21 Jailed For Life In India Over Gujarat Killings

by
staff
An Indian court Monday sentenced 21 people to life imprisonment over the massacre of 11 Muslims during some of the country's worst religious riots a decade ago in the western state of Gujarat.

A child looks on as survivors of the 2002 Gujarat communal riots gather and read the Koran at the Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad to mark the tenth anniversary. An Indian court Monday sentenced 21 people to life imprisonment over the massacre of 11 Muslims during some of the country's worst religious riots a decade ago in Gujarat

An Indian court Monday sentenced 21 people to life imprisonment over the massacre of 11 Muslims during some of the country's worst religious riots a decade ago in the western state of Gujarat.

Another 61 people were acquitted for lack of evidence in the case, in which rioters in the Gujarati town of Visnagar attacked a Muslim family, locked them inside their house and then set them ablaze.

Of the 11 who died in what became known as the Dipda Darwaza massacre, two were children. Visnagar is 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of the state's main city, Ahmedabad.

The violence in Gujarat was triggered by the killing of nearly 60 Hindu pilgrims travelling in a train that was torched by a mob.

The 21 accused were given the life term after the court convicted them on charges of attempted murder, arson and rioting while one former police officer was given a one year jail term for dereliction of duty, public prosecutor Mukesh Brahmbhatt told AFP.

But the judge rejected prosecution claims that the Visnagar violence was pre-meditated, Brahmbhatt said.

The bloodletting in Gujarat was triggered by the deaths of nearly 60 Hindu pilgrims travelling in a train that was blamed on a Muslim mob.

An inquiry by the Gujarat government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), concluded that the fire was caused by a conspiracy but a federal government probe later said it was an accident.

Hindus hungry for revenge rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods across Gujarat following the train fire during the violence that marked some of India's worst religious riots since independence from Britain in 1947.

Human rights groups said over 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, were hacked, beaten or burned to death.

But the federal Congress government published figures in 2005 saying 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed and 223 other people were reported missing.

Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi -- the BJP poster boy who is thought to harbour prime ministerial ambitions -- was widely criticised for failing to stop the riots. He has denied any wrongdoing.

A total of 84 people have already been convicted in four separate cases relating to the Gujarat riots.