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India convicts 31 over 2002 Gujarat train fire

Reuters

A special court in India on Tuesday found 31 people guilty of murder and conspiracy for setting fire to a passenger train in the western city of Godhra in 2002. The blaze killed 59 Hindu pilgrims and triggered sectarian violence, in which 2,000 people died, throughout Gujarat state.

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A total of 94 people, all of them Muslim, were accused of involvement in the train fire on 27 February 2002. The court in Ahmedabad acquitted 63 of them.

Those convicted will be sentenced on Friday.

The judges' ruling supports the claim that the blaze was a planned attack.

Hindu groups have always argued that the fire was deliberately started by Muslims resentful of the large numbers of Hindu pilgrims passing through Godhra station.

Earlier inquiries had disagreed over the causes of the blaze. In 2005 investigators concluded that it was an accident, though a later commission found evidence that it was planned in advance.

The train fire sparked some of the worst riots ever seen in India, which is no stranger to communal and political violence, as angry Hindus sought vengeance on Muslims in cities across Gujurat.

Mobs beat, raped and set fire to Muslims, including women and children, in three days of violence that left 2,000 dead and 200,000 homeless.

Gujarat's political leadership, which is dominated by the BJP Hindu nationalist party, was accused at the time of failing to stop the riots, though a 2008 inquiry exonerated state authorities.

Extra police were deployed across the state ahead of Tuesday's verdict to prevent fresh outbreaks of violence, while TV stations and newspapers have been banned from showing images of the 2002 riots in an effort to avoid stirring up more tension.

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