India: Court acquits all suspects accused of killing 11 Muslims during communal riots in 2002
By Shuriah Niazi
NEW DELHI (AA): A special court in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Thursday acquitted 67 accused in a case related to the 2002 Naroda Gam massacre, in which 11 Muslims were killed during communal riots.
Maya Kodnani, a former lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the extreme right-wing Hindu group Bajrang Dal, were among those accused of the massacre.
The verdict of the specially designated court in Ahmedabad, which was formed to expedite the trial of the Gujarat riot cases, acquitted all.
Eighteen of the 86 defendants in the case had died, and one had been discharged by the court, while the other accused in the case were out on bail.
On Feb. 28, 2002, a mob attacked homes in the Naroda Gam area of Ahmedabad, killing 11 Muslims. The Gujarat riots were sparked by a train fire incident a day earlier in Godhra that killed Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya.
Muslims were blamed for the fire, but subsequent investigations revealed that it was an accident. However, it triggered one of the worst communal riots in the state.
Gujrat is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is often accused for the 2002 riots that killed more than 1,000 people, the majority of whom were Muslims. Modi denies any wrongdoing and has been cleared of all charges by Indian courts.
Kodnani was earlier sentenced to 28 years in prison for her role in the massacre at Norada Patiya locality in Ahmedabad that left 97 Muslims dead during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In 2012, a trial court held Kodnani responsible for the mass killings.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) accused her of hurting mobs and giving rioters swords. However, she was acquitted in 2018 by the Gujarat High Court because none of the witnesses named her in the case.
Many accused in the Gujarat massacre have recently been acquitted by courts, citing a lack of evidence.
Earlier this month, the court of additional sessions judge in Halol in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district acquitted all 26 people accused of gang-raping and murdering more than a dozen members of the Muslim community in separate incidents in the Kalol area of the same district during the riots .
In January, 22 people accused of killing 17 Muslim minorities during the riots, were acquitted by the additional district court in Halol.
On Aug. 15 last year, 11 convicts in the case of gang rape survivor Bilkis Bano were released from prison after the authorities approved their appeal for “remission of sentence.”
On March 3, 2002, BilkisBano was gang raped, and 14 members of her family, including three-year-old daughter Saleha, were massacred by the mob in the Limkheda area of Dahod district.
[Map of India from CIA Factbook/Public Domain]
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