India: Special Court Acquits All Those Accused Of 2002 Naroda Gam Massacre In Gujarat Riots

Gujarat Riots

A special court within the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad acquitted all 67 individuals accused of the 2002 Naroda Gam massacre of 11 members of the Muslim community on 20 April.

Among those acquitted are several former right wing political and religious party leaders such as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Maya Kodnani, ex-Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Jaydeep Patel.

The Naroda Gam massacre was one of nine major communal incidents that took place in Gujarat in 2002, during which India’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of the state. After the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra on 27 February 2002, in which approximately 58 Hindus were killed, protests and riots broke out across the state. Eleven Muslims were killed in one such protest in the Naroda Gam area of Ahmedabad on 28 February.

The trial began in 2010 and has continued for almost 13 years under six different judges, despite the special courts being constituted for the purpose of speedy trials. Eighty-six individuals were initially charged, but 18 died during the period of the trial and therefore the cases against them were terminated, and another individual was discharged due to insufficient evidence before the remaining 67 were acquitted on 20 April.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Supreme Court to look into the case has said that it will appeal against the verdict. SITs are set up by the Supreme Court, central or state governments to investigate serious crimes that have a large socio-political dimension.

In January 2023, a BBC documentary titled ‘The Modi Question’, which examined Modi’s leadership as the Chief Minister during the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002, was banned by the Indian government. In February, the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai were raided by income tax authorities, drawing criticism from the Editors Guild of India that the government was trying to intimidate and harass news agencies.

CSW’s CEO Scot Bower said: ‘It is worrying and disappointing that no one has been held accountable for the massacre that took the lives of 11 members of the Muslim community in Naroda Gam over two decades ago. We call upon the Special Investigation Team at the Supreme Court to carefully consider the matter again and to ensure that justice is served.’

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