Published On:10 November 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Hindus found guilty over deadly 2002 Indian riots

By Rajesh Joshi

Mehsana (Gujarat): An Indian court on Wednesday (November 9, 2011) found 31 Hindus guilty of killing 33 Muslims in a single house during religious riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002, provoking a mixed response from activists.

In some of India's worst inter-faith violence since independence in 1947, about 2,000 people died in a wave of anti-Muslim unrest triggered by a train fire in which Hindu pilgrims were burnt alive.

Muslims were blamed for the train fire, and Hindu mobs hungry for revenge rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods in towns and villages across Gujarat state during three days of bloodshed.

"Out of the 73 accused, 31 are guilty and 42 are acquitted of all charges," judge S.C. Srivastava told the special court near Sardarpura village, where the 33 Muslims sought shelter in a small house on the night of February 28, 2002.

The victims had crowded into the house to escape the rioters, who set the building alight. Bodies of 28 people were found at the scene, with five others dying later of their injuries.

Life sentences were handed to all 31 men for murder, arson and other charges, following earlier convictions of other Hindu rioters over the outbreak of violence.

The government in the western state of Gujarat -- still headed by Hindu nationalist chief minister Narendra Modi -- has been accused by rights groups of tacitly supporting the rioters.

Wednesday's verdicts, which come after years of accusations that authorities dragged their heels in prosecuting Hindus, split activists campaigning for justice.

"This is the first time in 60 years that so many people have been convicted in a case of communal violence," Teesta Setelvad, secretary of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) group, told the NDTV news channel.

"It is wrong to say that the big ones have been let off. All the accused in the case are big agriculturists, land owners and influential people."

But other groups representing riot victims said the 42 acquittals due to lack of evidence revealed how many offenders would never been punished.

"So many of them had been identified but still they were not convicted," said activist Sandhya Gokhale, vowing further efforts to pursue the guilty.

Responsibility for the train fire has been the subject of fierce dispute between Hindus and Muslims, but in March this year a court handed 11 death sentences and 20 life terms to Muslims convicted over the blaze.

During the slaughter in Gujarat, witnesses said baying Hindu mobs surrounded and raped Muslim women, then poured kerosene down their throats and on their children and threw lit matches at them.

The Hindu pilgrims on the train were returning from the town of Ayodhya, another flashpoint for inter-religion unrest after a mosque was razed in 1992 by Hindu zealots, leading to separate riots that killed thousands of people, mostly Muslims.

Narendra Modi, who is seen by many in the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a future candidate for prime minister, denies all accusations about his handling of the riots.

(Courtesy: AFP, November 9, 2011)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on November 10, 2011. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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