Gujarat riots: India court jails 11 for life over Gulbarg massacre

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Media caption,

How it took 14 years to convict Gujarat rioters

A court in India has sentenced 11 people to life in prison for their roles in a notorious massacre during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat.

Of the 24 people convicted for the so-called Gulbarg Society killings, 12 were jailed for seven years while one man was sentenced to 10 years.

During the attack, 69 people were hacked and burned to death by a mob.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the riots, sparked by a fire on a train that killed 60 Hindu pilgrims.

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the state chief minister at the time, say he did little to stop the riots.

The special court in Ahmedabad called the incident the "darkest day in the history of civil society".

However, Zakia Jafri, the wife of Ehsan Jafri, a prominent Muslim politician and a former Congress party MP, who was among those killed, has expressed disappointment at the sentencing.

"I was there when Ehsaan Jafri was killed, it's not justice at all," she told reporters.

Survivors of the Gulbarg massacre say he fired his gun in self-defence as the mob attacked the complex.

Mrs Jafri says her husband called Mr Modi for help but it never came.

Gulbarg Society killings

Image source, AP
  • 69 people died in the attack on 28 February 2002
  • Bungalows and flats in the society were looted and burnt
  • 66 people were accused in connection with the massacre - six died before and during the trial and one is still being sought by police
  • The trial began on 7 September 2009
  • 338 witnesses, including eight women, were examined

Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing and has not apologised for the riots. A Supreme Court panel also refused to prosecute him in 2013, citing insufficient evidence.

The violence was initially investigated by the Gujarat police and subsequently by an independent Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court in 2008.

The Gulbarg massacre was among 10 key incidents in the riots being investigated by the SIT.

Some of these cases have brought convictions.

  • In August 2012, a court sentenced 31 people, including Maya Kodnani, an ex-minister and aide to the then chief minister Narendra Modi, to life for their part in murdering 97 people in Naroda Patiya, a suburb of Ahmedabad. Ms Kodnani was granted bail on health grounds in 2014.
  • In April 2012, a court sentenced 18 people to life imprisonment for the murder of 23 Muslims in Ode village in Anand district. Five others were given seven years and another 23 were acquitted.
  • In November 2011, a court sentenced 31 people to life in prison for burning to death 33 Muslims near Sardarpura village.