22 people who were charged with murdering 17 Muslims during the riots of 2002 were acquitted by a Gujarat local court, citing lack of evidence.
Defence lawyer Gopal Solanki told Anadolu Agency that eight of the 22 acquitted have died. “Because the prosecution failed to find any evidence against them,” the lawyer said.
The court’s ruling comes just days after the Central government declared an emergency under the new Information Technology Act, banning all social media content related to the premiere of the BBC programme India: The Modi Question.
The documentary focuses on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role as the chief minister of Gujarat, a state in western India, during the riots of 2002 that claimed over 1,000 lives—mostly Muslims.
The documentary was previously referred to as a propaganda work intended to forward a specific discredited narrative, according to the nation’s Ministry of External Affairs.
According to independent reports, sectarian violence erupted in Gujarat state on February 28, 2002, killing at least 2000 people, the majority of whom were Muslims.
The Halol district was also affected by the violence, as 17 people—including children—were slaughtered there and their remains were burned beyond recognition to evade police inspection.
A train fire at Godhra on February 27, 2002, which resulted in the deaths of Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, started the statewide riots. The fire was first attributed to Muslims, but investigations have disproved that theory, finding that an unidentified person who stood “in the passage of the compartment” and used a significant amount of highly flammable liquid to start the catastrophic fire instead.