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Anniversary of Hindu-Muslim rioting a day for vigils and a new message

February 27, 2017 - INDIA

Communal riots between Hindus and Muslims started 15 years ago in Gujurat when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu, was chief minister of the state. He was widely blamed for the prolonged rioting and viewed as the face of militant Hinduism. The anniversary offers him a chance to work on his anticipated message of religious tolerance, while reminding India and the world about Gujarat's economic rise under his stewardship.

The riots erupted in 2002 after dozens of Hindu pilgrims were killed in a train fire in the town of Godhra. Hindus blamed the Muslims, and two months of rampaging, raping and looting followed. Modi imposed a curfew granting police shoot-to-kill orders. After peace was restored, his government was criticized for the harsh crackdown. He was accused of allowing the killings of more than 1,000 Muslims. Biography.com notes that after two investigations contradicted one other, the Indian Supreme Court concluded there was no evidence that Modi was at fault. He was elected prime minister in 2014.

In Jun 2016 an Indian court convicted 24 Hindu men for their role in the riots of 2002. Associated Press reports that the riots have spurred dozens of national and international investigations, including nine that the Supreme Court decided should be prosecuted. There are other pending lawsuits.

The anniversary is likely to see vigils by victims' families. One of several competing inquiries ruled that the train fire had been an accident, not caused by Muslims.

Narendra Modi - Prime Minister - Biography.com

Profile: Narendra Modi (BBC 2009)

Timeline of the Riots in Modi's Gujarat (New York Times 6 Apr 2014)

Gujarat riots debate rages again as PM Modi lands in London; why is it we don't talk about lives that were saved? (Firstpost 12 Nov 2015)

India convicts 24 Hindus in deadly anti-Muslim Gujarat riots of 2002 (AP/The Star 2 Jun 2016)

Date written/update: 2017-01-15