Former BJP minister, Bajrang Dal activist among 32 convicted

Ten years after a mob hacked and burnt to death 97 Muslims in Naroda Patiya locality here during riots, a Gujarat special court yesterday convicted 32 people, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, for the massacre.

The special court in Ahmedabad also acquitted 29 people. The sentencing is on Friday. This is the first time that a former minister has been convicted in a Gujarat riots case. All those found guilty, including Kodnani, have been charged under various sections of IPC, including 302 (murder) and 120B (conspiracy).

The Assassin: Former Gujarat State Minister for Women and Children Welfare Maya Kodnani (wearing glasses) being escorted by cops to a waiting police vehicle in Ahmedabad. Witnesses told the court that Kodnani, who was the BJP legislator of the area, was seen inciting the mob. Pic/AFP

Public prosecutor Akhil Desai said the charge of criminal conspiracy has been proved and no leniency should be shown to the guilty. Desai said that the convicts were charged for rioting, murder, arson and attack on a religious structure.

“More than 90 people, including many women and children, had been roasted alive by the mob,” Desai said, adding that he would argue for “imprisonment for life” for the guilty.

Welcoming the judgement, rights activist Teesta Setalvad said, “Truth has won.” The massacre took place a day after the February 27, 2002, Godhra train-burning in which 59 people were charred to death.

A rioting mob attacked Naroda Patiya with guns, bombs and machetes, hacking and killing Muslims. Many were chased into a deep pit and then set on fire. Witnesses told the court that Kodnani, who was the BJP legislator of the area, was seen inciting the mob.

Bajrangi was also accused of leading the mob. He was caught on camera by Tehelka news later, boasting about his hand in the carnage. In 2009, the apex court appointed a Special Investigation Team to probe the case as well as other cases relating to the Gujarat riots in which 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

Of the 64 people accused in the case, three died during trial. The remaining 61 were tried for murder, arson and rioting. Most of them were out on bail. A total of 327 witnesses and 2,500 documentary evidences were presented to court in thecase.     

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