A special trial court has sentenced two more accused, Farukh Bhana and Imran alias Sheru Batuk, to life imprisonment in relation to the case of burning the Sabarmati Express train in 2002 at Godhra railway station that led to communal riots in Gujarat. Three more accused, Hussain Suleman Mohan, Kasam Bhamedi and Faruk Dhantiya who were arrested by different agencies in 2015 and 2016 were acquitted.
The carnage had taken place when ‘Kar Sevaks’, who were returning in Sabarmati Express from Ayodhya after attending a religious ceremony, were burnt in train near Godhra. The victims were mostly Hindu and official figure reports that 59 people had died in this incident.
Special judge H C Vora awarded the life sentence to Farooq Bhana and Imran Sheru after the prosecution proved their role in the burning of the two coaches. Another accused Sabir Abdul Gani Pataliya, had died during pendency of the trial.
Interestingly, the one of the convicted Farukh Bhana, was the sitting corporator of Polan-Bazar area of the Godhra municipality in February 2002 when the train was set on fire, killing 59 Hindu devotees. It is reported that on the eve of the incident, Farukh Bhana had held a meeting at the Aman Guest House to incite people to burn down S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express.
The other convict, Sheru Batuk has been awarded the life imprisonment, was part of the conspiracy to burn down the Sabarmati Express. Special Additional Public Prosecutor N N Prajapati said, “While Bhana was the mastermind of the attack, Batuk was actually leading the mob”.
Judge Vora awarded the sentence after considering the statements of 37 witnesses and other evidence provided by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT. After this verdict, a total of 33 people have been convicted in the case, while 67 others have been acquitted. Eight more accused are said to be absconding.
In 2011, the SIT court had convicted 31 persons related to the case of conspiracy to burn down the train. Out of all the 31 convicts, 11 of them were awarded capital punishment, while 20 others were handed the life term in jail. However, the Gujarat High Court in its 2017 judgement commuted death sentence of 11 convicts to life imprisonment and upheld life imprisonment of 20 convicts awarded by the trial court.