Suspects linked to Gujarat massacres charged with rape, riot and murder


INDIA: Police began filing charges yesterday against suspects in India's worst religious riots in a decade, which killed more than 1,000 people three months ago.

Muslims bore the brunt of the riots that started on February 27th in western Gujarat state after a Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu devotees, killing 59 people.

A senior police officer said the charges could help restore the confidence of Muslims in the police force, accused by survivors of turning a blind eye to revenge attacks and even colluding with Hindu rioters.

"The charges have been filed on the basis of eyewitnesses' accounts, complaints launched by relatives of those killed and investigations by police," he said on condition of anonymity.

"These people have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code relating to murder, rape, rioting and violation of prohibitory orders," he said.

The suspects were linked to some of the most gruesome massacres triggered by the train attack. Officials said nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died. Human rights groups put the death toll at more than 2,500.

The official said 51 people were charged over the deaths of 86 Muslims, who were set alight in Naroda Patia on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, on February 28th.

More than 50 others were charged in connection with the burning to death of 38 Muslims.

One of the victims was a former member of parliament who made dozens of calls to police and other authorities, but received no assistance.

Relief workers say more than 100,000 people, mainly Muslims, are still crammed into relief camps in Gujarat, refusing to return home for fear of fresh attacks.