NEW DELHI, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The High Court in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Monday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentences of 11 Muslim men convicted of setting on fire in 2002 a train carrying mainly Hindu pilgrims.
The train burning incident in Godhra, around 130 km from Ahmedabad city, that claimed the lives of 59 people, triggered communal riots in the state in which over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed by Hindu mobs.
The Gujarat High Court also upheld the life sentences of another 20 Muslim men and rejected an appeal challenging the acquittal of 63 others in the case. The 63 were actually acquitted by a special court in 2011 and included the mastermind behind the fire.
The incident dates back to February 2002 when 59 people, mostly Hindu pilgrims, were returning to their homestate of Gujarat from the northern town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh state on Sabarmati Express train.
A Muslim mob then attacked the train and set one of its compartments on fire after locking all its gates from outside.
Following the incident, communal riots broke out in the state between Hindus and Muslims, and then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, now prime minister, was accused by his critics of doing nothing to stop the violence.
However, Modi has never been convicted by a court of law and he also denies any wrongdoing. A inquiry commission set up to probe the riots had also given him a clean chit.