A special trial court Monday convicted 22 people,including a retired policeman,for the killing of 11 Muslims in Dipda Darwaza during the post-Godhra riots of 2002.
Twenty-one of them were sentenced to life,while retired policeman Manubhai Karsanbhai Patel was sentenced to a year’s simple imprisonment for dereliction of duty. Sixty-one of the accused were acquitted.
Patel was the first investigating officer in the massacre that happened on February 28,2002. Of the nine 2002 riot cases in which fresh investigation was conducted by the SIT,this is the first in which an investigating officer has been convicted.
The state failed to establish murder charge,which is why the other convicts 20 of them from the powerful Kadva Patel community were convicted for attempt to murder and arson. The court also shot down the charge of conspiracy in the killing.
Among the 61 acquitted were BJP MLA Prahlad Gosa and the then president of Visnagar Nagarpalika,Dahya Patel. Both were accused of instigating the mob and conspiracy. Dipda Darwaza,now only populated by Hindus,took the verdict in silence. Varshaben,the wife of one of the convicts,Chimanbhai Kachrabhai Patel,said: Our community will appeal to a higher court.
With the court rejecting the conspiracy charge,defence advocate G N Brahmbhatt said: This means the court has not come across any reliable evidence to believe the 11 were killed. So the court has convicted the accused only for the injuries sustained by the witnesses.