India court sentences 21 to life in prison over 2002 religious violence

[JURIST] An Indian court sentenced 21 individuals to life imprisonment on Monday after finding them guilty of attempted murder and rioting relating to several murders in the town of Visnagar in Gujarat state 10 years ago. The 21 Hindus were convicted and sentenced [AP report] for the deaths of 11 members of a Muslim family in 2002. The killings occurred during mob violence that left more than 1,000 dead and tens of thousands homeless after Hindu rioters set fire to Muslim homes and businesses when Muslims were blamed for a train fire that killed 60 Hindus retiring from a pilgrimage. The state government at the time was accused of looking the other way when the Hindus began attacking Muslims following the train fire. India's population is approximately 80 percent Hindu [CIA World Factbook profile] and less than 15 percent Muslim. The subcontinent was partitioned along religious lines into India and Pakistan upon gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Hindu-Muslim relations are largely peaceful on the subcontinent but violence does occur. Last month New Delhi police arrested a key suspect [JURIST report] in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Abu Hamza, who is an alleged member of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder]. In February a New Delhi court confirmed charges [JURIST report] against US citizens and a Canadian citizen who have been accused of being involved in the 2008 attacks. Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], a Pakistani gunman in the attacks who was captured and convicted in 2010, had his execution stayed [JURIST reports] last year so he could appeal his death sentence. The 2008 Mumbai attacks killed 166 people.

 

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