A special trial court on Thursday in Ahmedabad convicted 24 people and acquitted 36 others in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre. The verdict has come 14 years after a mob attacked the Muslim dominated housing complex killing 69 persons, including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri.
The special court has found 11 guilty of murder, while 13 others were convicted for lesser crimes. Out of the 66 accused who stood trail for the carnage, six died during trail. The other 36 accused, inlcuding BJP corporator Bipin Patel from Asarva and Atul Vaidya, was a member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, were acquitted.
The accused who were found guilty were on bail. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on Monday.
The court, meanwhile, had ruled out angle of criminal conspiracy in the case, citing lack of evidence and dropped section 120 B of the IPC.
Many victims of Gulberg Society massacre have expressed displeasure over the verdict. Zakia Jafri, wife of Ehsan Jafri, expressed unhappy over the verdict. She said all of them should have been punished because they killed people and destroyed their property.
"I saw them doing so with my own eyes," she said, adding as a woman she does not have the courage to demand capital punishment but they should get stringent punishment.
Her son Tanvir Jafri said he would consult lawyers on how 36 others were acquitted before deciding their next strategy.
Tanvir expressed surprise how only 24 people were convicted when a mob of 400 were involved in the rioting.
He said it was a tough time for the family, neighbours and other residents of the society who had to approach the highest court for the legal fight.
Gulberg Society case is one of the nine riot cases looked into by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team headed by R.K. Raghavan, former chief of the CBI.
A blot in Modi's political career
A mob of about 400 people laid siege on Gulberg Society and killed the residents. It was one of the worst affected places of 2002 Gujarat riots that followed in the wake of Godhra train burning.
The S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was burnt near Godhra train station on February 27, 2002 during which 58 'karsevaks' were killed. The incident set off a communal violence in Gujarat on an unprecedented scale between Hindus and Muslims. Thousands of people were killed and several places of worship were attacked in the riots that shook the country.
The riots and state government’s failure to prevent them remains politically controversial even to this day. The state was under the chief minister ship of Narendra Modi at the time. The 2002 Gujarat riots has become a blot in PM Modi's political career, in spite of his development agenda and growing popularity at global platform.