By Rohit Wadhwaney on Feb 08, 2019 05:07 pm
court sentenced seven Muslim men to life in prison on Friday for killing
two members of the Hindu community over a motorcycle accident, sparking
large-scale riots that claimed dozens of lives in north India’s Uttar Pradesh
state almost six years ago.
The Muzaffarnagar district sessions court handed down
the sentence after finding the seven men guilty of
killing Gaurav Singh and Sachin Singh on Aug. 27, 2013,
following a minor altercation.
Authorities believe the incident led to the monthlong riots
in Muzaffarnagar, 130 km (81 miles) north of the capital New Delhi, and
adjoining districts, leaving 62 people dead – a majority of them
Muslims – and more than 40,000 homeless.
“We were fighting to get the death penalty [for the accused].
But we are happy that, now, six years
after Gaurav and Sachin were brutally killed by these boys,
we finally have some
closure,” Ravindra Singh, Gaurav’s father, told BenarNews
over phone after the sentences were announced.
Gaurav and Sachin belonged to
the Hindu Jat community.
According to police
records, Gaurav and Sachin stabbed to death a resident of
Muzaffarnagar district’s Kawal village, over a motorcycle
accident. A Muslim mob, including the seven accused, then beat the
two boys to death with sticks, bricks and iron rods.
More than a week after the incident, a group of Hindus returning
from a village council meeting was attacked, kick-starting a full-fledged
riot that subsequently spread to adjoining areas.
About 1,480 people were arrested for their alleged role in
the violence, of whom some 430 were acquitted, according to prosecutors. In a
bid to quell the rioting, India deployed its army in the state for the first
time in 20 years.
Naseem Ahmed, father of two of those sentenced on Friday,
claimed his sons and the five others who have been convicted were innocent and
being framed as they were “easy targets.”
“The police and district authorities have dragged them (the
accused) in a fabricated case,” he told BenarNews. “We are easy targets because
we belong to the Muslim community.”
He said he would appeal the verdict to the High Court.
Numbering about 180 million, Muslims make up the largest
religious minority in Hindu-majority India, which has a population of nearly
In 2016, a government-sponsored inquiry commission blamed laxity
on the part of the police and top officials for
the Muzaffarnagar violence.
Another independent fact-finding team, composed of three
academics and a senior journalist, found that Muslims were the most affected by
the “communal orgy that swept Muzaffarnagar.”
There were accounts of Hindu Jats “raising provocative
slogans as they passed by Muslim habitations shouting slogans such as “Muslims
have two homes: Pakistan or the graveyard,” the team said in its report seen
“Jats who died were killed in reaction to this
deliberate provocation,” the report said.