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Above: A victim of the Muzaffarnagar riots breaks down while others console her/Photo: UNI

Even as the UP government has recommended withdrawal of cases against 100 Hindus, a district court has awarded life imprisonment to seven Muslims for killing two brothers

By Atul Chandra in Lucknow

he district court in Muzaffarnagar recently awarded life imprisonment to seven Muslim youths for killing two brothers on August 27, 2013, in Kawal village even as the state government gave its nod for withdrawal of 38 cases against 100 individuals.

Muzammil, Mujassim, Furkan, Nadeem, Jahangir, Afzal and Iqbal were convicted by additional district and sessions judge Himanshu Bhatnagar, who found them guilty of killing brothers Sachin Singh and Gaurav Singh and also rioting. While five of them were accused of the murders, Afzal and Iqbal were summoned later when evidence of their complicity emerged during the trial.

All the convicts were awarded two years’ imprisonment for rioting (Section 147, IPC), three years for rioting with deadly weapon (Section 148), five years for criminal intimidation (Section 506), life term for murder (Section 302), and slapped with a fine of over Rs 2 lakh each. Nea­rly 80 percent of this amount will be given to the victims’ families.

According to the FIR in the case, the two brothers were battered to death by five men after their two-wheeler collided with the vehicle of some locals. The twin murders allegedly caused large-scale communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, which claimed 65 lives and rendered about 50,000 homeless. As per the prosecution counsel, over 6,000 cases were lodged in the two districts and 1,480 persons arrested.

The sentencing of the seven accused comes at a time when the Yogi Adityanath government has, on January 10, recommended withdrawal of 38 criminal cases against 100 individuals, all Hindus, who were charged for their role in the riots. Governor Ram Naik has also approved the government’s decision, which was communicated to the district magistrate on January 29. The matter will now be placed before the district court.

The decision to withdraw cases follows BJP MP Sanjiv Balyan’s meeting with the CM last year. Balyan told a newspaper that the cases pertained to minor crimes and not rape or murder. He claimed that the Special Investigation Team constituted by the government had “given a clean chit to rich and affluent people” while implicating the poor. “If they are Hindus, it’s not my fault. I’ll fight for them always and I am thankful to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,” Balyan reportedly said.

Former CM Akhilesh Yadav had written to the Muzaffarnagar DM for his opinion on withdrawing the cases against the Muslims. The move was then dubbed as appeasement by the BJP. Balyan himself is facing charges for rioting, and the government is sitting over the SIT’s request for sanction to prosecute him. The government also doesn’t seem inclined to allow prosecution of politicians from other parties who were involved in the riots.

The BJP government initially mooted withdrawal of 113 criminal cases. The process was started last year when the Muzaffarnagar DM was asked to provide details of certain cases relating to murder, rioting, arson and promoting enmity between groups. But now that the BJP government has begun to let off some of the accu­sed, it remains to be seen if Balyan will get a reprieve.

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