Faizel Patel, 2016-06-18
An Indian court jailed 11 Hindu attackers for life on Friday for murdering dozens of Muslims in one of the most notorious massacres of the 2002 Gujarat riots that shook India at a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state’s chief minister.
The court also sentenced another 12 suspects to seven years in jail, over the murder of 69 Muslims, who were hacked and burnt to death in a residential complex in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, among them women and children.
Another was given a 10-year term for rioting and arson.
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty, arguing that those targeted were all “innocent people”.
Judge P B Desai on Friday described the religious violence as “one of the darkest days of civil society in Gujarat” and urged the government not to commute, shorten or otherwise alter the sentences.
He had earlier ruled that the massacre at the Gulbarg Society complex was a spontaneous attack, rejecting claims of a pre-planned conspiracy against Muslims.
The massacre at the Gulbarg Society housing complex in Western Gujarat in 2002 was one of the single worst losses of life in the week-long violence, which left more than 1,000 people dead.
Several Muslim families had taken shelter in the complex when it was stormed by a mob angered by the deaths of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire on February 27, 2002 that was initially blamed on Muslims.
More than 100 people have already been convicted over the riots, including one of Modi’s former state ministers who was jailed for instigating some of the killings.
For more than a decade the riots tainted Modi’s international reputation even as he rose in power at home, culminating in his 2014 general election victory.
He always denied any wrongdoing and has not apologised for the riots with many accusing him of turning a blind eye to the violence as head of Gujarat state.
Modi was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2012 by a Supreme Court-ordered investigation.
The Indian Prime Minister is expected to arrive in South Africa next month for an official state visit.