The ruling comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are facing tough questions following the release of a British TV documentary which holds him responsible for the 2002 carnage.

The Gujarat riots were triggered by an incident of train burning in Godhra on February 27, 2002, in which Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were killed.
The Gujarat riots were triggered by an incident of train burning in Godhra on February 27, 2002, in which Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were killed. (Ahmad Masood / Reuters Archive)

Citing lack of evidence, a local court in the western Indian state of Gujarat has acquitted 22 people accused of killing 17 Muslim minorities during the 2002  riots. 

Out of 22 acquitted, eight have died, said defence lawyer Gopal Solanki while speaking to Anadolu Agency. 

"Because the precaution failed to find any evidence against them," the lawyer added.

On February 28, 2002, Gujarat state was engulfed in communal violence, killing at least 2000 people, most of whom were Muslims, as per independent reports.  

The violence had also reached the Halol district, where 17 people, including children, were killed and their bodies charred beyond recognition in order to avoid police scrutiny. 

The Godhra train  

The state-wide riots were triggered by an incident of train burning in Godhra on February 27, 2002, in which Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were burnt to death. Muslims were blamed for the fire, but several probes have challenged that notion, saying the fire wasn't set by an angry mob of Muslims but by an unidentified person who stood “in the passage of the compartment" and used a large quantity of highly-inflammable liquid to star the deadly fire. 

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The court's ruling comes at a time when the Indian government has barred all social media content linked to the first episode of the BBC series – India: The Modi Question – after proclaiming an emergency under the new Information Technology Act last week.

The documentary pertains to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership as chief minister of western Gujarat state during the 2002 riots that killed over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.

Earlier, the country’s Ministry of External Affairs described the documentary as a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies