How India's 2002 Gujarat riots unfolded

Updated June 17, 2016

Email

AHMEDABAD: An Indian court jailed 24 Hindus Friday, 11 for life, over the massacre of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat state in 2002, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister.

The Gulbarg Society Massacre was one of the deadliest single incidents during religious riots that killed more than 1,000 people in some of the worst violence since Independence in 1947.

Here are some key facts about the deadly riots:

Godhra train fire

On February 27, 2002, a fire ripped through a train at Godhra station in Gujarat in western India, burning 59 Hindu pilgrims alive.

Blaming Muslims for the blaze, furious Hindu mobs rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods in several cities seeking reprisals during three days of bloodshed.

The cause of the train fire remains a chief area of dispute between the two religious communities.

An angry Muslim crowd had gathered at Godhra station to protest against the taunting of Muslim porters by Hindu passengers, but they deny setting the train ablaze.

One inquiry concluded the fire was an accident, but other official probes said it was a conspiracy, and 31 Muslims were convicted over the blaze in 2011.

Violence spreads

During the slaughter in Ahmedabad and hundreds of other towns and villages, Hindu mobs rounded up and raped Muslim women. They poured kerosene down their throats and those of their children and threw lit matches at them.

Many eyewitness reports suggested police directed rioters to Muslim homes and also turned fleeing victims back towards their killers.

According to official data, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, while 223 people went missing and 2,500 others were injured. Rights groups say the numbers were much higher.

Gulbarg Society massacre

The Gulbarg Society was a Muslim housing complex in a lower middle-class neighbourhood, attacked by a mob acting on rumours.

On February 28, a day after the train fire, rioters packed in trucks breached the boundary wall of the complex and set houses ablaze. They dragged people out and burned them alive.

It was one of the two biggest massacres during the riots -- the other was in Naroda Patiya suburb, where more than 90 died.

Blind eye

Hindu nationalist Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, was widely accused of turning a blind eye to the violence.

One senior policeman even testified Modi ordered officers not to intervene as the killing spread.

India's premier has always denied wrongdoing and has never been convicted over the violence.

However, the bloody riots tarred Modi's international image, leading him to be blacklisted for a decade by the United States and the European Union.

Official probes also absolved the state police and government of any collusion in the violence, which left 200,000 people homeless. Many Muslims never returned.

Convictions

More than 100 people have been convicted over the riots in a series of trials over the past 14 years. An Indian court in 2011 found 31 Hindus guilty of murdering 33 Muslims who were seeking shelter in a single house.

And in 2012 a former minister in Modi's state government was handed a life sentence for her role.

Yet activists say many guilty have been acquitted, notably following a 2003 trial described as a “black day” for India's justice system amid reports of witness coercion.