Ahmedabad, August 29: Mayaben Kodnani, a senior BJP leader and former Minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, and the former Bajrang Dal convener, Babu Bajrangi, were among 32 persons convicted on Wednesday in the Naroda-Patiya massacre case, in which 97 Muslims were killed.
Special court judge Jyotsna Yagnik acquitted 29, giving them “the benefit of doubt” because of insufficient evidence; but she did not pronounce them innocent either. The court will give the quantum of punishment on Friday.
All those convicted were found guilty of murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy, spreading enmity and communal hatred and unlawful assembly under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Bombay Police Act. Some of them, including Suresh Chara, were also found guilty of rape and molestation.
Kishan Korani, a BJP member of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and BJP and VHP leaders Bipin Panchal and Ashok Sindhi are also among the convicts. The conviction of Ms. Kodnani, who was a Minister of State for Women and Child Welfare and is a BJP MLA representing Naroda in Ahmedabad, sparked the demand for Mr. Modi’s resignation on “moral grounds.” But Cabinet spokesman Jaynarayan Vyas rejected it, saying Ms. Kodnani was not a Minister at the time of the massacre and was only an MLA, and her individual action could not be construed as a “cumulative responsibility of the Cabinet.”
The Naroda-Patiya massacre was the most gruesome of all post-Godhra violent incidents, claiming the highest number of casualties. On February 28, 2002, when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called a State-wide bandh to condemn the Godhra train carnage which took place the previous day, a 5,000-strong mob, allegedly instigated by the BJP and the Bajrang Dal, attacked the members of the minority community, burning many of them alive and throwing their bodies into a dry well. Many women were allegedly molested and raped before being killed, and their bodies hurled into the fire. Over 30 others were injured. The police recovered 94 bodies and three others were reported missing, but were declared dead later.
2002 Gujarat riots: 32 convicted, 29 acquitted in Naroda Patiya massacre case
Ahmedabad, August 29: A trial court in Gujarat has convicted 32 people and acquitted 29 others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case which took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots. In a major blow to the Narendra Modi government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Naroda, Maya Kodnani, and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, too, have been convicted in the case.
In the Naroda Patiya massacre 97 people were killed on February 28, 2002, making it the largest single case of mass murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out following the Sabarmati Express train carnage near Godhra station. The case has been probed by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT).
Naroda Patiya massacre case trail started in August 2009 with 62 people being charged by the SIT. However, one of the accused, Vijay Shetty, died during the trial.
Of the total 62 accused in the case, about 10 are in custody, and the remaining are out on bail.
Twenty five fresh arrests were made, including that of former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, after the SIT took over investigation in this case.
An eyewitness to the massacre, Bashir Khan Mansuri, says, "These leaders could have used their influence over people to stop the violence. Instead they incited the mobs. They should be punished according to the law."
Naroda Patiya is a high profile case, not only because 95 people were killed right in the heart of Ahmedabad, but also because top politicians like Maya Kodnani have been named as accused.
Survivors who have lost their family members say that the only consolation is exemplary punishment for those who committed the crime.