India's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government of western Gujarat state to reopen its investigation of Hindu-Muslim violence two years ago in which an estimated 1,000 people were killed.
The court criticized local police officials for poor investigation and follow-up in more than 2,000 cases. Most of those killed in the violence were Muslims.
Human rights groups have accused the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat of tacitly supporting Hindu mobs in the violence, which began when Muslim extremists set fire to a train carrying Hindu activists, killing 59 people.
Of 4,200 charges filed in Gujarat, more than 2,000 have been dismissed, with authorities saying they could not trace the culprits or identify witnesses. The court directed the Gujarat government to set up a panel of high-ranking police officials to reexamine circumstances surrounding the cases. Human rights lawyers and victims groups have alleged that state authorities have been reluctant to pursue the cases vigorously.
In one case, the court ordered the retrial of 21 Hindus who were acquitted on charges of burning and killing 14 people in a Muslim-run bakery. It described the Gujarat police investigation of the case as "anything but impartial" and the state leaders as "modern-day Neros."
The court said the events in Gujarat were "unprecedented and abnormal" and asked the panel to submit its findings every three months and post them on the Internet.
Responding to the court directive, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi asserted that the 2002 riots in Gujarat had been wrongly politicized. His party, he said, has "always believed that the victims should get justice and the guilty should be punished."