India finds 31 guilty in 2002 train burning


A court investigating one of India’s worst outbursts of communal violence Tuesday found 31 Muslims guilty of setting fire to a train in which 60 Hindus were killed nine years ago.

The court also acquitted 63 people of participating in the 2002 attack on the train packed with Hindu pilgrims in the western Indian state of Gujarat that triggered deadly anti-Muslim riots in India.

About 1,000 people were killed when groups of Hindus rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods and towns in Gujarat from February to April 2002. Most of the dead were Muslims.

Soon after the verdict was announced Tuesday, special public prosecutor J.M. Panchal said he was satisfied with the court’s decision.

“This is a judicial pronouncement and it cannot be a subject of debate,” Panchal told reporters.

The court, headed by Judge P.R. Patel, is scheduled to announce jail sentences on Friday.

The 31 men were convicted of being part of a criminal conspiracy that led to the deaths of 60 people when one of the coaches of the Sabarmati Express train was set on fire.

Police had arrested 107 people in the attack and the trial lasted nearly nine years, during which five of the accused died. Eight others have been granted bail while on trial by a juvenile court.

The religious violence was among India’s worst since its independence from Britain in 1947. The state government, which has been controlled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has been accused by the opposition and media of not doing enough to stop the violence and of even stoking it. Gujarat officials deny that.

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