Sentencing on Thursday; 29 acquitted on lack of clinching proof
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 persons, giving them “the benefit of the doubt” because of insufficient evidence; but she did not pronounce them innocent either. The court will announce 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 Minister of State for Women and Child Welfare and now 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, a practising gynaecologist, 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.