Gulberg massacre convicts' kin lament VHP didn't help
- The final verdict for those accused in the Gulberg massacre came out on Friday
- 11 have been sentenced to life, 12 others sentenced to seven years in prison
- Relatives of those accused say that VHP offered no help in the legal battle that went on for 14 years
- Some are also of the opinion that the legal system has been biased towards the Muslims
More in the story
- Relatives feel some Hindus have been wrongly convicted
- What had the VHP promised to the accused
Relatives of those convicted for the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre on Friday lamented that the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) did not extend any help to get them acquitted.
The VHP had called for a bandh after karsevaks were killed on 27 February, 2002, when the Sabarmati Express was set afire in Godhra. Soon after that, several people, mostly Muslims, were killed, raped, injured and driven out of their homes across Gujarat.
In the Gulberg Society massacre on 28 February, 2002, 69 were killed, including former Congress parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was then the chief minister of Gujarat.
After the massacre
On Friday, some sobbing relatives told journalists that the VHP promised legal and financial assistance to those accused in the massacre.
"But the VHP did nothing to help us in the last 14 years the trial went on," said Bhudesh Talli, whose younger brother Bharat Talli is among the 11 sentenced to life imprisonment.
Atul Vaidya, a local VHP leader, is among the 12 sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for less serious charges such as unlawful assembly, rioting, arson etc.
Relatives of those sentenced for the massacre shouted that the criminal justice system in the country is heavily skewed in favour of Muslims.
"Even if one Muslim is killed, the human rights activists come down. But no one to speak for two dozen Hindus wrongly convicted here," said one convict's relative who refused to disclose his name.
But contrary to this perception of being wrongly convicted, special court Judge PB Desai took a lenient view in rejecting the prosecution contention that the culprits should be given death sentences as they are a menace to the society and not capable of reforming themselves.
Desai also rejected the demand that the life sentences should run till the last breath of the convict and left it to the discretion of the government which has the powers to remit such jail terms.
The special court, which functioned under the supervision of the Supreme Court, also did not accept the prosecution's demand that the sentences should run consecutively and ruled that the jail terms for different offences should run concurrently.
The judge reasoned that the whole episode be treated as arising out of a single incident for various types of offences and, thus, the sentences should run concurrently.
The judge also said that he has made a strong recommendation that the State need not remit the sentences.
All the 11 accused held guilty for murder have been sentenced to life imprisonment, without specifying whether their term would run till their last breath or not.
One Mangilal Jain has been sentenced to ten years' jail term on charges of attempted murder while 12 others have been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment.
With the final verdict on the Gulberg Society massacre on Friday, as many as eight of the nine cases of rioting and arson in 2002 ordered by the apex court to be re-investigated in Gujarat have come to their logical conclusion.
The verdict is still pending in the Naroda Gam (village) case in which 84 people are facing trial for the massacre of eleven people during the VHP-sponsored bandh after the Sabarmati Express inferno at Godhra on 27 Feb, 2002.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen