of their party allegiances.

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal