After special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik announced the sentences, there were tears flowing from the eyes of those convicted and there were tears also in the eyes of the victims and their families, who had for years worked tirelessly to secure justice.
One such victim was Raza Sheikh, who was only 12 when rioters came killing to Naroda Patiya on February 28, 2002. “I was with my mother and sister when it started. My mother helped me jump a fence so I could run to safety. I escaped, but they could not,” recalled the 22-year-old on Friday.
Asked about the conviction of BJP MLA Maya Kodnani and 31 others, Sheikh said, “My father will finally find some solace. His patience and dedication to my mother’s memory has finally paid off.”
“Knowing that the killers are finally behind bars, I will now be able to come to terms with the incident,” said auto-rickshaw driver Haroon Sheikh, whose wife and one-year-old son were killed along with 10 other family members while all that he could do was, watch helplessly.
Activist Teesta Setalvad, whose NGO is fighting for justice, hailed Friday’s judgment. “The BJP can say what it likes, but the rest of the country knows better," Setalvad said taking a potshot at the Narendra Modi-led BJP government of Gujarat.
“This must come as a warning to several more high profile politicians who still stand as accused in courts on various charges, committed during those bloody days of 2002,” added activist Fr Cedric Prakash. Human rights lawyer Mukul Sinha, whose efforts led to the arrest of Kodnani in 2009, described it as a rare case of justice in a mass murder case.
(with agency inputs)