India riots: Nine convicted over Gujarat killings

Rioting in Gujarat in 2002
Image caption The riots in 2002 were some of the worst in post-independence India

A court in India has convicted nine people of burning three people to death in their home during the religious riots in Gujarat state 10 years ago.

Thirty-two others were acquitted of the crime which took place in Ode village in Anand district.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed when riots erupted after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire in 2002.

It was one of India's worst outbreaks of religious violence in recent years.

Muslims were blamed for starting the train fire, and Hindu mobs eager for revenge went on the rampage through Muslim neighbourhoods in towns and villages across Gujarat in three days of violence following the incident.

Last month, the court sentenced 18 people to life imprisonment for the murder of 23 Muslims in the same village. Five others were given seven years and another 23 were acquitted.

The group was found guilty of burning 23 Muslims to death in a house where they had taken shelter from rioting mobs in the village.

Special investigation

The latest convictions are for the murders of three members of a family who were burnt to death in their home in Ode on 1 March, 2002, a few days after the Godhra train fire.

The three convicted are to be sentenced later.

A mob of around 2,000 people went through the village targeting Muslim homes. Three major incidents were reported from Ode.

The cases were initially investigated by the Gujarat police and subsequently by an independent Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court.

The Ode massacres are among 10 key incidents in the riots being probed by the SIT which was set up in 2008.

Two other cases looked at by the SIT have brought convictions. Last November, a court sentenced 31 people to life in prison for burning to death 33 Muslims near Sardarpura village in Gujarat.

And in February 2011, a special court in Gujarat found 31 people guilty of setting fire to the passenger train full of Hindu pilgrims in the town of Godhra, the incident which sparked the riots. Another 63 people were acquitted of conspiracy and murder.

Image caption Gujarat's authorities have been criticised for not doing enough to stop the riots

The cause of the Godhra train fire is still a matter of fierce debate.

A commission of inquiry set up in 2008 by the Gujarat state government determined that it was the result of a conspiracy.

But a 2005 federal government inquiry concluded that the fire had been an accident - probably started by people cooking in one of the carriages - and was not the result of an attack.

Gujarat's authorities have been accused of not doing enough to stop the riots.

The 2008 state inquiry exonerated Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, over the riots.

Also, last month a court said special investigators had found no evidence linking Mr Modi to the Gulbarg Society massacre, in which 69 people were killed in a housing complex in Ahmedabad city during the riots.

Mr Modi, Gujarat's chief minister since 2001, has always denied any wrongdoing in connection with the riots but has never expressed any remorse or offered any apologies.

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