Indian court sends 11 Hindus to jail for life

An Indian court on Friday sentenced 11 Hindus to life imprisonment for their involvement in riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002, where current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister at the time.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

An Indian man waves to people convicted on charges relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots as they leave court in a police vehicle after they were convicted in Ahmadabad, India, Thursday, June 2, 2016.

An Indian court has sentenced 11 Hindus to life imprisonment for their involvement in anti-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002. Current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state at the time.

The court also sentenced 12 others to seven years in jail over the killing of 69 Muslims, while another was handed a 10-year sentence, prosecutors told local television channels after the sentencing.

A Hindu mob scaled the boundary wall of the Gulbarg housing society in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, in February 2002 before torching homes in which Muslim families were trapped. Several victims, including women and children, burned to death.

The massacre was one of a series of riots that flared for two months in western Gujarat, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

The riots dogged Modi's political career for years after he was accused of not doing enough to stop the violence. Modi, a Hindu, denies any wrongdoing and in 2013 a panel appointed by India's Supreme Court said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

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.

The United States in 2005 revoked a visa issued to Modi but allowed him to travel to the country again after he became prime minister. Since then, Modi has projected an image of a modern, international leader and travelled widely.

An Indian court this month convicted 24 Hindus over their role in the massacre at the Gulbarg housing society, while acquitting 36 others. The trial began in 2009.

Zakia Jafri, whose husband and former Congress party legislator, Ehsan, died in the blaze, said Friday's sentences were insufficient.

"I am not satisfied with this verdict. I have to start all over again. This is wrong," she told media.

Jafri, who is fighting what may be the last legal battle to pin blame on Modi, says that she saw her husband making repeated desperate calls to police for help.

He was dragged out of his ancestral home by sword-wielding men and within minutes was stripped and killed, according to Jafri.

TRTWorld and agencies