11/09/2011, 00.00
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31 people sentenced to life imprisonment over Gujarat massacres

by Nirmala Carvalho
The ruling relates to Sardarpura disorders, in which 33 Muslims, including 22 women, were killed. 73 accused stood trail in the case. The incident is among the many episodes of violence which erupted after the Godhra train burning in 2002, in which 50 Hindus were killed.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A special tribunal in Gujarat has sentenced to life imprisonment the last 31 of the 73 accused for violence Sardarpura 2002, in which 33 members of the Muslim community, died in an arson attack. Sardarpura is one of several episodes of violence that erupted in the state of Gujarat, following the death of 59 Hindus in the attack on a train in the town of Godhra. Today’s sentence, the result of investigations of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) created by the Indian Supreme Court, is the first in a case of riots that occurred after the Godhra incident.

The accused are guilty of murder, attempted murder, arson, riot and conspiracy. Of the 42 acquitted, 11 were released for lack of evidence and 31 were given the benefit of the doubt. However, they have to pay a fine of 25 thousand rupees each (about 365 Euros) and are forbidden to leave the country.

On 27 February 2002, a group of Muslims attacked and set fire to the Sabarmati Express, on board of which there were Hindus - mostly women, children and elderly - returning from a pilgrimage to Ayodhya. The attack sparked violent inter-religious riots in Gujarat. Among these, that of Sardarpura: on the night of February 28, a group of Hindus broke into the area of the city where the Islamic community lived. Fearing the worst, some of them had taken refuge in the house of one family, but the Hindu group surrounded the house and set it on fire, killing 33 people, including 22 women.

Fr. Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit director of the Ahmenabad Center for Human Rights, Justice and Peace "Prashant", defines the sentence as "unprecedented", a sign that "the wheel of justice and truth is moving, albeit slowly, in the right direction ".

"Now - the Jesuit continues – the government must investigate the other cases and those responsible, whatever their role or position in society, should be put on trial as soon as possible. Only when this happens, will the victims of one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of India feel that their struggles were not in vain. "

In the Gujarat massacre, the Islamic community of the State has paid the highest price: of the over one thousand confirmed dead, 790 were Muslims and 254 Hindus. Not only that 253 people were considered missing; 523 places of worship, including three churches, were damaged, 27,901 Hindus and 7,651 Muslims were arrested.

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