On March 1,2002,Majidmiya Malek lost his parents and sister,killed by people with whom they had once shared meals but who were then throwing burning rags into a house in which they were locked in.
Ten years on,Diksha Patel is grieving for her father and her uncle,who are among the 18 sentenced to life for that mass killing.
Malek,now 50,says the judgment has reinforced his faith in the justice system while Diksha,who lives in London,insists her father is an innocent victim of a political game.
Malek survived as he was in his fields when the rioters arrived. When he returned,he saw the house of Akbarkhan Pathan being burnt by a mob that included many of his neighbours. Sixteen of the 23 killed belonged to Maleks family,including his father Muradmiya,65,mother Sugrabibi,60,and 17-year-old sister. I saw my family members being burnt alive, he says,recalling having seen the bodies of Sikandar and his two-year-old daughter,Guddi,clinging to his chest.
The judgment has given me immense satisfaction. Justice is there for us,even though after 10 years, says Malek,one of the cases main witnesses and who identified seven or eight of the accused during the trial. He has since moved to Dhunadara village and resumed farming.
Diksha flew to Ode on Monday,the day her father Harish Patel,61,was found guilty. Hers was the loudest of the protests outside the court in Anand. Harish Patel,who runs a lucrative tobacco business,has been convicted of murder,attempt to murder,and arson. He was described as one of the main conspirators.
Dikshas uncle Dilip Patel too has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Her brother Kalpesh,23,was among the 23 acquitted,a relief for their mother who would have been otherwise alone in their huge bungalow.
There was no evidence against my father, Diksha says. If there was a mob of around 1,500 to 2,000 people,why have only a few of a single locality,that too only Patels,been convicted? Diksha says.
She worries for the health of her father,whom she describes as a very respected person in the community. Of the 23 killed,the bodies of only two could be recovered. Diksha questions how her father could be held responsible for the murders of those whose bodies have not been found.
8 still wanted from town that has sent 2,000 abroad
Of those accused in the killing of 27 people in the Ode cases,eight have red-corner notices against them. Two of these absconders are wanted in the Pirawali Bhagol case,in which 23 were sentenced on Thursday,and the other six in the Malav Bhagol case,in which three people were murdered. The 27th death was that of Rafique Mohammad Gulam Rasul Saiyed,80,burnt alive in Suriwali Bhagol.
Most of the absconders are believed to be hiding abroad. Ode town is said to have at least one member of every Patel family settled abroad,roughly accounting for 2,000 or more NRIs. Police officials say the legal procedure for the extradition of the absconders is on.
The eight absconders are Dilipbhai Babu Patel,Hirubhai Ravjibhai Patel,Natubhai Satabhai Patel,Ankurbhai Shahpurbhai Patel,Samirbhai Vinubhai Patel,Rakeshbhai H Patel alias Rocky,Mohanbhai R Patel alias Sasin and Nikul Ravjibhai Patel.
They are believed to be in Australia,the UK and the United States,staying with their relatives,but in the cases of only two is anything definite being said.
According to sources,Ankur Patel’s whereabouts have been traced to UK,the Indian embassy has been contacted for his extradition,and the matter is now pending with the government.
Dilip and Hiru Patel are the two absconding in the Pirawali Bhagol case. Residents of Ode said Hiru is living with his relatives in the UK while the whereabouts of the rest are not clear.
The Special Investigation Team probing the killings had issued red-corner notices in 2008. Residents said that the local police had glued posters of the absconders declaring them most wanted but there hasn’t been any information about them.
Who did what
The 23 convicts,and what they have been sentenced for
* Vinubhai Bhikhabhai Patel,53,life
* Vijaybhai Ravjibhai Patel,43,life
* Atulbhai Dahyabhai Patel,42,7 years
* Devangbhai Harshadbhai Patel,35,7 years
As part of a conspiracy,they allegedly assured Akbarkhan Pathan he would not be harmed but then led a mob to his house where 23 people had taken shelter; the mob locked them in and killed them by throwing burning rags inside. They were also in the mob that injured Mehrajbibi Pathan of Pirawali Bhagol and two policemen who were trying to stop rioters. This mob attacked the Muslim locality of Suriwali Bhagol,plundered homes abandoned by Muslims,and made religiously hurtful statements.
* Dilipbhai Vallabhbhai Patel,50,life
* Dilipbhai Vinubhai Patel,40,life
* Dilipbhai Ranchhodbhai Patel,55,life
* Dilipbhai Shanabhai Patel,63,7 yrs
* Harishbhai Vallabhbhai Patel,61,life
* Jayendrabhai Satabhai Patel,50,life
* Sureshbhai Bhailalbhai Patel,43,life
* Pareshbhai Ranchhodbhai Patel,38,life
* Arvindbhai Ravjibhai Patel,67,life
* Hemantbhai Satabhai alias
* Sanatkumar Ranchhodbhai Patel,36,life
* Manubhai Jethabhai Patel,73,life
* Punambhai Laljibhai Patel,50,life
* Dharmeshkumar Natubhai Patel,34,lvice-president of Ode nagarpalika,ife
* Vinubhai Shanabhai Patel,53,life
* Natubhai Mangalbhai Patel,48,life
* Pravinbhai Mangalbhai Patel,45,life
* Girishbhai Somabhai Patel,64,7 yrs
* Prakashbhai Jashbhai Patel,43,7 yrs
Allegedly in the mob that carried stones and inflammable material,torched Muslim properties and killed the 23 in the house; many of them were also part of the conspiracy that led to the torching of the house. They allegedly attacked two others who tried to escape and who became eyewitnesses in the case. They were also in the mob that attacked the two policemen,and plundered Muslim homes.
Police had lathicharged the mob on hearing screams from inside the house; mob attacked the two cops.
Dilip Patel,with different middle names,is common to 3 of those sentenced to life and a 4th awarded 7 yrs.
* Dilip Sata Patel was acquitted.
* Dilip Babubhai Patel is absconding.
* Dilip Dahya Patel,relative of convicts Atul Dahya Patel (brother) and Dilip Vallabh Patel (brother-in-law),grabbed the dupatta of a woman in the crowd after the sentence and apparently tried to hang himself,though the crowd didnt let him.