The story of Gujurat’s 2002 riots is well-known to most Indians: After a train fire that killed sixty Hindus was blamed on Muslims, Hindu mobs rampaged through towns and cities, killing Muslims and burning buildings. In the end, more than 1,000 were killed.
Today, the prosecution of 18 accused Hindu rioters ended with life sentences for each. They were found guilty of killing 23 Muslims, mostly women and children, by setting a house on fire and preventing anyone from escaping.
The end of the trial, ten years after the riots began (but only four years after an investigation was opened), might bring closure to some of the communities that witnessed weeks of violence back in 2002. However, the man some say is most responsible for the violence will probably never spend a day in court.
Narendra Modi is the chief minister of Gujurat, a post he held in 2002 during the riots. He has often been accused of not doing enough to stop the violence, at the very least, and at worst encouraging the rioters who killed innocent civilians.
Modi is expected to be a serious contender for prime minister in India’s 2014 elections. He is currently leading in most national polls. With the ruling Congress Party coalition in tatters, the economy tanking, corruption rampant, and voters displeased with their current overlords, this stain on his record may not damage his chances.
Would the nascent US-India partnership withstand the shock of Modi’s selection as India’s new prime minister? That could be one of the many thorny questions the next US administration will have to decide.