02/22/2011, 00.00
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2002 Gujarat massacre: 31 people convicted for the Sabarmati Express attack

A court in Ahmadabad issues the controversial verdict, basing its ruling on an unsubstantiated “conspiracy theory” in relation to the fire that engulfed a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Nine years after the facts, 63 people are found not guilty. The Jesuit Prashant centre is critical of the ruling, saying that the “verdict fails to answer a number of questions, and leaves many gaps”.

Ahmadabad (AsiaNews) – A court in Ahmadabad convicted 31 people for the Sabarmati Express attack in Godhra on 27 February 2002. Another 63 were found not guilty. The train was bringing pilgrims home from Ayodhya when it was attacked, resulting in the death of 59 people. The trial was held in Sabarmati’s central prison. The sentence comes nine years after the facts, which led to widespread unrest in Gujarat and the death of about 1,200 people, mostly Muslim.

The court did not convict Maulvi Umarji, seen by many as the instigator of the attack. It said that it would make public the motivations of its ruling and the terms of the sentence next Friday.

In its report on the incident, the Nanavati commission said that the fire that engulfed coach S-6 was not accidental, that gasoline was deliberately poured onto the train car and set on fire.

"The burning of the coach S-6 was a pre-planned act. In other words there was a conspiracy to burn the coach of the train coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the 'karsevaks' travelling in it," the report submitted to the government in September 2008 had said.

Since it happened, the case has been widely talked about. It was investigated by a special team led by the former director of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, RK Raghavan, under a mandate of the Supreme Court. The conspiracy theory is based on confessions from the accused and eyewitness accounts. Two different investigations have produced two contradictory versions of the event.

For Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, director of the Jesuit Prashant Centre for Human Rights, Justice and peace, “The court that issued a crucial ruling on the train fire in Godhra of 2002 has shown once more its incapacity to rule with justice,” he said. “The verdict fails to answer a number of questions, and leaves many gaps. The so-called conspiracy plot is totally devoid of substance, whilst the so-called ‘main conspirators’ walk free.” Moreover, “What will happen now to the 63 people found not guilty? Who will give them back the nine years of life they lost? Will the state compensate them?”

“The verdict will be appealed to a higher court. Only when all the truth about the Gujarat massacres will be brought to light will the cause of justice be served,” the clergyman added. (N.C.)

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