NEW DELHI - Bringing justice to Muslim victims killed a decade ago, a Gujarat court on Monday, April 9, convicted 23 people over the the hacking and burning to death of scores of Muslims in religious riots in the western Indian state.
Nine children, nine women and five men burnt alive in this heinous crime, prosecutor P.N. Parmar said, hailing the historic judgment, Voice of America reported.
The court found 23 people guilty in the killing of 23 Muslims, who took refugee at a house in the small village of Ode in Gujarat in 2002.
The 23 Muslims were killed when Hindus stormed a house where Muslim families had taken refuge and set it on fire.
The court acquitted another 23 people for lack of evidence in the case.
More than 2,000 Muslims were hacked and burnt to death in Gujarat in 2002 by Hindu mobs after Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire first blamed on Muslims but which a later inquiry concluded was accidental.
Several investigations at the state and federal levels accused police of failing to protect Muslims under orders from Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his aides, fanning one of the worst instances of sectarian violence in India.
Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a prominent member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, was blamed for failing to stop the riots, with some critics arguing that he actively encouraged the violence.
The Ode massacre was one of several cases probed by a Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team.
The charges included murder, conspiracy, rioting, unlawful assembly, attempted murder and destruction of evidence.
The trial began in the end of 2009 and was on the verge of completion when the then judge hearing the case resigned in May 2011, citing personal reasons.
Following this, another judge was appointed and all the arguments were made afresh.
Last year, 31 Muslims were found guilty on murder and conspiracy charges for the train attack that sparked an anti-Muslim backlash.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party welcomed the verdict as bringing justice to the city a decade after the massacre.
"Today the decision of court came. It is a victory of people of Gujarat," Balbir Punj, the leader of the ruling BJP, said, ANI news website reported.
Justice is done in Gujarat.
The BJP leader said Indians should be proud that justice was finally brought to Gujarat.
"It is the slap on the face of those people who said justice cannot be done in Gujarat. Today every Indian must be proud that fair justice happened in Gujarat," he added.
Yatin Oza, another official at the BJP, also welcomed the ruling.
"This verdict proves justice will be done to those affected, cases of this magnitude take time before the final cases are out," Oza said, India Today reported.
The Gujarat cases are no different. Delhi cases after 27 years still unresolved, here one after another verdicts are coming.
"Those who are interested in justice for riot victims will be satisfied with the verdict, those who are misusing riot victims to reach the hidden agenda... they will not be satisfied because they have only one aim - anyhow Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should be maligned," he said.
The Gujarat carnage, the worst religious violence India had seen in years, continues to cast it pale on Muslim-Hindu relations in the troubled state.
Indian Muslims accuse the media and authorities of boosting stereotypes about their religion.
Muslims also complain of a long history of neglect.Official figures show Muslims, whom make up around 13 percent of India's 1.1 billion population, are lagging behind in literacy.