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Gulberg massacre verdict out: Here are the key facts about 2002 Gujarat riots

A special court on Friday sentenced 11 convicts to life imprisonment ,12 to seven years and another to 10 years in jail in the Gulberg Society massacre case, in which 69 people were killed.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2016 19:00 IST
AFP
Gulberg
Relatives of the convicts in the Gulberg Society massacre case react after a special SIT court adjourned the hearing on the quantum of sentence till June 9. (Siddharaj Solanki / HT File Photo)

A special court on Friday sentenced 11 convicts to life imprisonment ,12 to seven years and another to 10 years in jail in the Gulberg Society massacre case, in which 69 people were killed.

The special investigation court found 24 people guilty on June 2, 11 of them of murder, in the 14-year-old case.

The Gulberg Society Massacre was one of the deadliest single incidents during religious riots that killed more than 1,000 people in some of the worst violence since Independence in 1947.

Sixty-nine people, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed on February 28, 2002 in the communal violence that ravaged Gujarat.

In pictures: Gulberg society post-2002 Gujarat riots

Here are some key facts about the deadly riots:

Godhra train fire

On February 27, 2002, a fire ripped through a train at Godhra station in Gujarat, burning 59 Hindu pilgrims alive.

Blaming Muslims for the blaze, furious Hindu mobs rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods in several cities seeking reprisals during three days of bloodshed.

The cause of the train fire remains a chief area of dispute between the two religious communities.

An angry Muslim crowd had gathered at Godhra station to protest against the taunting of Muslim porters by Hindu passengers, but they deny setting the train ablaze.

One inquiry concluded the fire was an accident, but other official probes said it was a conspiracy, and 31 Muslims were convicted over the blaze in 2011.

Violence spreads

During the slaughter in Ahmedabad and hundreds of other towns and villages, Hindu mobs rounded up and raped Muslim women. They poured kerosene down their throats and those of their children and threw lit matches at them.

Many eyewitness reports suggested police directed rioters to Muslim homes and also turned fleeing victims back towards their killers.

According to official data, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, while 223 people went missing and 2,500 others were injured. Rights groups say the numbers were much higher.

Gulberg Society massacre

The Gulberg Society was a Muslim housing complex in a lower middle-class neighbourhood, attacked by a mob acting on rumours.

On February 28, a day after the train fire, rioters packed in trucks breached the boundary wall of the complex and set houses ablaze. They dragged people out and burned them alive.

It was one of the two biggest massacres during the riots -- the other was in Naroda Patiya suburb, where more than 90 died.

Read: Gulberg massacre verdict: 11 awarded life, 12 others to be jailed for 7 years

Blind eye?

Hindu nationalist Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, was widely accused of turning a blind eye to the violence.

One senior policeman even testified Modi ordered officers not to intervene as the killing spread.

India’s premier has always denied wrongdoing and has never been convicted over the violence.

However, the bloody riots tarred Modi’s international image, leading him to be blacklisted for a decade by the United States and the European Union.

Official probes also absolved the state police and government of any collusion in the violence, which left 200,000 people homeless. Many Muslims never returned.

Convictions

More than 100 people have been convicted over the riots in a series of trials over the past 14 years.

An Indian court in 2011 found 31 Hindus guilty of murdering 33 Muslims who were seeking shelter in a single house.

And in 2012 a former minister in Modi’s state government was handed a life sentence for her role.

Yet activists say many guilty have been acquitted, notably following a 2003 trial described as a “black day” for India’s justice system amid reports of witness coercion.

Read: A gripping but difficult read on Gujarat riots and their aftermath