On February 28, 2002, a mob surrounded Deepda Darwaja area in Visnagar town of Mehsana district in north Gujarat and attacked houses of Muslims.Within hours, the rioters had hacked 14 people including five children to death. The bodies were set on fire. The remains were dumped in a gutter.
The Deepda Darwaja massacre case is among eight such pogroms that symbolise the barbarity of the post-Godhra train carnage riots across Gujarat in which more than 1,200 people were killed in a span of weeks.
The body count in the eight massacre cases stands at nearly 250.
In 2003, the Supreme Court had stayed trial in the Deepda Darwaja case on the petition of rights activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Citizens or Justice and Peace, which sought transfer of all these eight cases outside Gujarat.
The investigation in the case picked up in 2008 after a Special Investigation Team constituted by the Supreme Court took over the probe.
Prahlad Patel, the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA of Visnagar during the massacre, a block panchayat member and police inspector MK Patel, who was once the investigation officer in the case, were arraigned as accused in the case.
The BJP leader is accused of instigating the mob, while the police officer is charged with trying to build a weak case by including relatives of the accused as witnesses in the case. Prahlad Patel and MK Patel were arrested. They are now out on bail, facing trial.
Moreover, three women aged between 40 and 45 years were named accused for allegedly providing the mob with kerosene and petrol and asking them to burn the bodies. All three — Gita Babulal Patel, Madhu Ajitkumar Patel and Manjula Ramesh Patel — are housewives and relatives of the men accused in the case.