A special Ahmedabad court Tuesday handed down death sentences to 11 Muslims convicted of setting fire to a passenger train in the western Indian state of Gujarat nine years ago, triggering one of India’s worst outbursts of communal violence.
The court gave a lesser sentence of life imprisonment to the 20 others convicted of participating in the 2002 massacre, which left dead nearly 60 Hindus returning from a religious pilgrimage. The resulting violence killed more than 1,000 people—mostly Muslims. The court last week had found 31 of 94 people accused in the case guilty of conspiracy and murder. The other 63 were acquitted in the trial that began in July 2009 in Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Central Jail.
J.M. Panchal, special public prosecutor, told reporters outside the court that even though all 31 were convicted of similar charges in connection with setting fire to the train carriage, the judge appears to have awarded differing sentences depending on the degree of involvement of those accused. “The court must have felt that so far as the 11 persons handed death sentences are concerned, it is the rarest of the rare case,” he said.