|"A relative of one of the Hindus on trial for the killing of dozens of Muslims in a fire breaks down on hearing the verdict in Mehsana, India." (Ajit Solanki/AP)|
Associated Press dispatch in The Guardian, November 9, 2011
"A court has sentenced 31 Hindus to life imprisonment for killing dozens of Muslims by setting fire to a building during one of India's worst rounds of communal violence nine years ago. Judge ST Srivastava acquitted 41 others of murder for lack of evidence. Those convicted at the Mehsana district court can appeal against the verdict in a higher court. Since partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan after independence from Britain in 1947, there have been sporadic bouts of violence. The worst recent violence erupted in 2002 in Gujarat state. More than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed by Hindu mobs after a train fire killed 60 Hindus returning from a pilgrimage. Muslims were blamed for the fire. During rioting, the suspects set a building on fire in a village in Mehsana district, nearly 25 miles (40km) north of Ahmedabad, the main city of Gujarat. Thirty-three Muslims, including 20 women, who had taken shelter there were burned alive. Two suspects died during the trial that was expedited by orders from India's top court, the supreme court. Muslims account for about 14% of India's population of 1.1 billion but lag far behind the Hindu majority in most social indicators, from literacy to household income."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]