11 convicted in Gujarat riots case
A local court in Godhra on Tuesday convicted eleven people on charges of killing seven Muslims in Eral village of Panchamahals district in 2002.
The incident took place during the riots following the killing of 58 passengers of of Sabarmati Express, including several 'kar sewaks' returning from Ayodhya.
Among the eleven convicted for the killing, eight have been awarded life imprisonment while remaining three have been sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment.
Additional Sessions Judge HM Dholakia, who pronounced the judgement, acquitted 29 others for lack of sufficient evidence against them.
Seven members of Mustapha Ismail's family, including five women, were killed in Eral village in March 2002 by a mob of nearly 150 people led by local BJP and VHP
Activists, even after the Muslim family had paid 'protection money' to the attackers.
The women were raped, killed and then their bodies were set on fire as Ismailbhai's wife Madina Biwi witnessed the gory killings from behind the maize fields where she had been hiding on the fateful day. "I saw my 18-old daughter Shabana being raped by the VHP activists of the village, who cut of her breasts before killing her," Madina Biwi had recounted later on.
Those sentenced to life imprisonment include Chandrasinh Parmar (Kalubhai), the then president of the Kalol Taluka, BJP unit. Out of the 40-odd accused in the case, as many as 37 were out on bail.
With this judgement, half a dozen verdicts on the post-Godhra massacre cases have been pronounced.
The convictions in the Eral massacre case is considered important as the prime eye-witness Madina Biwi, like Zahira Sheikh in the infamous Best Bakery case, was under threat and allurement to turn hostile in the case. Unlike Zahira, Madina, however, stood her ground for nearly five years despite the threats and temptations.
Madina's cousin Ferozebhai Sheikh told Hindustan Times on phone from Godhra that the local BJP and VHP leaders had offered them Rs 25 to Rs 30 lakh to turn hostile in the case but she was firm in getting the culprits punished.
Significantly, after the Supreme Court had taken note of the Best Bakery case acquittals owing to the threats to Zahira by the local BJP legislator, no verdict in the 2002 riot cases have pronounced blanket acquittals since. The verdicts in the Ghodasar, Anjanwa and Anand riots cases convicted at least a few of the accused.