Godhra
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An Indian court has commuted the death sentences of 11 people convicted for their part in one of the many deadly riots that swept the western state of Gujarat 15 years ago. The now reprieved individuals mostly Muslims will now face life in prison. The Gujarat High Court also upheld the life sentences for 20 others convicted for setting fire to a train carriage in which 60 Hindu pilgrims were killed in 2002.

The court on Monday dismissed the Gujarat government’s appeal against the acquittal of 63 people due to lack of evidence in the case. The Gujarat riots, which erupted after the train fire, pitted mobs of Hindus against Muslims and more than 1,000 were killed. Muslims were widely blamed for setting the fire, though arson was never confirmed.

The Gujarat pogrom solidified Modi’s standing among hardened Hindutva ideologues and also paved the way for him to become the Indian Prime Minister in 2014

A total of 94 people, all Muslims, had stood trial on charges of murder and conspiracy. In 2011, a court acquitted 63 of them. The High Court today has refused to change that verdict. Those acquitted include Maulvi Saeed Umarji, accused of being the mastermind behind the fire.

The verdict has been met by extreme anger from Hindutva groups and personalities within India.

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Dr. Pravin Togadia, head of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) has tweeted:

Togadia himself is mired in controversy pertaining to the Gujarat massacre. He is infamous for hate speeches against the Indian Muslim community. Many observers cite that Togadia himself was a major force in the massacre of Muslims in the pogrom.

The Gujarat pogrom was entwined with the fortunes of the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time

Controversy still surrounds the Godhra train burning which government officials assert was the trigger of the 2002 Gujarat riots. According to the police, the fire was started when “miscreants” threw petrol soaked rags into the train. However, this allegation has long been contested by neutral observers. American Professor of Law, Martha Nussbaum contended that several inquiries have found that the conflagration was an accident rather than a planned conspiracy.

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A later government report, the Bannerjee report, based on forensics discovered that the fire was accidental and internal. However, that report was overturned by a court which labeled it as “unconstitutional”. Many observers contend that the Godhra Train fire was an accident that was exploited by Hindutva groups in order to enact a Saffron Terror campaign against the Muslims in Gujarat.

Many observers contend that the Godhra Train fire was an accident that was exploited by Hindutva groups in order to enact a Saffron Terror campaign against the Muslims in Gujarat

The main culprits were the Singh Parivar organisations, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal who indulged in atrocities such as “dismemberment, gang rape, beheadings, dousing bodies with petrol and burning them so as to render them unrecognizable, liquidating entire families, including women, children, babies, and fetuses ripped from the womb”.

The Gujarat pogrom was entwined with the fortunes of the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time. Many neutral observers contend that he was the main force behind the massacres and other atrocities. Modi was absolved by a Special Investigation Team which many have deemed biased in the favor of Modi. The Gujarat pogrom solidified Modi’s standing among hardened Hindutva ideologues and also paved the way for him to become the Indian Prime Minister in 2014.

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