AHEMDABAD, INDIA – An Indian court on Thursday rejected a petition seeking the prosecution of a Hindu nationalist party’s prime ministerial candidate in the killing of a former lawmaker and other Muslims during riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002.
Magistrate B.J. Ganatara’s ruling comes as a boost to Narendra Modi, the state’s top elected official and the Bharatiya Janata party’s prime ministerial candidate in national elections to be held before May.
Former Congress party lawmaker Ehsan Jafri was allegedly killed by Hindu rioters in a neighborhood where dozens of Muslim families lived in Ahmadabad, Gujarat’s largest city. Dozens of other Muslims also died in the neighborhood attack.
In her petition to the court, Jafri’s widow, Zakia Jafri, accused Modi of not doing enough to prevent the killings. Modi denies the charge.
On Thursday, Zakia Jafri expressed her disappointment with the court ruling. “I won’t give up fight. I will appeal the verdict in a higher court,” she told reporters.
Modi was the state chief minister when Hindu mobs rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods, towns and villages in Gujarat in February-April 2002 that left about 1,000 people dead. Most of the dead were Muslims.
The riots occurred after a fire killed 60 passengers on a train packed with Hindu pilgrims. Hindu extremists blamed the deaths on Muslims, but the cause of the blaze remains unclear.
The religious violence was among India’s worst since its independence from Britain in 1947.